6 - Washington’s rank in DVOA.
Last week, Washington ranked second in DVOA.
If you’re asking yourself “What the heck is DVOA?” you can read more about it at Football Outsiders. In short, it’s a way to measure the quality of a team.
I bring up the fact that Washington is sixth in DVOA because I think they’re a better team than some might realize. I’ve seen people predict the Eagles are going to blow Washington out. A number of callers shared this sentiment during our BGN Radio show on SportsRadio 94WIP this weekend.
I think the way Washington barely squeaked by the 49ers at home is what’s causing people to feel that way. Not to mention that the Eagles already beat Washington, so why can’t they do it again?
Look, I’m not saying the Eagles can’t win this game. Philly ranks second in DVOA. The Eagles are mostly healthy entering this game and coming off extra rest while Washington doesn’t have that same advantage. Carson Wentz is playing at a high level. There are plenty of reasons to believe the Eagles are a legitimately good team.
I just think it’s a little premature to think the Eagles will easily handle Washington. We all know how Kirk Cousins has a track record of succeeding against this team. Cousins actually has the highest passer rating (117.7) in the NFL from Week 2 and beyond (hat tip to Jaws). Washington’s wide receivers were getting open looks down the field in Week 1. They just didn’t execute on them.
Everyone would be happy if I’m wrong, and I’d obviously be very willing to admit that if that’s the case.
The feeling here is that tonight’s going to be a tough battle that comes down to the wire.
Thankfully Pete Morelli won’t be involved this time.
65.7 - Rushing yards per game allowed by the Eagles’ defense - fewest in the NFL.
The Eagles have the best run defense in the NFL. It’s so good that they held the Panthers’ running backs to a mere ONE YARD on 13 carries in Week 6.
Washington’s run game could provide more of a challenge than Carolina’s did. Jay Gruden’s side is averaging 122.8 rush yards per game, which ranks 10th in the NFL. Their starting running back, Rob Kelley, is expected to return tonight after missing a couple games. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season.
The Eagles did a good job of holding Washington to only 68 rush yards on 17 attempts (3.8 yards per carry) in Week 1. The Birds have come a long way from the first Eagles-Washington game in 2016 where Washington ran for approximately one million yards that day.
Forcing Washington’s offense to be one-dimensional will be critical. It’s not like Washington can’t move the ball through the air if their run game isn’t working, because they can. But a big reason why the Eagles beat Washington in Week 1 is because their pass rush dominated a Washington offensive line that’s pretty good on most game days. Stopping the run should allow the Eagles to tee off on Cousins and limit the effectiveness of play-action.
The Eagles’ defensive line really needs to show up in order to win this game.
92.1% - The Eagles’ current chances of making the playoffs, per Football Outsiders.
These numbers are all great. They’ll be even be better if the Eagles beat Washington.
If the Eagles win this game, their playoff odds will be the high 90% range. They’ll be a virtual lock and the NFC East race will essentially be over. Washington’s odds, meanwhile, would drop by about 21%. For those wondering, the Dallas Cowboys are currently around 20%.
ESPN’s FPI model give the Eagles a 70% chance of winning this game. That’s encouraging. A number of NFL insiders are also picking the Birds to win.
All three insiders picked Washington (3-2) to beat Philadelphia (5-1) in Philly, which could mean Eagles fatigue has arrived in full. It also could mean the Redskins are earning respect. Both themes have been prominent in conversations with coaches and evaluators.
"Everyone is riding high on Philly right now," one of the insiders said, "but I feel like, let's wait and see with them, especially after last year. I think Washington defensively is sneaky good, especially in the pass game. I don't know if [Redskins cornerback] Josh Norman is back yet, but their mix with their rush and coverage is actually pretty good."
Norman, who fractured a rib against the Chiefs in Week 4, could return, but the Redskins just put defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (foot) on injured reserve.
"When [Redskins assistant head coach Bill] Callahan wants to get it going and [head coach Jay] Gruden sticks to it, the Redskins can clearly run the ball," one of the insiders said.
Washington is running the ball 53 percent of the time on early downs. That's the fourth-highest rate in the NFL and a big increase from last season, when Washington ranked 25th at 41 percent. The difference in percentage points remains in double digits after removing plays when the Redskins were trailing and potentially more apt to throw.
"This will be a fun game," an insider said. "I do like the Eagles' defense, but a lot of things swing back to .500 in this league, and I wonder how many times the Eagles can keep winning."
If the Eagles DO lose, it won’t be the end of the world. They’ll still be a half game up on Washington. Their upcoming schedule also isn’t looking so difficult:
Eagles schedule after WASH game on MNF— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 22, 2017
Week 8 (home): The 0-7 49ers
W9 (home): Broncos, who’ve scored 10 points in last 2 games
But forget that. Just win, Eagles, and you’re in great shape. Get it done.