Here are 15 things to know about how the Eagles match up with the Redskins.
1. As always, we start with draft positioning. If the season ended today, the Eagles would have the fourth pick in the draft. The top two spots are pretty much locked up with the Jaguars and Chiefs both at 2-12. The Raiders, Eagles and Lions are all tied at 4-10, but Oakland has the edge for the third pick with an easier strength of schedule than the Birds. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles have a 34.2 percent chance of landing a top-three pick. The Raiders have a 44.6 percent chance. Oakland takes on Carolina Sunday afternoon, while Detroit hosts Atlanta Saturday night.
2. The Redskins are fifth in the league in scoring offense, averaging 27.2 points per game. Football Outsiders has them sixth overall – sixth in passing and fourth in rushing. The Eagles are 26th in scoring defense, allowing 26.8 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 22nd – 26th against the pass and 12th against the run. The Eagles have played much better on ‘D’ the last two weeks since making changes up front. Last week, all of the Bengals’ scoring drives started in Eagles territory.
3. According to the Washington Post, Robert Griffin III will get the start, barring any setbacks. Griffin achieved a perfect quarterback rating against the Eagles the first time around, completing 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. In the first six games with Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator, opposing quarterbacks were completing 76.3 percent of their passes against the Birds. In the past two, that number is just 44.3 percent. Griffin is one of five quarterbacks (Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo) who has attempted at least 300 passes and completed at least 66 percent of his attempts. Griffin’s thrown 18 touchdowns and four interceptions. Only Rodgers (104.7) has a higher QB rating than Griffin (104.2). Overall, opponents are completing 59.7 percent of their attempts against the Eagles (12th) and averaging 7.4 yards per attempt (tied-20th).
4. The improvement for the Eagles has started up front. The Wide-9 is not completely dead. As we’ve shown with the All-22, the defensive ends are still lining up outside the tight end throughout the course of the game. But Jim Washburn’s concept of rushing upfield on every play is gone. Brandon Graham turned in his best game as a pro last week against the Bengals (10 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 QB hurries). In his last three games, Graham has 20 tackles, four sacks and seven hurries. He figures to have a favorable matchup in this one. Redskins right tackle Tyler Polumbus has given up a team-high 39 QB hurries and seven sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s questionable after suffering a concussion last week. If Polumbus can’t go, Graham will get a shot at backup Maurice Hurt or rookie sixth-round pick Tom Compton, according to the Washington Times.
5. Fletcher Cox has had an outstanding rookie year. In the first meeting with the Redskins, he had a season-high eight solo tackles (10 total) and a sack. In the last two games, Cox has 2.5 sacks and three hurries. Only three defensive tackles – Geno Atkins, Ndamukong Suh and Henry Melton – have more sacks than Cox (5.5) on the season. Redskins center Will Montgomery suffered an MCL sprain last week, but practiced all week and is probable. Trent Cole will match up with left tackle Trent Williams, who’s having an outstanding season. Cole was shut out (no sacks and no hurries) in the first meeting between the teams.
6. The Redskins may adjust their offense to account for the fact that Griffin’s coming off of injury. The rookie ran 12 times for 84 yards against the Eagles in the first meeting. Griffin leads all quarterbacks and is 20th overall with 748 rushing yards. He’s averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Rookie Alfred Morris is third in the league in rushing with 1,322 yards. He’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Only Arian Foster (325) and Adrian Peterson (289) have more carries than Morris (280). In the first matchup, the Eagles kept Morris in check, as he averaged just 3.8 yard per carry on 20 attempts. Overall, the Eagles are allowing 4.1 yards per carry – tied for ninth. DeMeco Ryans has been good all year. He has 109 solo tackles. Only Quintin Mikell and Brian Dawkins (111 each) have had more in a single season under Andy Reid. Mychal Kendricks has played well in his new spot at the WILL the last two weeks.
7. There have been a couple factors associated with the Eagles’ improving pass defense the past two weeks. Perhaps the most glaring is that because of the changes up front, the safeties don’t have the same responsibilities in the run game. That has led to less confusion in the secondary. Colt Anderson has provided an upgrade at safety with 19 tackles the last two games. Todd Bowles’ comment about Anderson this week was interesting.
“His biggest strength is knowing his weaknesses and playing off of that,” Bowles said. “He’s just been a pleasant surprise the past two weeks.”
You can see that on tape. Anderson sometimes plays REALLY deep, but he hasn’t let receivers get past him. The Bengals did not have a single pass play longer than 19 yards last week. Kurt Coleman will return from injury and team up with Anderson this week. Nate Allen has been benched.
8. Pierre Garcon has given the Redskins’ passing game a lift since returning from injury. He has 23 catches on 38 targets in the last four games and is averaging 85 yards per game in that span. In the first meeting, Santana Moss came down with a jump-ball between Brandon Boykin and Kurt Coleman for a 61-yard touchdown. And Aldrick Robinson ran free for a 49-yard bomb on a blown coverage. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha have both experienced up-and-down seasons. Asomugha indicated during the week that he could be willing to restructure his deal to stay.
9. Offensively, the Eagles rank 29th in scoring, averaging 18.1 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 25th – both in passing and rushing. The Redskins are allowing 25 points per game (23rd). Football Outsiders has Washington ranked 18th – 15th against the pass and 14th against the run. In the first meeting, the Eagles managed just two field goals on 11 possessions. Six points tied their lowest output of the season.
10. Nick Foles gets his sixth straight start. He’s completed 59.4 percent of his passes, averaged 6.24 yards per attempt and thrown five touchdowns vs. four interceptions. Foles has shown the ability to slide away from pressure and make plays downfield. He’s also gotten rid of the ball quickly for the most part. Foles has had some accuracy issues, specifically on deep balls. He’s 4-for-23 on attempts that travel more than 20 yards, according to Stats, Inc. Opponents are completing 61.9 percent of their attempts against the Redskins (tied-16th) and averaging 7.5 yards per attempt (25th). Foles completed just 45.7 percent of his attempts in the first meeting, but I counted five drops and five balls thrown away. He averaged just 4.4 yards per attempt in that contest.
11. The Eagles offensive line has struggled the past two weeks. The Redskins have just 25 sacks on the season, tied for fourth-fewest. Ryan Kerrigan has 6.5, but Dennis Kelly did a pretty good job against him in the first meeting. Kerrigan has also batted five balls at the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus. Outside linebacker Rob Jackson has three sacks in his last three games and 4.5 on the season. Defensive tackle Barry Cofield gave Dallas Reynolds a lot of problems in the teams’ first meeting. Jim Haslett blitzed Foles a lot in that game, and he didn’t handle it particularly well, going 9-for-21 for 92 yards.
12. It hasn’t helped Foles that he’s been playing with so many backups. There were instances last week where he just had nowhere to go with the football. This week, he’ll get LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek back. Jeremy Maclin has 13 catches for 177 yards in his last two games. The Redskins are vulnerable in their secondary with cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson. Washington has allowed 53 pass plays of 20+ yards, fourth-most in the league.
13. Bryce Brown averaged 8.1 yards per carry in his first two starts, but just 1.4 in his next two. He’s fumbled four times on the season. McCoy returns for the first time since suffering a concussion in the final two minutes of the Eagles’ loss to the Redskins on Nov. 18. Andy Reid said he’s going to monitor McCoy’s usage, and Marty Mornhinweg said the running back could be on a play count. The Redskins are allowing 4.2 yards per carry (tied-13th). In the first meeting, McCoy had just 45 yards on 15 carries. He failed to pick up more than 9 yards on any single run. Trent Richardson had just 28 yards on 11 carries last week vs. the Redskins. But Ray Rice had 121 yards on 20 carries the week before.
14. The Eagles and Redskins rank 25th and 26th, respectively, in Football Outsiders’ special-teams rankings. The site has the Eagles’ punt/punt coverage unit as the worst in the NFL. On average, opponents are starting drives against the Eagles at the 31.65-yard line. That’s the worst mark in the league. On the flip side, the Eagles are starting drives at their own 25.16-yard line, which ranks 27th.
15. The Eagles are eighth in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 48.98 percent of the time. The Redskins are 10th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 57.45 percent of the time. …The Eagles’ offense has been terrible in the red zone, scoring 45.45 percent of the time (27th). …The Redskins have the worst third-down defense in the league, allowing conversions 44.39 percent of the time. …The Eagles are a -22 in turnover differential. No other team in the NFC is worse than a -9.