The Eagles and Redskins both began the season with new quarterbacks leading new eras. Both have seen their original plans take unexpected turns.
But while the Eagles, Andy Reid, and Michael Vick have thrived together through many twists and turns, the Redskins, Mike Shanahan, and Donovan McNabb find themselves embroiled in controversy, the relationship between quarterback and coach already frayed.
In Philadelphia, Vick has regained his quickness, developed into a better passer, and benefited from the Eagles' offensive scheme, said ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski.
"I'm seeing a quarterback more inclined to stay in the pocket, go through the progression and find No. 2, find No. 3, and that's . . . how you become a great quarterback," Jaworski said.
Vick has delivered numerous big plays with zero interceptions. McNabb and Washington, meanwhile, have not meshed. He ranks 25th in passing and has thrown eight interceptions against seven touchdowns.
So while only one game separates the 5-3 Eagles and 4-4 Redskins, the teams that opened the season in similar situations begin the second half of their schedules in a Monday night showdown from vastly different places: the Eagles coming off of their biggest win of the season, the Redskins facing a barrage of questions centering on the coach and quarterback who were supposed to finally bring the team stability.
Vick has been helped by a blocking scheme that has employed more maximum protection than Jaworski said he can ever recall, giving the quarterback time to work through his progressions. The extra time gives receivers such as DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin time to work deeper downfield, to take advantage of their speed and Vick's powerful arm. The result: six Vick passes of 40 or more yards in roughly 15 quarters.
When teams blitz him, Vick has completed 27 of 45 passes for 426 yards and three touchdowns, Jaworski said.
Vick's play makes Jaworski believe the Eagles will keep him beyond this season. His "gut" says the Redskins will be starting over again next year with another new quarterback after McNabb's contract expires. With the recent benching and fallout, Jaworski expects McNabb to seek another place to play.
"I can't see Michael Vick not being the quarterback in Philadelphia," Jaworski said. "There's a tremendous air of excitement around this offense right now."
The first time the teams met, though, the Redskins dampened the Eagles' attack, allowing just 12 points, limiting Jackson to three catches and Maclin to one.
Instead of blitzing, the Redskins sat back in a soft Cover 2, with a safety watching Jackson deep and a cornerback underneath, a scheme that felt as limiting as punt coverage, Jackson said last week.
The Redskins also played physically against Jackson and Maclin, jamming both at the line of scrimmage.
The Eagles, having seen the Redskins once, have had a chance to prepare for a similar strategy. Expect offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to move Jackson around to find creative ways to make sure the playmaker gets his share of touches.
"I just feel comfortable in the scheme that Marty's putting together this week to change it up and help me out and get me some releases," Jackson said. "I think Maclin and [tight end Brent] Celek, them guys will help get some balls and help even it out a little bit."
Running back LeSean McCoy may also factor in. In the Eagles' first game against the Redskins, he caught 12 passes, mostly on short throws as the Redskins played back to prevent big strikes.
The Redskins, though, are coming off of a bye week in which coaches, when not answering questions about McNabb, had time to study the Eagles and work on ways to counter the big-play offense.
Last time, they got help from a running game that gashed the Eagles for 169 yards and chewed up the clock late in the game. The Eagles heard it from their coaches after that, and have vastly improved at run-stuffing.
When they last met, optimism was still real in Washington and uncertainty reigned in Philadelphia. Those seem like distant memories now.
As they enter the heart of the NFC East schedule, the Redskins are hoping for another turnaround. The Eagles, meanwhile, after several changes of direction, would prefer to stay on course.
Like the first meeting between the Eagles and Redskins, all eyes will be on Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb. Here is a look at how they compare this season in the some key categories:
Comp Att Pct Yards Yds/G TD Int Sacks Rating
Vick 76 125 60.8 1,017 203.4 7 0 14 105.3
McNabb 159 277 57.4 1,971 246.4 7 8 22 76.0
Rushes Yards Ave. Longest Touchdowns
Vick 36 261 7.3 32 2
McNabb 23 135 5.9 36 0