No opponent can be labeled a cupcake at this point. The Eagles lost to the 2-9 Dolphins and needed overtime to overcome the 2-10 Giants. The 3-10 Redskins are a different kind of terrible, but they’ll present some challenges for an Eagles team that is again besieged by injury.
Defensively, Washington can hang its helmet on its interior line, led by Matt Ioannidis and Daron Payne. Cornerback Quinton Dunbar has had a great season and should be able to shut down whichever receiver the Eagles will now have to line up outside with Alshon Jeffery’s season over. Halapoulivaati Vaitai will start at right tackle in place of Lane Johnson -- always a difficult predicament -- but injured outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan will be of no concern.
The Redskins average only 14.5 points a game on offense. Rookie Dwayne Haskins has struggled, and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has long preyed on inexperienced quarterbacks. Haskins does has a weapon in Terry McLaurin, who burned the Eagles in the opener, but finding the receiver down the field has been a chore for the inaccurate passer. Running back Adrian Peterson is still chugging along, but complement Derrius Guice was placed on injured reserve this week.
Playing in Landover, Md. isn’t daunting. The Eagles may actually have more fans at FedEx Field. Nothing has been certain with this team, but they should have enough to beat Washington, setting up next week’s showdown against the Cowboys.
Prediction: Eagles 20, Redskins 13
The Eagles won’t have Case Keenum (30-for-44, 380 yards, three touchdowns in the opener) to worry about this time. Jim Schwartz is good at confounding inexperienced quarterbacks, such as rookie Dwayne Haskins. The Redskins are more of a running team under Bill Callahan than they were under Jay Gruden, but they have lost Derrius Guice for the season. Adrian Peterson, while still formidable, isn’t really AP anymore. And the Eagles can shut down the run well enough.
If there is a danger here -- and we’re talking about the Eagles, of course there’s a danger -- it’s that even without Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins can get after the quarterback, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai is going to be replacing right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle). The Birds need to stick with the run, and Carson Wentz needs to take care of the ball. The visitors might need to get comfortable winning a low-scoring game, unless Haskins, who has seven INTs with his three touchdown passes, gives the ball away a lot.
The group of receivers Wentz is taking into FedEx is just ridiculous, absolutely the thinnest resumes of any group in the NFL. Howie Roseman should abjectly apologize to his quarterback. The Eagles aren’t beating Dallas next week with this weapons array, they’re going to need Nelson Agholor and Jordan Howard back, at the very least. But for this week, Wentz might be able to keep the playoff flame burning, even if it flickers and smolders a bit.
Prediction: Eagles 19, Redskins 16
In a weird sort of way, Monday night’s come-from-behind win over the Giants in overtime might’ve served them better than a 30-0 victory.
It seemed to reenergize a team that was saying all of the right things, but didn’t really seem to believe them. It has given a needed shot of confidence to young players like Greg Ward and Boston Scott and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who are going to need to play well in these final three games if the Eagles hope to win the NFC East. And it has given the rest of the team confidence in them.
Beating the Redskins on Sunday won’t be easy. They may be 3-10, but they’ve won two of their last three and played the 10-3 Packers tough last week in a 5-point loss.
But they’ve got a rookie quarterback who has a terrific arm but has made just five NFL starts and only 14 college starts before that, and Jim Schwartz should be able to cook up a few things that are going to confuse the kid and maybe force a turnover or two.
The Redskins’ best pass-rusher, Ryan Kerrigan, is out with a calf injury, which will be a big help to both right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who is subbing for injured Lane Johnson, and Carson Wentz.
Wentz’s strong finish against the Giants should give a boost to his confidence as well, heading into this three-game stretch.
Prediction: Eagles 20, Redskins 17
I still have no confidence in which version of the Eagles we will see on any given day, and Monday’s game didn’t do much to give me trust in them moving forward.
The Eagles are without Lane Johnson, and their offense has looked dreadful without him this season. They’ve only got three healthy wide receivers, and two of them were on the practice squad a month ago. They’re fresh off a win that required a stellar effort from their quarterback despite playing a team that hasn’t won a game since September. All of these things give me pause.
But then I looked at this Washington team.
They’ve done a terrible job protecting rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins, and Haskins hasn’t helped. His average time from snap to throw is 2.91 seconds, which is second-worst in the NFL this year, according to Next Gen Stats. They’re missing running back Derrius Guice, and Adrian Peterson isn’t exactly the same AD as a few years ago. Plus, the Eagles’ run defense has been one of the best in the NFL this season.
They’re without Ryan Kerrigan and several other key starters, such as cornerback Quinton Dunbar. They’ve got an interim coach and a whole lot of reasons to already be spending their time booking vacations for the offseason.
Barring a lapse in effort or bad coaching, the Eagles should win and win comfortably. Jim Schwartz will continue to feast on inexperienced quarterbacks, and the Eagles offense, stocked with practice squad call-ups eager to seize an opportunity, will capitalize on a banged up, unimpressive Washington defense.