The Eagles (8-7) will play at 1 p.m. Sunday at FedEx Field against the Washington Football Team (6-9).
Here are the game predictions from the Eagles beat writers for Week 17.
Washington has been on an apparent spiral. COVID-19 struck and WFT had only three-quarters of its regular roster in the loss to the Eagles in Week 15. The Cowboys bookended that defeat with two victories over Washington, the latter a 56-14 trouncing that included a sideline fight between defensive linemen Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.
There’s no way the Eagles can blow it in Landover against a floundering squad, right? Well … probably not. But stranger things have happened. And it’s not as if they have played outstanding football over the last month, despite winning three of their last four. The Eagles have responded to slow starts with convincing second-half performances, but the Washington squad they beat, 27-17, on Dec. 21 should have many players they were without 10 days ago, including their top two quarterbacks, top offensive lineman, and several defensive starters.
Coach Ron Rivera said he plans on playing both Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen at quarterback, which is questionable considering how the former performed during Washington’s four-game win streak just weeks ago. He struggled mightily against Dallas, but the Eagles aren’t in that class. Jonathan Gannon’s defense has improved, but it’s not as if either quarterback is much of an upgrade over other recent quarterbacks they faced. The Eagles should still have the edge.
No defense has contained the Eagles on the ground really all season, especially in the last eight games after Nick Sirianni emphasized the run game. But Miles Sanders is out with a broken hand, Jordan Howard is questionable with a stinger, and Jalen Hurts hasn’t been as much of a threat as a ballcarrier since spraining his ankle against the Giants on Nov. 28.
Washington’s run defense was embarrassed in the first meeting as the Eagles racked up 238 yards on the ground. The Eagles are unlikely to have as much space with returning faces and an expected commitment to stopping the run from the WFT. Boston Scott can grind out tough yards, and Kenny Gainwell has those capabilities, as well, but the offensive line may have to again carry much of the load.
I can see this matchup going either way. One way of viewing the Eagles’ inconsistent play of late is that if they finally get it together, they should breeze past Washington. Another is that this is who they are and that eventually an opponent will take advantage. I think Rivera is too good a coach for his players to mail in the last few games. So I expect a bounce- back. Washington certainly has enough talent to pull off the upset, and it’s not as if there’s much separating the teams. So at the risk of being labeled a hater, I think the Eagles lose in a squeaker. If I’m wrong, this prediction will self-destruct.
Prediction: Washington 23, Eagles 20
Warning: I’m going to hedge here.
This game has plenty of trap-game qualities to it. Washington is coming off a blowout loss in which the defensive line seemed to put more effort into fighting each other on the sideline than it did combating the Cowboys’ rushing attack.
The Eagles won each of the last two games handily, but they’re also forming a concerning trend of getting out to sloppy, slow starts. Against better teams, the blunders we saw last week could doom them.
As strange as it sounds, Washington is a better team than either of the Eagles’ two most recent opponents. Yes, the Eagles and the WFT played Dec. 21, but since then Washington has regained Heinicke and most of the other players who were on the COVID list. Heinicke is far from elite, but unlike Garrett Gilbert or Jake Fromm, he wasn’t clinging to his NFL livelihood at any point this season. The Eagles defense will be challenged more this time, especially if the offense starts off sluggishly or, even worse, turnover-prone.
On offense, the Eagles had better hope that Nick Sirianni’s claim that Jalen Hurts has no more limitations from his ankle injury are true. Washington’s run defense has been terrible of late, but it has a talented defensive front. If Hurts continues his streak of immobility, a cornerstone of the Eagles’ vaunted rushing attack will eventually go away.
These are all reasons to believe this will be a close game, but is any of it enough to make me go with Washington? Not quite. The Eagles have blown out most of the bad teams they’ve faced this season, but I think this will be a rare close game for them. Washington’s at home, presumably hungry after a bad loss on national television, and they’re healthier than they were last time. The Eagles are still the better team, though, and I think they escape with a win.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Washington 24
I’ll be honest — when they were 2-5 following the crushing defeat at Las Vegas, I never expected the Eagles to be part of the playoff conversation. That they are on the verge of securing a playoff spot is a testament to the culture established by Nick Sirianni and his coaching staff’s usage of this year’s roster. The team has been competitive and it has also benefited from a favorable back-end of the schedule.
A few other chips need to fall their way Sunday in order for the Eagles to clinch, but it starts with their handling business at Washington. They’ve been able to overcome extremely slow starts in recent games, but that is not a trend they want to maintain. Jalen Hurts needs to be more efficient in the first half and he’ll probably need to use his legs more after he finished with a career-low two rushes during in the last game.
Washington has its starter back in Taylor Heinicke and it has also regained a few other pieces. But the Eagles are a better team and will have more on the line. Philadelphia’s defense has also stood strong over the last month. The unit has evolved under Jonathan Gannon, and hasn’t allowed 20-plus points in four consecutive games dating back to Nov. 21.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Washington 17