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Eagles-Redskins Preview: Playing for Last
At the beginning of the season, the fans of the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles were hoping this Week 14 game would have serious ramifications within the division. Too bad the only thing Sunday's game will decide is who finishes last in the NFC East.
The Redskins (6-5-1) come into Philadelphia having lost two games in a row, while giving 31 points in each game. The Eagles (5-7) stumble into this matchup having lost their last three games and 7 of their last 9. Both teams are playing horrible defensive football, but only one of them, Washington, has at least shown a pulse on offense. The Redskins beat the Eagles 27-20 back in Week 6, but the Eagles got a defensive and special teams score in that game. Remember when the Eagles used to do that?
Let's take a look at the matchup.
Eagles Offense Versus Redskins Defense
Carson Wentz is not playing well. He just isn't. And he had a terrible game against the Redskins earlier this season too. He only completed 50% of his passes for 179 yards against an average defense. The Redskins are ranked 23rd overall defensively (369.6 yards per game) and 18th against the pass (255.2 ypg). It's too bad the Eagles 20th ranked offense (337.9 ypg) and 23rd ranked passing offense (228.2 ypg) isn't good enough to take advantage of the Washington defense. The Eagles offense hasn't scored more than 15 points in a game in the last three weeks. This is their best shot to break that streak, but I wouldn't bet on it.
The one thing the Eagles have done well this season is run the football. That is, when they actually do run the football. Their idiot head coach often forgets the running game, but doing so this week will guarantee a loss. The Eagles 10th ranked rushing attack (109.8 ypg) should be able to have some success against Washington's 22nd ranked run defense (114.3 ypg). More good news for the Eagles is that they get their leading rusher, Ryan Mathews back from his MCL strain. He probably won't be 100%, which means more carries for Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles. The Redskins need NT Ziggy Hood to clog up the middle with help from ILB Will Compton. Eagles center Jason Kelce does not play well against NTs.
The Eagles will also be getting back WR Jordan Matthews for this game. Unfortunately, the Redskins have CB Josh Norman, who will completely shut down Matthews. The rest of the Eagles WRs are useless, which helps explain why the Eagles passing offense is so anemic and Wentz is having so much trouble in his rookie season. Other teams have beaten Washington CB Bashaud Breeland in recent weeks, but the Eagles don't have the talent outside to beat anybody. TE Zach Ertz has a history of huge games against Washington. He had a franchise record 15 receptions against the Redskins in a game in 2014 and had 13 catches against them in a game last season. Of course, Ertz was held to 1 catch for 22 yards in Week 6, so the Eagles need the old Ertz to show up this week.
The last time these teams met, rookie RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai was making his first start and OLB Ryan Kerrigan destroyed him. Now that Vaitai is hurt, the Eagles are forced to play LG Alan Barbre at RT, which is actually a big upgrade. Don't expect Kerrigan to get 3 sacks this time, but he might get one or two. Kerrigan is second in the NFC with 10 sacks. On the other side, LT Jason Peters will have his hands full with OLB Trent Murphy, who has 8 sacks. I'm sure the Redskins noticed on the game tape that Wentz has had a lot of passes batted down at the line the last few games.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
Redskins Offense Versus Eagles Defense
The Redskins have an explosive offense and their QB is having another great season. Kirk Cousins has the 3rd most passing yards in the NFL (3,811), has completed 67.5% of his passes, thrown 21 TDs and 8 INTs and has a 99.6 passer rating. He leads the NFL's 2nd best offense (418.6 ypg) and 2nd best passing attack (309.0 ypg). That is very, very bad news for the Eagles defense, whose No. 13 ranking against the pass (244.5 ypg) was built earlier in the season. The Eagles can't stop anyone anymore and can't get off the field on 3rd downs.
The last time these two teams met, the Redskins ran for 230 yards. That is the main reason the Eagles run defense is ranked 16th against the run (100.9 ypg). Matt Jones gained most of those yards in the first game, but he has taken a back seat to Rob Kelley in recent weeks in Washington's running game. The Redskins are a dangerous passing team, but they would be smart to try to run the ball against the Eagles Wide-9 defensive front that couldn't even slow them down in the first meeting. DT Bennie Logan was the team's best run-stopper early in the season, but got hurt in the first Washington game and hasn't been the same since.
Where the Redskins have their biggest advantage is their WRs against the Eagles CBs. Washington has four receivers with over 600 yards receiving. Jamison Crowder leads the team with 767 yards. Pierre Garcon has 714 yards receiving, DeSean Jackson has 644 and TE Jordan Reed has 630. The Eagles have trouble covering one good WR. This is simply too big a task for CBs Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and rookie Jalen Mills. McKelvin has been the worst of the bunch, but I suspect he's still hurt. But the way he's playing is hurting the Eagles defense, by giving a 10-yard cushion on every single snap. Even doing that, I'm betting Jackson gets behind him and the other Eagles CBs a few times on Sunday. This is going to be hard to watch. The only bright spot is that safety Malcolm Jenkins returned an INT 64 yards for a TD in Week 6. It was his last INT though.
Washington gets All Pro LT Trent Williams back from his 4-game suspension on Sunday, just in time for him to shut down DE Connor Barwin. Not that most LTs haven't been shutting down Barwin anyway, but the Redskins have had a hard time replacing Williams. By the way, Barwin is a 3-4 OLB playing 4-3 end. That's why he isn't having a great year. LG Shawn Lauvao is the weak link on the offensive line, but he is matched up on Logan. The Eagles would be wise to move DT Fletcher Cox around to try to get him away from the constant double teams he sees on every snap. Or maybe the other members of the Eagles defensive line could beat the one-on-one blocking they always see once in a while. The Eagles only have 6 sacks in their last 6 games, including none in either of the last two games.
The Eagles got a 86 yard kickoff return for a TD against the Redskins earlier this year and could really use another one of those this week. The Redskins have average at best special teams, so this is one area where the Eagles once again have a decided advantage. The Eagles are still No. 1 in kickoff coverage, so Chris Thompson won't be having a big day. Ditto for Washington punt returner Jamison Crowder. Caleb Sturgis is having a very good year, making 25 of his 30 FG attempts, including a 55-yarder. Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins has hit 28 of his 34 FG attempts.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is simply the worst coach in the NFL. His in-game coaching is atrocious. His game-plans are unimaginative and just last week he questions his team's heart in a news conference. If the Eagles don't play well this week, you can officially say that the players have already quit on the rookie head coach. Too bad the owner is also the worst in the NFL and won't be pulling the plug on this mistake for years. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz isn't being talked about as a hot head coaching candidate any longer, but that might have more to do with the Eagles complete lack of talent on defense than his ability to coach. Washington head coach Jay Gruden won the NFC East last season and at least has his team with a chance at the Wild Card again this season. He's the second best coach in his own family, but he is by far the best coach in this game.
Who will lose the game for the Eagles
This game looks like a complete mismatch on paper. It also may end up looking like a complete mismatch on the field. The Redskins aren't playing well on defense lately, but the Eagles offense is having trouble doing anything right offensively in recent weeks. The Redskins offense is firing on all cylinders and their passing offense against the suspect CBs of the Eagles could turn this game into a rout. Heck, even the illusion of an Eagles' homefield advantage was blown apart by the Packers two weeks ago. The only chance the Eagles have is to score a special teams TD and win the turnover battle. By the way, the last time the Eagles won the turnover battle this season was back in Week 6 in Washington.
Heck, even getting a special teams TD and winning the turnover battle might not be enough for the home team to get a win in this game.
Redskins 31 - Eagles 23