The Eagles will open their season Sunday against the Washington Football Team in Landover, Md.
Ready or not, there’s not much doubt which is the better team here.
I expect total anarchy, at FedEx Field and across the league, for Week 1 — every team missing seven starters by halftime. Injury carts that need batteries recharged and tires rotated by the end of the third quarter. Not just because there was no spring work, and there were no preseason games. More because that is what 2020 is about, dashed dreams, canceled plans and chaos.
Other than that, I expect the Eagles will find a way to win, because that is what they do against Washington, having won the last six meetings, including season openers in 2017 and last year. The Eagles also win openers, having taken eight of the last nine, and all four under Doug Pederson.
I don’t think the Eagles' offense or offensive line is in sync yet, and that’s a concern, but I don’t see how Washington can be all that sharp, either, having battled the same conditions, in addition to having all-new coaches and systems, along with a lot of distracting controversy over the former team nickname and alleged front-office sexual misconduct. I like the Eagles’ defensive line as the unit that decides the game.
Lots of mistakes, some crippling injuries that might make the outcome an afterthought, but a sloppy victory. Hope I cheered everyone up!
Prediction: Eagles 23, Washington 14
If you’re looking for positive signs that the Eagles should win Sunday, well, they’re more plentiful than goose poop at a park.
The Eagles haven’t lost to Washington since 2016. Doug Pederson has won all four season openers as the Eagles' head coach.
In a season in which the COVID pandemic wiped out OTAs and all the preseason games, Washington has a new head coach. A new head coach who is battling cancer.
And, oh yeah, did I mention that the Washington Football Team is caught up in an ugly sexual harassment scandal?
It’s not that Washington can’t win Sunday. This is the NFL. Week 1 of the NFL. Week 1 of the NFL in a pandemic. Week 1 of the NFL in a pandemic in an empty stadium. Anything can happen.
But Washington shouldn’t win. The Eagles are the better team. Most of the matchups favor the Eagles. The advantages that usually go to the home team, such as earsplitting crowd noise and fat guys in pig masks, aren’t there. If Jason Peters picks up a false-start penalty Sunday, the Eagles should immediately airlift him to an ear, nose and throat specialist.
The Eagles are going to spend most of this season holding their breath with their offensive line, which has zero experience behind the starters. They’ll be doing the same with DeSean Jackson’s core muscles and hamstrings. But for the moment, most of the people who need to be healthy for Doug Pederson’s team to make a playoff run are healthy.
Put this one in the win column.
Prediction: Eagles 20, Washington 13
There are many ways the Eagles could lose Sunday, but the one that keeps popping into my head involves Ryan Kerrigan dominating Lane Johnson stand-in Matt Pryor. Johnson is questionable with an ankle injury, so he might play, but the Eagles can ill afford to lose their Pro Bowl right tackle for an extended period. So my best guess would be that he takes a week before returning.
Washington has some other players who could pose problems. Receiver Terry McLaurin torched the Eagles for two long touchdowns a year ago, and he had new cornerback Darius Slay running in circles when he was with the Lions. It’ll be interesting to see if Jim Schwartz has Slay following McLaurin. But I don’t think it’ll matter much with the inconsistent Dwayne Haskins at quarterback. The Eagles should have more than enough despite some injuries to take care of the “Football Team.”
Prediction: Eagles 27, Washington 18
Season openers this year will likely be packed with surprises and unpredictability considering the nature of this offseason, but the Eagles are clearly a much better team with a massive advantage in continuity. Washington’s defensive line should keep the team in games this year, and there’s a chance Dwayne Haskins will become a solid starter under new head coach Ron Rivera. Still, it will probably take a few weeks before Washington hits its stride and figures out the small details as it learns a completely new system in a truncated off-season.
The Eagles' defense was often ahead of the offense during training camp, and there’s a good chance that will continue. It’s tempting to predict a high-scoring game when you consider Washington’s leaky secondary and the potential for blown coverages because of confusion, but it’s a temptation I’ll avoid.
Washington’s chances might look much better if injuries cost the Eagles any more starters — especially along the offensive line — but barring that, the Eagles should start the season on a good note.