The Eagles will play Washington in their regular-season finale on Sunday.
Paul Domowitch breaks down which team has the edge:
When the Eagles run the ball
Aside from Darren Sproles’ 16-yard run to help set up Jake Elliott’s game-winning field goal, the Eagles weren’t able to run the ball against Houston, finishing with 57 yards on 22 carries. They had just four rushing first downs, including two in the first three quarters. The good news is the Redskins aren’t as good against the run as the Texans. They’re 20th in opponent rush average (4.6). The Eagles need to run better on first down. In their last six games, they are averaging an NFL-worst 3.46 yards per carry on first down. Rookie Josh Adams has cooled off. He’s averaged just 1.9 yards per carry in the last two games after averaging 5.1 in the previous six games. The Eagles ran the ball 33 times against the Redskins in their 28-13 Week 13 win at the Linc. They had eight rushing first downs. In their last eight games, the Redskins allowed 5.0 yards per carry. They were gashed for 227 yards on 34 carries by Saquon Barkley and the Giants two weeks ago.
When the Eagles throw the ball
Nick Foles, who threw for four touchdowns and a franchise-record 471 yards against Houston, will make his third straight start Sunday for injured Carson Wentz. Foles has been a little more willing than Wentz to give his receivers, particularly Alshon Jeffery, opportunities to make plays on 50-50 balls. Jeffery is averaging 22.0 yards per catch in Foles’ two starts. Foles completed 12 of 13 third-down passes last week for 149 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Zach Ertz’s 113 receptions are the second most in the league and the most ever by a tight end in a single season. He had nine catches for 83 yards and six first downs in the Eagles’ first meeting with the Redskins. The Redskins have a good pass rush. They are sixth in the league in sacks with 43. Ryan Kerrigan has double-digit sacks for the third straight year (12).
When the Redskins run the ball
The Redskins rushed for 161 yards on 34 carries in last week’s loss to Tennessee, including 119 yards on 26 carries by Adrian Peterson. It was Peterson’s first 100-yard game since Week 8. He had 98 yards on nine carries against the Eagles in Week 13. But 90 of those yards came on one run. In Josh Johnson’s two starts, the Redskins have played it close to the vest. They’ve run the ball 67 times and thrown it only 48 times. Johnson is more dangerous as a runner than a passer. The Redskins run a lot of zone-reads with him. He has averaged 5.8 yards per carry in the three games he has played. Seven of the Redskins’ 17 rushing first downs in those three games were by Johnson. The Eagles held the Lamar Miller-less Texans to 62 yards on 19 carries last week. Quarterback Deshaun Watson had 49 of those yards. Houston’s running backs were held to 13 yards on 11 carries. In their last 10 games, the Eagles have allowed a league-worst 5.94 yards per carry on first down. But they did a good job last week, holding Watson and the Texans to 33 rushing yards on 13 first-down carries.
When the Redskins throw the ball
Alex Smith and Colt McCoy both are out with broken legs. Mark Sanchez wasn’t mobile enough to withstand a pass- ush against the Redskins’ injury-ravaged offensive line. So, Jay Gruden turned to a guy, Josh Johnson, who knew his scheme but hadn’t played in the NFL in four years and hadn’t thrown a pass in five. Johnson is more runner than thrower, which could be a challenge for the Eagles’ pass rush. But he has just a 75.3 passer rating in his two starts with only two touchdown passes and two interceptions and a 6.3 yards-per-attempt average. Tight end Jordan Reed, who leads the Redskins in receptions with 54, missed the last two games with a foot injury and was placed on injured reserve last week. The Eagles weren’t a big blitzing team before they lost their top three corners, and they’re definitely not one now, with a 9.9 blitz percentages in the last five games. They rely on their front four to get pressure, and their back seven to keep the ball in front of them and limit yards after the catch.
Jake Elliott kept the Eagles’ playoff hopes alive last week with a game-winning 35-yard field goal with no time left. He has made 25 of 30 field-goal attempts, including 15 of his last 16. He has missed PATs in two of the last three games. Punter Cam Johnston is second in the NFL in gross average (48.5) and third in net average (43.1). Twenty-nine of his 58 punts (50.0 percent) have been returned. But the Eagles are fifth in punt coverage (6.0). The Redskins are just 26th in punt coverage but did a good job against Darren Sproles in Week 13, holding him to a 6.3-yard average on three returns. Boston Scott is the Eagles’ sixth kick returner this season. They are 19th in kick-return average (22.0). Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins is 26-for-29 on field-goal attempts. His only misses have been from 63, 49, and 41 yards. Hopkins is second in touchback percentage on kickoffs (80.9). He has had just 13 kickoffs returned. Punter Tress Way is 13th in gross average (45.4) and ninth in net average (41.3). He has put 39 of his 74 punts inside the 20.
Week 17 games are all about motivation. The 7-8 Redskins have none. They’ve been eliminated from the postseason hunt. They just want to the season to be over. The 8-7 Eagles have a lot. They can make the playoffs with a win and a Vikings loss to the Bears.
Domo’s prediction: Eagles 37, Redskins 13
Eagles RT Lane Johnson v. Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan: Johnson has a major chip on his shoulder after being snubbed in the Pro Bowl voting. He did an excellent job on the Texans’ J.J. Watt last week, and shut down Kerrigan in their first meeting in Week 13.
Eagles DT Fletcher Cox v. Redskins G’s Zac Kerin and Luke Bowanko: Cox is second in the league to the Rams’ Aaron Donald in quarterback pressures. Regardless of what side he lines up on, it’s going to be a mismatch against these two backups.
Eagles TE Zach Ertz v. Redskins S Deshazor Everett: Ertz had nine catches for 83 yards in fthe irst meeting with the Redskins. The man who would have spent the most time with him on Sunday – D.J. Swearinger – was cut this past week.
Three keys to the game
Stuff the run on first down: Over the last 10 games, the Eagles have given up a league-worst 5.94 yards per carry on first down. That includes Adrian Peterson’s 90-yard TD run in the first game against the Redskins. In Josh Johnson’s two starts at quarterback, the Redskins have run the ball on 38 of 49 first-down plays.
Ball security: The Eagles turned the ball over three times last week but managed to win by the hair on Jason Kelce’s chinny chin chin. The only other time they’ve had three giveaways in a game this season, they lost by 41 points. While their margin for error is quite a bit bigger against the offensively challenged Redskins than it was against Drew Brees and the Saints, they probably don’t want to press their luck in a must-win game.
Early wakeup: The Eagles have been notoriously slow starters this season. They have been outscored 61-38 in the first quarter. Those 38 points are the fewest in the league. But they have scored on their first possession in three of their last four games, including a touchdown in their Week 13 win over the Redskins. They can’t afford to let Washington hang around Sunday. Bad things usually happen when you let an opponent do that.