Big game for the Philadelphia Eagles tonight.
Monday Night Football. Prime-time spotlight. Division matchup against the Washington Redskins.
The Eagles will be looking to defend their 5-1 record, best in the NFL, against a Washington team that’s desperate to keep their NFC East hopes alive.
The pressure is on.
This has the makings of a tough game. It doesn’t matter a ton that the Eagles already beat Washington in Week 1. Kirk Cousins and company have given the Birds enough trouble in recent history that a win over Washington can’t just be easily assumed.
But there’s obviously reason to feel good about the Birds. Carson Wentz is playing at a very high level. He’s literally the favorite to win MVP. He’s not the only offensive player succeeding, either. LeGarrette Blount has been a force in the ground game. Zach Ertz is making his case as an elite tight end. Much unlike the 2016 season, Wentz has a number of viable wide receivers.
Another advantage is that the Eagles are mostly healthy heading into this matchup. Ronald Darby, who has been ruled questionable, might be the only player on the active roster who misses this game due to injury.
Washington, meanwhile, is dealing with a lot of significant injury issues. Starting cornerback Josh Norman is out. He kept Alshon Jeffery quiet in Week 1. Fellow starting corner Bashaud Breeland has been ruled questionable for this matchup. He was limited in practice all week due to a knee issue. Coaches had to pull him out of practice at one point. With Washington’s secondary banged up, the Eagles should be looking to attack early and often. Torrey Smith was able to burn Washington’s secondary in Week 1. It’s just that Wentz couldn’t hit him at the time. This could also finally be the week where Jeffery has a really big game. Then again, everyone’s been saying that all season.
Philadelphia’s secondary also has their weaknesses. If you think back to Week 1, Washington had a lot of opportunities where guys were running open deep down the field. Cousins either overthrew them or the wide receivers, especially Terrelle Pryor, dropped the ball.
A big reason why Cousins wasn’t as successful in Week 1 as he has been against the Eagles in the past is that Philly’s defensive line came to play. The Eagles sacked Cousins four times and hit him an additional two times. Cousins turned the ball over three times that time: one interception and two fumbles.
Washington’s offensive line is very good, so it was impressive how the Eagles handled them that day. The Birds will need another big performance from their front seven this time around. Perhaps the Eagles should look to exploit banged-up left tackle Trent Williams. He’s playing through a knee issue that will require surgery at some point. His backup, Ty Nsekhe, is out so that would force T.J. Clemmings to step in if Williams misses time. Clemmings is a total sieve in pass protection.
The Eagles have done a really good job of stopping the run this year. They’ve allowed 65.7 rush yards per game, which ranks first in the NFL. Washington is expected to get Rob Kelley back, so the Eagles’ run defense will be tested, but if Jim Schwartz’s unit holds up once again it’ll force Washington to be a one-dimensional offense. That’s another reason why the pass rush needs to get home.
A win tonight would be so big for the Eagles. It would mean advancing to 6-1 and virtually locking up the NFC East in Week 7. A loss, meanwhile, would hurt, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The Eagles play the 0-7 49ers at home in Week 8. And then it’s another home game in Week 9 against a struggling Broncos team that’s scored 10 points combined in their last two games.
But now’s the time for the Eagles to assert their dominance. They can prove they’re not only the best team in their division — but the entire league as well.
Again, the expectation is that this is going to be a tough one. The Eagles are capable of pulling it off, though.
Score prediction: Eagles win, 31-26.
Bold prediction: Alshon Jeffery catches three touchdowns tonight.
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Will the Eagles beat Washington?
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