The stage is set.
The Washington Redskins come to Philadelphia with a 3-6 record. Their most recent loss came against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football. Due to playing on Thursday, Washington's players have a few extra days of rest.
Many will point out that Washington had a 3-6 record in 2012 before finishing the season on a tear and winning the division. Plus, it's not like they own their first round draft pick, due to the Robert Griffin III trade, so Washington isn't ready to give up on the season. Especially in a weak NFC East.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are coming off a two-game winning streak on the road. Wins in Oakland and Green Bay helped the Eagles get their season back on track. Philadelphia's playoff chances are very much still alive. The team will only be looking to advance those hopes when these two teams meet on Sunday.
An Eagles win essentially buries the Redskins at 3-7, all while pushing Philadelphia above .500 up to 6-5 and in sole first place of the NFC East. Losing the game makes a playoff run less realistic, but not ruled out.
Needless to say, it's a big game.
Eagles Offense vs. Redskins Defense
Let's focus on the Eagles' quarterback for a second. The last time Nick Foles started a game at Lincoln Financial Field, well, let's just say it didn't go so well. The young quarterback had a terrible outing. Whatever caused that performance, it simply can't happen this time around. Foles needs to show he can step up and deliver in a big game. Putting up gaudy stats is one thing, but it's not just enough for Foles to play well. It's time to seal the deal with a win.
The Eagles' offense had little trouble scoring against Washington in the season opener. That trend could continue due to the Redskins' lackluster defense. It ranks bottom five in several major categories, including points per game allowed, yards per play allowed, first downs per game allowed, and TD passes allowed. Don't forget that Washington's defense is featured with horrible tacklers.
As a team, last week the Eagles rushed for 204 yards on a top 5 Packers run defense that was only allowing 95.5 yards a game. If the Eagles can tear up a defense that good, imagine what they can do to Washington's defense.
Eagles Defense vs. Redskins Offense
This one is a little more difficult. Washington's offense is a lot better than their defense. The Redskins rank 9th in points per game (25.2) and 5th in yards per game (410.4). Their rushing offense ranks 7th and their passing ranks 8th. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly spoke on the differences of this matchup compared to the meeting of Philadelphia and Washington in the season opener.
Up to three starters on the Eagles' defense may be missing from action. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher and inside linebacker Mychal Kendrick are listed as questionable. Rookie safety Earl Wolff has been officially ruled out. The Eagles' defense has been playing relatively well in recent weeks. As if the Washington offense wasn't enough of a challenge, missing key players on defense makes matters more difficult.
It's up to the Eagles defense to hold running back Alfred Morris in check and pressure Robert Griffin to make a throwing error. RG3 ranks 10th in the NFL with 9 interceptions.
Special Teams Battle
Special teams ace WR/KR Brad Smith was signed by the Eagles earlier in the week. It remains to be seen if he will be ready to play. It seems likely he's still in process of learning the playbook and the calls, but perhaps we see him as the team's kick returner. Smith's ability as a return man could ideally give the Eagles shorter fields to drive on, and that means more points.
On the other side, the Redskins have the worst special teams unit in the league, and potentially ever.
The Redskins special teams are awful. In fact, they are on pace to be the worst ever. That’s not internet hyperbole, it’s science: Football Outsiders ranks the Redskins special teams as the third worst of the last 20 years through the first half of a season. And they’re just a few punt return touchdowns or blocked field goals away from being historically terrible.
This game has the makings of a shootout. With a low margin of error in play, special teams could end up making all the difference.
The Eagles have lost 4,928,382,823,382 straight games at home. Just win already.