To find out just how simple, turn the corner on the blind side...
The Eagles O-line is big, strong, skilled. The Redskins D-line is pretty good in its own right but has picked up only 12 sacks all season. Result: McNabb should have time to find the open receiver. That's a bad result for the Redskins. Overall, the Eagles offense is one of the top 2 or 3 in the league. McNabb is leading the NFL with 2,312 yards passing, even after a putrid performance against the Jaguars and then taking a week off. The Redskins pass defense is something like #30.
On the other side of things, Mark Brunell should get banged around. While the Redskins O-line has allowed only 12 sacks all season, the Eagles stand at 26. They should come after Brunell hard. Even though the Eagles D is geared primarily to stop a passing team, with top-flight cornerbacks and an aggressive blitz, the funny thing is that they can also play run defense. Not that they showed it against Jacksonville. Still, on average, opponents are gaining only 3.8 yards on the ground against the Eagles. For crying out loud, the Saints (who are supposed to be built around a running game) gained less than 100 yards on the ground against the Eagles. Clinton Portis and his 4.1 yards per carry average deserve respect but should not be able to dominate the game and certainly should not be able to outscore the Eagles pass attack.
The Redskins receivers include legit threats in Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, Brandon Lloyd (practicing with injury this week) and Antwaan Randle-El, but of those, the only one they use as a deep threat is Moss. This sets up another mismatch favoring the Eagles, who can roll extra help to his side of the field and otherwise concentrate on the middle. (Those are some of the reasons why Washington is producing only 195.6 passing yards per game. Contrast that with the Eagles' offense, which puts up an average of 393.4 total yards per game - IOW, better than twice what the Redskins have managed with the pass.) I have a hard time seeing where the Redskins should score more than 20, if that.
Last but not least, stop me if you've heard it before, but... The Eagles under Andy Reid are 7-0 after a bye week. This is a must-win game in the division. After what happened against Jacksonville the Eagles have something to prove. All those intangibles are bad, bad, bad news for Washington.
Bob Brookover says the Eagles need to come out flying and get on top of the scoreboard early. That would make a very pleasant change of pace.During their losing streak, the Eagles have been outscored by 31-3 in the first half, but the trend goes beyond those three games. The Eagles have been outscored by 41-31 in the first quarter this season.
First possessions also have been a problem. The Eagles scored touchdowns on their opening possessions against the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. Since the Niners game Sept. 24, they have scored nothing on their first possession, thanks to a combination of sacks, penalties, turnovers, dropped passes and badly thrown balls.
Rich Hoffman's prescription? Run the ball. No surprise there. His analysis is spot on as well:Whether they acknowledge it or not, this team tried to survive with a big-play mentality - partly to compensate for their inconsistencies. And, now, defenses have reacted and tried to take away the long stuff. . . .
Which means, well, what? That the correct counterpunch here is to walk the ball up the field. That McNabb needs to hold the ball less and dump it off more. That the offense needs to think more about throwing the ball underneath, and surviving with less explosiveness. That running the ball more, and keeping at it, would give them a chance to attain the element of consistency that they lack in the passing game. And that a more consistent, less erratic style is what this team desperately craves at the midway point.
We're not talking about much - maybe five more runs per game. It might be all it takes to settle the Eagles down.
I just have a hard time believing, and I think the evidence supports me here, that Andy Reid will suddenly change his spots and call more than 30% run plays. I'm more convinced than ever that Andy Reid thinks the problem is with player execution, not play-calling.
Fox Sports still has the Eagles ranked #17, but that could change in a hurry one way or the other after this Sunday.The Eagles have lost four times--with three of those L's coming on the final play of the game. If Philly drops Sunday's game to Washington, the Eagles will suddenly be the last place team in the NFC East. With a win, they're right back in the thick of things.
Fox has Washington ranked #23:The `Skins won an absolutely wild one on Sunday, taking down the Cowboys 22-19, and improving to 3-5. The victory was just what the doctor ordered and could very well kick-start Washington for a playoff push. Crazy? Not so much. The Redskins had a similar shaky first half to last season. Defensive leader Marcus Washington noted this after the game, telling reporters "Can we make the same run again this year? We're optimistic. We hope so. But it started today." It looks like Jason Campbell will have to wait a tad bit more to get his first NFL start.
Sorry, but as I've said elsewhere, I believe in the Redskins even less than I believe in the Eagles. Washington won that game over the Cowboys on the strength of a freak play featuring a blown blocking assignment by the Cowboys, a rare blocked kick by [former Eagle stud] Troy Vincent, and a frankly questionable call by the referee, all of which gave them a chance for a miracle finish. Give the Redskins credit for hanging around in the game. They could have given up when they couldn't capitalize in the 1st quarter, but they didn't quit, even though the Cowboys clearly looked like the better team. Not counting 50-50's dropped ball in the open field, but never mind. That 1st quarter drive when the Redskins couldn't punch the ball into the end zone told the whole story.
That's not to say Washington can't get lucky and win this Sunday. Philadelphia has lost three games by putting themselves in a deep hole where freaky circumstances could finish them off, and did. I'm easily prepared to believe it could happen again.
And now, the pick by Les Bowen: Eagles 31, Redskins 20 with this ringing endorsement:If I pick the Eagles to lose this game, I acknowledge the season is over, which makes my job pretty dreary for the next 2 months.
I'm not doing that.
Here's mine: Eagles 34, Redskins 24.
Of course, I've been wrongedy-wrong-wrong three times in a row now. The Eagles have thrown my analysis out the window with unbelievable dumb penalties, bad decisions, worse luck and at least one outright miracle for the other team. (Has that Tampa Bay kick come down yet?) And I'm still ticked off about that JAX game where the Eagles rolled over for a beatdown that in the end, they deserved to lose. So why aren't I crowing about how this game is a gimme? Because it's not a gimme. This is the NFC East. The Redskins are talented individually, and they have a new lease on life after last week. The Eagles just aren't that good this year; they're 4-4 because they've done it to themselves. If something along those lines happens again, forget the analysis, because none of it means anything when the players don't execute the way they're capable of playing.
If the Eagles can't beat the Redskins their season is over, and deservedly so. They are good enough to win this Sunday. They should win this game. They need to win. Therefore they will win. See, sometimes it really is a simple game.
What's your pick? What's your confidence level? Leave it in the comments below.
I'll post a reality check after the game.