Had the Eagles not blown a major opportunity by losing to the Dallas Cowboys last week, Philadelphia could have had an opportunity to clinch the NFC East today. But what's done is done, and instead the Birds are merely fighting to stay alive in the playoff race.
Redskins-Eagles Preview: Can Phillly rebound?
After a sobering loss to the Cowboys that has put their season in peril, can the Eagles accomplish the first step in rebounding to finish strong by defeating the moribund Redskins?
Fan morale is low now that the Eagles have lost two straight games. In a recent poll, 41% of voters expressed that they already think the season is over. They might be right. Even if the Eagles win out and go 11-5, they could still potentially miss the playoffs if they don't get the help they need. But this isn't the NBA, so it's not realistic to expect the Birds to lie down and tank their last two games of the season. It's hard to see Chip Kelly going down without a fight.
For as much (warranted) criticism about how the Eagles can't/don't beat good teams, they do take care of bad ones. They don't just manage to scrap by, either. They dominate inferior competition. Or at least they have to this point.
Washington enters Saturday's matchup with not much to gain. They're 3-11 on the season after only managing to win two games since the Eagles-Redskins game in Week 3. With that in mind, Washington could be looking to play spoiler. Much-maligned quarterback Robert Griffin III will has struggled this year but he will be out to prove he's not a lost cause. Knowing that Jay Gruden might be back in 2015, other Washington players could be eager to make a good impression in order to ensure their job safety.
Effort will only go so far. The talent disparity between Philadelphia and Washington is significant. The Eagles have struggled recently but Washington is pretty bad. Philly ranks seventh in Football Outsiders' Weighted DVOA metric while Washington ranks dead last at 32.
Mark Sanchez will have a great chance to bounce back in this game considering Washington's pass defense ranks last and the team will be without top pass rusher Jason Hatcher and inside linebacker Keenan Robinson. Jeremy Maclin has gone for over 100 yards receiving in the last four of his five games against Washington. Given Riley Cooper's struggles, perhaps polarizing rookie Josh Huff will step up.
Philadelphia's defense will have the challenge of checking DeSean Jackson in check. Jackson will be up for this game but he's been dealing with a shin injury in recent weeks. The Eagles defense hasn't done much to inspire confidence lately so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Look for Brandon Graham to have a monster game while filling in for injured veteran Trent Cole. Graham will be going up against Trent Williams, who is dealing with a shoulder injury. It will also be interesting to see how much playing time first round draft pick Marcus Smith II plays due to Cole being out.
An Eagles loss to Washington would virtually crush any remaining hopes the Eagles have. An Eagles win, however, will have Philly fans tuning in to the Colts-Cowboys game on Sunday that's set to take place in Dallas. If the Eagles win and the Cowboys lose, the Birds will take the NFC East lead with just one game remaining. That's the ideal situation for them at this point.
So what do you think? Will the Eagles come out on top?
Score prediction: Redskins 20
Bold prediction: Josh Huff scores two touchdowns