Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Early Birds: Eagles-Redskins Predictions

The Eagles scored only 17 points against the Cardinals last week, but they put 424 yards on one of the best defenses in the NFL. It was probably the offense’s best performance in six games.

1. How will the Eagles offense do?

Jeff McLane: The Eagles scored only 17 points against the Cardinals last week, but they put 424 yards on one of the best defenses in the NFL. It was probably the offense's best performance in six games. Turnovers, of course, marred the effort - two fumbles, two interceptions and a turnover on downs at the Arizona 8.

Sam Bradford had a lot to do with the Eagles' success moving the ball. He threw the ball great despite some more drops - five by my count. The Redskins have given up a ton of yards this season - 370 a game on average. But they've been decent on third down (17th in the NFL) and very good in the red zone (8th).

Five of Washington's 29 sacks this season came in the first meeting with the Eagles. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan leads the team with 8-1/2. He'll rush for both sides and see either Jason Peters or Lane Johnson. The Eagles have had trouble blocking defensive lineman Chris Baker in the past. Defensive end Jason Hatcher is battling neck and knee injuries.

The Redskins secondary - the one the Eagles attacked with success in October - has DeAngelo Hall back and now at safety. Will Chip Kelly try to go back to his underwhelming outside receivers - Nelson AgholorRiley Cooper and Josh Huff - or will he continue to call on Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz?

Zach Berman: The Eagles should be able to move the ball on Washington. You saw them have success through the air in Week 4, against the Redskins, and Bradford is better now than he was then. The Redskins have allowed 11 plays of 40+ yards, so watch out for Agholor as a deep threat on Saturday. Ertz has 20 targets in the past two weeks, and he should remain a top target. This won't be a 15-catch game like Week 16 last year, but he'll continue a hot streak.

Washington's rushing defense is one of the worst in the NFL. They allow 4.9 yards per carry. The Eagles need to establish a running game, and that'll help with the play-action. Ryan Mathews figures to be a big part of the game plan, but who knows with the way the Eagles are distributing their carries.

Based on recent weeks, it doesn't seem DeMarco Murray will be a big part of the game plan. Whoever it is, the Eagles should have a good day running. The question comes back to turnovers. The Eagles fumbled twice against the Redskins in Week 4, and that made a difference in a close game.

2. How will the defense do?

McLane: Bill Davis' unit kept the Redskins offense mostly in check for 3 1/2 quarters of the first game. They surrendered only 16 points and 5.1 yards per play up until Washington gained possession with 6:05 left in the game. What ensued was a 15-play, 90-yard drive that resulted in a game-winning touchdown throw from Kirk Cousins to Pierre Garcon. The Redskins, who have struggled rushing all season, gained most of those yards on the ground.

Alfred Morris and Matt Jones average only 3.6 and 3.4 yards per carry. The Eagles run defense has been inconsistent. They could use a break, although it appears as if the defensive front will be without nose tackle Bennie Logan (calf). Beau Allen and others will rotate into that spot on base downs.

The Redskins stay committed to the run. Their offense is also good on third down (6th) and in the red zone (6th). The Eagles defense is not - 27th on third down and last in red zone. They made up for some of their flaws by creating 12 turnovers in the first half of the season. But the Eagles have forced only three in the last six games.

Likely joining Logan on the sidelines will be cornerback Byron Maxwell (shoulder). Eric Rowe has returned to practice after a concussion and should start. E.J. Biggers is in line to replace Maxwell on the other side. Cousins is likely to test both with the explosive DeSean Jackson.

Berman: This will be a big test for the Eagles with the way Cousins is playing and with the missing pieces on the Eagles defense. Cousins has improved each month - his passer rating went from 81.3 in September to 87.5 in October to 105.9 in November to 121.4 in December. But he's far worse on the road than at home, so the Eagles must hope that factors into their advantage.

The Eagles are expected to miss Logan and Maxwell, and those are key losses. Maxwell didn't play much of the Week 4 game, but the Eagles also had Nolan Carroll that week. Rowe, Biggers, and Jaylen Watkins will be the top three cornerbacks this week. Against a team that has Jackson and Garcon - not to mention underrated tight end Jordan Reed occupying Malcolm Jenkins' attention - that's a big loss. Jackson has four touchdowns in the past five games and feasted on the Eagles in two games last year.

The depth of safety Ed Reynolds will be a key factor when the Eagles are in nickel, and Biggers will be tested in coverage. Before the game, watch out for whether right tackle Morgan Moses is active. If he's out, Connor Barwin has a better chance of getting to Cousins.

Although Logan has been banged up in recent weeks, his absence will hurt a run defense that is already struggling. Washington's running backs have not inspired much of a threat of late, but neither has the Eagles run defense. Of Washington's two running backs, watch out for rookie Matt Jones. His fumbles have been a problem, but he's a tough runner who's built similarly to Arizona's  David Johnson.

3. Who's a player to watch?

McLane: Safety Ed Reynolds will often be responsible for checking Jackson over top. He's been Davis' nickel defensive back for the last 3-4 games. He's had some highlights, but also some lowlights. The Redskins have an assortment of route concepts that try to disorient the centerfield safety and draw him away from Jackson. Reynolds has to stay on toes.

Berman: Other than Bradford, which should be obvious, give me Caleb Sturgis. When the Eagles lost to Washington in Week 4, Sturgis missed a 33-yard field goal and an extra point. The past three Eagles-Redskins games have come down to three points. In Week 16 last year, Cody Parkey missed two critical field goals. I expect this to be a close game on Saturday, and every point will be valuable. That means Sturgis needs to hit the kicks he's expected to make.

4. What's your prediction?

McLane: The Eagles will likely be without a few key players on Saturday, but the Redskins aren't exactly the picture of health either. Their offensive line is beat up. Cousins has played well, but he can be pressured. Fletcher CoxBrandon GrahamConnor Barwin and Vinny Curry need to bring the heat. The Eagles' front seven will also have to do a better job with gap discipline, particularly on the Redskins' oft-used stretch run.

I don't see a high-scoring affair, but I think Bradford will be able to move the ball and be enough to squeak the Eagles past the Redskins and keep their playoff hopes very much alive. Eagles 24, Redskins 23.​

Berman: This is a difficult game to predict. The implications are clear for both teams. I'm fascinated to see how Bradford responds to the big stage. He has not played in an elimination-type game since his rookie season. But it's the players around him that should be a concern.

The Eagles have not been consistent this year, and they're missing two of their top defensive players. Washington is 1-5 on the road this season, and that's a number that favors the Eagles. There's a reason why the Eagles are favored by three points.

I won't be surprised if the Eagles pull off an emotional victory and create an exciting Week 17, but based on the way the teams are coming into the game and the matchups, I think Washington has the edge. Give me Redskins 23, Eagles 21.