1. How will the Eagles offense do?
Jeff McLane: The Redskins will face a different offensive line from the one they saw two months ago. Halapoulivaati Vaitai made his first career start at right tackle in Landover and looked it. Carson Wentz took a number of hits and was clearly affected by the pressure. Vaitai showed mild improvement over the next several games, but suffered a knee injury and is out for Sunday's game. Allen Barbre slid over from left guard and Stefen Wisniewski has taken his place. Barbre seamlessly made the move for the first few games, but struggled last week against the Bengals. Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan wrecked the last game. Could he again?
Aside from Kerrigan and cornerback Josh Norman, though, Washington's defense isn't that special. The Redskins have several players up front that are questionable. Defensive tackle Chris Baker didn't practice on Thursday because of an ankle injury. He's their best run stopper. Ricky Jean Francois (foot) and Preston Smith (groin) have been limited this week. The Redskins are also banged up at safety. Will Blackmon is in the concussion protocol.
The Eagles will likely have two of their more important skill position players back, which couldn't come at a better time. Receiver Jordan Matthews (ankle) and running back Ryan Mathews (knee) are slated to play. The Eagles run game has been stagnant for about a month. If Doug Pederson wants to ride a workhorse – and he should – Mathews would be the best candidate of the Eagles' tailbacks. Wentz can't be expected to carry the offense, especially with receivers that are inconsistent. Matthews should get opportunities if he's matched up against slot corner Kendall Fuller.
2. How will the Eagles defense do?
McLane: The Eagles may have had their worst defensive performance in Washington. They couldn't stop the run, particularly after Bennie Logan left with an injury, and they couldn't stop all three of their running backs. Matt Jones ran for 135 yards that day, but he's been out for over a month, and Rob Kelley has assumed the lead tailback role. He's a hard runner and Jay Gruden loves to get him north-to-south with his versions of a Redskins staple for many years – the counter. Washington's offensive line is big and athletic and beat up the Eagles' front seven two months ago. Left tackle Trent Williams, who just served a four-game suspension for using a banned substance, is back.
But the Redskins love to chuck it. Quarterback Kirk Cousins continues to prove all his doubters wrong. He may be without his best receiver. Tight end Jordan Reed sat out last week with a shoulder injury and is questionable. The Redskins are 2-8 without Reed over the last three seasons. Of course, one of the victories came against the Eagles last month. Veteran backup Vernon Davis beat safety Malcolm Jenkins for two catches for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Cousins has several other options, however. DeSean Jackson is still deadly deep. Pierre Garcon works the edges. And slot receiver Jamison Crowder has three 100-yard receiving games over the Redskins' last six games. It could get scary for Eagles cornerbacks, who "aren't playing very well right now," Jim Schwartz admitted on Tuesday.
Berman: I'd say coming home could be a benefit for the Eagles defense, but that didn't help against Green Bay the last time they played at Lincoln Financial Field. Washington ran all over the Eagles in the first meeting – the Eagles allowed a season-high 230 rushing yards that day – but they need to be most worried about Washington's passing game. Bennie Logan left in the second quarter in Week 6, so having him out there will help the Eagles against Kelley and Washington's running game. But Cousins has had a strong season and he'll challenge the Eagles' struggling cornerbacks. The Eagles are fortunate that Reed wasn't on the field in the first meeting, and they might not get Reed at full health on Sunday. Either way, the matchup to watch is how the Eagles cover Crowder. He's been such a difference-maker in the slot, and the Eagles need to find an answer inside because Jenkins might need to help against their tight ends. I wonder if the Eagles will use Jalen Mills as the slot cornerback against Crowder. You always need to worry about Jackson going deep and Garcon is so experienced, but it's Crowder and the tight ends that present the biggest challenge. Trent Williams will be back on their offensive line, which is bad news for Connor Barwin. Brandon Scherff had a good game against Fletcher Cox in the first meeting, and Cox needs to answer the bell on Sunday.
3. Who's a player to watch?
McLane: Brandon Graham has had a very good season. His sack numbers (5) may not show it, but the Eagles defensive end, aside from a few games, has been the defense's most consistent performer. His 11 tackles for loss are tied for eighth best in the NFL. Schwartz needs him to win his one-one-one matchups against right tackle Morgan Moses if the Eagles are to pressure Cousins.
Berman: I'm going with Malcolm Jenkins, because I want to see how the Eagles use him on Sunday. He had a hot-and-cold game against Washington in that first meeting, including a Pick-6 and a touchdown allowed. Against a team that's so tough in the slot and at tight end, Schwartz is going to need to find the best way to use Jenkins. However he's used, Jenkins figures to be a key part of the game.
4. What's your prediction?
McLane: If Reed is healthy enough to play it could be a long day for the Eagles. He's quick enough to beat safeties and big and athletic enough to out-muscle linebackers. The last time he played in Philly, he torched the Eagles with nine catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. That was against a different defense, but the Eagles' pass coverage has been as poor as it was a year ago this time. I think the Eagles will come out with more energy than they did in Cincinnati. They're home after all. But will they be able to transfer that fire into how they execute? The Redskins are a deeper, more talented team, and still have a realistic shot at the playoffs. The Eagles could be looking ahead to January. Redskins 27, Eagles 16.
Berman: The Eagles can win this game, but how can one have confidence in the Eagles right now? They've lost two straight games and seven of nine – until they give a reason to pick them again, I won't. The Eagles kept it close in the first meeting while playing an awful game, and I need to think the offense plays better on Sunday. But they also can't rely on two non-offensive touchdowns like in Week 6. I'd expect a better game from the Eagles, but I don't know if they're the better team. It's a pick 'em in Vegas, and I'll pick Washington in a close one. Washington 23, Eagles 20.