When the Eagles and Redskins met in Week 4, Sam Bradford threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns - and Bradford is playing better now than he was then. That should be an encouraging sign for the Eagles, who will have the opportunity to move the ball against Washington. The Redskins allow 240.2 passing yards per game, but the 7.7 yards per attempt is one of the worst averages in the league.
Opposing quarterbacks have thrown for 26 touchdowns and only nine interceptions against Washington, plus 11 passes of 40-plus yards. So Bradford should be able to move the ball through the air against Washington - as long as his receivers help him. In that first meeting, Nelson Agholor, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, and Miles Austin all had catches of at least 30 yards. Such a feat is rare for this receiving corps.
Agholor, who was shut out last Sunday by Patrick Peterson, will be covered by Bashaud Breeland. Will Blackmon is the other starting cornerback, but he shifts to the inside to play the slot in nickel situations. That means Blackmon will be tasked with covering Matthews, who is 161 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season. Bradford often looks for tight end Zach Ertz, who had 20 targets during the last two weeks. He had 15 catches for 115 yards in a Week 16 game against Washington last year.
The Eagles have a healthier offensive line this week than in Week 4, when Jason Peters left after six snaps. Peters must block outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who has 8.5 sacks. Washington has 29 sacks as a team.
There is no word on how much DeMarco Murray will play on Saturday. He could be behind Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles again. The Redskins allow 129.8 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry, which is second-worst in the league. So the Eagles should be able to run if the line does its job.
Kicker Caleb Sturgis has stabilized since a shaky debut against Washington and has made every field-goal attempt since Thanksgiving. In a game that could be close, the Eagles need a strong showing from him on Saturday.
The Eagles defense will likely play without nose tackle Bennie Logan and cornerback Byron Maxwell. Those are two key losses in an important game. Beau Allen is expected to start in place of Logan on the defensive line, with E.J. Biggers the top candidate to replace Maxwell at left cornerback.
When facing Washington, the key for the Eagles defense is to slow down Kirk Cousins. He has 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in the last eight games, and his completion percentage (69.7 percent) tops the NFL. But Cousins is more effective at home. Nine of his 11 interceptions have come on the road, and his quarterback rating is 74.6 on the road compared to 117.0 at home.
Cousins has an impressive group of targets that will test the Eagles secondary. DeSean Jackson, who missed the Week 4 game against the Eagles, is healthy and has four touchdowns in the last five games. Jackson hurt the Eagles in two meetings last season, and his big-play ability will challenge his former team. Biggers could see Jackson unless the Eagles move Eric Rowe to the left side. The Redskins' top target is tight end Jordan Reed, who has 74 catches for 778 yards and nine touchdowns. Look for safety Malcolm Jenkins to cover Reed. Pierre Garcon, who caught the game-winning touchdown in Week 4, is also a challenge. Rookie Jamison Crowder has developed into a reliable slot receiver.
The Redskins' rushing offense has struggled in recent weeks, although the Eagles have been one of the worst rushing defenses during that span, too. Alfred Morris and Matt Jones are the top ballcarriers, but both players average fewer than 4 yards per rush. The Eagles must do a better job tackling after allowing 230 rushing yards last week.
The Eagles had only one sack and forced only one turnover in the first meeting with Washington. Both numbers must be improve if the Eagles expect to win. Pay attention to the status of right tackle Morgan Moses, who is expected to be a game-time decision with an ankle injury. Backup Ty Nsekhe would block Connor Barwin if Moses is out.
When the Eagles force a punt, Pro Bowler Darren Sproles could be primed for a big return. Washington allows 10.2 yards per punt return and has already given up a touchdown.
3: The last three times the Eagles and Redskins have played, the game was decided by three points. It's no wonder that the point spread Saturday is three points. (The Eagles are favored.) Washington won the last two meetings by a field goal, and the Eagles had their kicking game to blame. Caleb Sturgis missed an extra point and a 33-yard field goal in Week 4, costing the Eagles four points. Cody Parkey missed a 34-yard field goal and a 46-yard field goal in Week 16 last season. In both of those games, Washington did not miss a kick. So much attention is paid to the offenses and defenses, but it could be kickers who play a big role on Saturday.
Zach Berman: Redskins 23, Eagles 21