Eagles-Redskins Preview: The Linc Jinx
Be warned. I refuse bow down to the PC Police and not refer to the football team in Washington as the Redskins. If you are offended by every single thing under the sun, including the name Redskins, please stop reading and go lock yourself in a padded room. The world won't miss you.
Anyway, the Philadelphia Eagles will host the Washington Redskins at the Linc on Sunday in a matchup of two incredibly similar teams. I actually couldn't believe how close the two teams were in every statistical category. As such, you can ignore the Redskins 3-6 record. After all, that was their record last year before they won their last seven games and won the division. The first matchup in Week 1 almost doesn't matter, since Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is healthy now and looking as good as he did last season. This is a very dangerous team coming into a place where the Eagles have lost their last ten home games in a row.
Eagles Offense Versus Redskins Defense
This will be Eagles quarterback Nick Foles first game back at the Linc since his disastrous showing against the Dallas Cowboys, when he completed on 11-of-29 passes for 80 yards. Fortunately, he seems to have put that aberration behind him by posting the highest QB rating in consecutive games in NFL history with a perfect 158.3 against the Oakland Raiders and 149.3 against the Green Bay Packers the last weeks. He also threw 10 touchdowns without an interception in those two games and has 16 touchdowns and no interceptions on the season. Now, he just needs to get that first career win at home out of the way.
The Eagles offense is averaging 413.4 yards per game, which ranks 4th overall in the NFL. While a big reason for that is the running game, Foles has led the passing rank steadily up the charts in the last few weeks. The Eagles 9th ranked passing attack (260.3 ypg) should be able to take advantage of the Redskins 26th ranked pass defense (274.8 ypg). DeSean Jackson already has 903 yard receiving this season and since Foles got under center, Riley Cooper has become a viable threat on the other side with five TD catches in the last two games and seven on the season. The 6-foot-3 Cooper should have a decided advantage over the 5-foot-9 Josh Wilson and Foles is sure to exploit that. Jackson will be facing DeAngelo Hall on the other side and Hall has scored three TDs this season, including that strange lateral he returned for a TD in the opener against the Eagles. The TEs were absent last week, but Brent Celek and Zach Ertz each scored the week before. The Eagles receivers will all have to have their heads on a swivel with hard-hitting safety Brandon Meriweather out there looking lay another illegal hit on a receiver.
The Eagles offensive line has looked much better lately, but that might have more to do with the quarterback than anything else. Foles isn't fast, but he knows how to move around in the pocket to avoid trouble and, unlike Vick, he will throw the ball away. LT Jason Peters is questionable and his backup is journeyman Allen Barbre. Barbre played well last week, but now he or a gimpy Peters, will have to face Brian Orakpo. On the other side, rookie RT Lane Johnson will have to face Ryan Kerrigan. Although the Redskins only have seven sacks in their last five games, they are a dangerous bunch.
Of course, even with Foles throwing all those touchdowns, they are still the No. 2 ranked rushing offense in the NFL (153.5 ypg) and LeSean McCoy is the NFL's leading rusher. McCoy's best game of the season was the opener against the Redskins, where he ran for 184 yards and a score. The Eagles interior linemen, Todd Herremans, Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis will have their hands full with DT Barry Cofield and LBs London Fletcher and Perry Riley. The Redskins are ranked 18th against the run (113.8 ypg), but much like everything else, that has been improving. Still, expect to see a lot of McCoy getting the ball, since the Eagles are 3-0 this season when he gets at least 25 carries.
The last thing to consider about the Redskins defense is that they are next to last in points allowed per game (31.9 points per game) and they struggled against the Eagles no-huddle attack in the opener.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
Who is the better QB this season?
Redskins Offense Versus Eagles Defense
The Redskins have the 5th best offense in the NFL (410.4 ypg) and just like the Eagles, that is built on their No. 3 ranking rushing the ball (151.2 ypg). Of course, Washington also has a legitimate running threat at quarterback in RG3.
Griffin is getting more and more confident in his surgically repaired knee and it's showing in both his rushing numbers and his passing numbers. The Redskins are ranked 10th in passing (259.2 ypg) and RG3 has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 2,450 yards, 12 TDs and 9 interceptions. While that QB rating of 83.8 isn't very impressive, it is a massive improvement over the quarterback the Eagles saw in Week 1.
RG3's rushing ability is evident not only when he's running the ball (301 yards on 56 carries), but also in his ability to avoid the pass rush. Washington's offensive line is the same group as last season; Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus. They have been a good run blocking unit and have only allowed 18 sacks this season, which is the fifth-fewest in the NFL. That's bad news for an Eagles defense that ranks 25th in sacks, with only 20. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis' unit is much improved over the first few games of the season, but they still don't get after the quarterback.
Washington is sure to test the Eagles secondary, since they are ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass (306.5 ypg). Cary Williams has had good and bad games and now he'll have to cover Pierre Garcon, who is having a career season with 61 catches for 803 yards and 3 TDs. The Redskins don't have much of a threat on the other side, but with Bradley Fletcher still questionable, it's also questionable whether or not Roc Carmichael can have another good game. TE Jordan Reed has emerged as a pass-catching threat and it will be interesting to see if the Eagles use a safety like Nate Allen or a LB like Connor Barwin to cover him. I expect at least one long TD pass when Allen or Patrick Chung gets fooled on a play-fake.
The bread and butter of the Redskins' offense is still the run and Alfred Morris leads a rushing attack that ranks third in the NFL in rushing (151.2 ypg). The Eagles held him to only 45 yards in the first meeting, but over his last five games, Morris is averaging 105.8 yards per game and 5.1 yards per rush. For the season he has 825 yards (3rd in the NFL) on 159 carries and 5 TDs. That 5.2 yards per carry leads the NFL, so LBs DeMeco Ryans and Najee Goode, playing for the injured Mychal Kendricks, are going to have their hands full. Ryans is having a Pro Bowl-type season, which helps explain the Eagles respectable 14th ranking against the run (110.5 ypg). The Eagles also can't expect Morris to fumbles twice, as he did in Week 1.
The Redskins special teams units are ranked 30th or lower in every facet, which is monumentally bad. They can't tackle and they don't get long returns. Sounds like the Eagles units of the last few years, doesn't it? As a matter of fact, ex-Eagle Sav Rocca punts for Washington. The Eagles haven't been terrible covering kicks and punts, thanks mostly to punter Donnie Jones, but they haven't shown much in the way of returns even with DeSean Jackson returning punts now. The signed Brad Smith off the street and he may or may not return kicks this week.
Turn OFF the Sound
Mike Shanahan has two Super Bowl rings, but none since 1998, when he had Terrell Davis and John Elway. However, he did lead a 3-6 Redskins team to 7 straight wins and an NFC East Championship last season, so he's not completely washed up. Chip Kelly is still a rookie head coach with a .500 record who makes multiple mistakes a game. Most recently, Chip and his staff couldn't figure out how to challenge a play. But he has already won more games this season than Andy Reid won all of last season, so at least he's got that going for him.
The Redskins are a different team since they lost to the Eagles in Week 1, mostly due to the improved health and play of RG3. Of course, the Eagles defense is much better as well. Since Week 5, they haven't allowed more than 21 points to any team. Both teams have great rushing attacks, but both also have horrible pass defenses. All that points to a shoot-out, which probably means a it will be a low-scoring game.
The Eagles break the Linc Losing Streak and take over first place in the NFC East.
Eagles 34 - Redskins 27