Last month, when the Eagles and Redskins first met, both teams were 3-6 and at a crossroads.
The Birds took the road oft-traveled for losing teams and have dropped four of their last five, while Washington chose the road less ventured and have won five straight to jump back into the playoff mix.
The Redskins are tied with the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys atop the NFC East and hold tiebreakers over both squads. The Eagles will once again have to settle for playing spoiler, although much of the attention will be directed toward Andy Reid, who will likely be coaching his last home game at Lincoln Financial Field.
There was some concern from the Redskins camp that Robert Griffin III would miss his second straight game with a knee injury, but the quarterback phenom is expected to start.
Here is how the teams match up:
Sunday may be the first opportunity to see what a LeSean McCoy-Bryce Brown backfield will look like. McCoy, who enters with 750 yards on the ground, will play in his first game since suffering a concussion last month against the Redskins. Reid said that McCoy would start, but that he would not likely get his normal workload. The Eagles could be just easing McCoy back from injury or they may want to get an idea how he and Brown complement each other sharing the load. They also likely want to get Brown as many touches as possible considering his potential and fumbling problems. Dion Lewis should get a few totes, as well, and Chris Polk could be making his debut as a fullback.
The Redskins held the Eagles to just 80 rushing yards last month. They've held opponents to 95.9 yards a game this season, which is sixth best in the league. The 37-year-old London Fletcher remains the linchpin on defense, but injuries and age have slowed the middle linebacker. Nose tackle Barry Cofield and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins have been Washington's best run- stoppers up front.
Since his first start last month, Nick Foles has been steady if not spectacular. It will be difficult to come to any conclusions on the rookie quarterback's future because of all the injuries on offense, but since the first Redskins game Foles has thrown for 933 yards, four touchdowns, and only one interception. In that game, he completed 21 of 46 passes for 204 yards and tossed two interceptions. Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan spent much of the day in the Eagles backfield. Dennis Kelly was making his first start at right tackle, and had issues against Kerrigan, his former Purdue teammate. The Redskins lost Brian Orakpo, their best pass rusher, earlier in the season, but Rob Jackson (five sacks) has filled in nicely. Still, the Redskins have been among the worst pass defenses in the league, allowing 285 yards a game and 7.5 yards per pass attempt.
Their bigger issue has been on the back end, with cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson often easy pickings. And yet, somehow DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were held to a combined two catches for 5 yards last month. Jackson is done for the season, but Maclin (57 catches for 719 yards and five touchdowns) has two games to alter what has mostly been a disappointing season.
Having a quarterback who can run factors into Washington's standing as the top rushing team in the NFL (165 yards per game). But running back Alfred Morris (1,322 yards and nine TDs) deserves much of the credit for the balanced attack. The rookie is tough inside, averaging 4.6 yards a carry between the guards. But he's as good on the edges (4.8 yards per), sometimes gobbling big chunks on the red option. Morris was held to 76 yards on 20 carries in the first game, but Griffin flummoxed the Eagles with 12 runs that totaled 84 yards.
The Birds run defense has been consistently OK. After going 11 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, it has allowed two straight. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans (109) is on pace to finish with the most solo tackles in the Reid era. Safety Colt Anderson has made some nice stops against the run in the last two games and will remain a starter alongside Kurt Coleman, who was given the nod over Nate Allen at the other spot.
Griffin completed 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns and finished with a perfect 158.3 rating in the first meeting. He was good, but the Eagles helped the rookie with a blown coverage and some shoddy defense. That was the old Birds pass defense, though. The unit has been rejuvenated since defensive line coach Jim Washburn's departure - unless it's pure coincidence. In the last two games, opposing quarterbacks have completed only 44 percent of their passes and they've been sacked eight times. Eagles defensive ends are lining up less in the wide-nine technique, which has allowed for more stunts and twists.
The Redskins offense ranks 22d in the league in sacks per pass play. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus has been the weak spot on the line. He'll see a lot of Brandon Graham, who has four sacks in three games since taking over for Jason Babin at left end. Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon was held to just three catches for 5 yards in the first game, but he was returning from a foot injury. Since then he has 23 catches for 340 yards and three touchdowns in four games. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has turned it back on in recent weeks, will likely draw Garcon. He and fellow cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha are trying to make late bids to return next season.
It might be time to turn the page on Brandon Boykin (22.7-yard average) as a kick returner. Coordinator Bobby April hinted last week that Bryce Brown could be handling kickoffs Sunday. Brandon Banks has been a better kick returner (24-yard averageg) than punt returner (6.8-yard average) for the Redskins. Eagles punt returner Damaris Johnson (12-yard average) has shown enough to return next season. Washington's cover units have been strong most of the season (fifth on punts and 14th on kicks), while the Eagles' have been awful (30th and 23d).
Griffin ranks first among NFL quarterbacks when under pressure, completing 59.2 percent of his passes, according to Pro Football Focus. . . . The Eagles' Brent Celek, back after missing a game with a concussion, is fifth among tight ends with eight dropped passes. . . . Eagles rookie Fletcher Cox has the fifth most sacks (51/2) for defensive ends in the NFL. . . . The Redskins average an NFL-best 6.2 yards per play. . . . The Eagles are tied for 31st in the league with a minus-22 turnover ratio. Washington is tied for fourth with plus-13.