The Redskins are clinging to their playoff hopes and now have to go into a hostile Philly environment to keep those hopes alive.
To get to know more about the Eagles, I talked with Bleeding Green Nation.
Last time we played, Carson Wentz was on top of the world. Since then, he's come back down to Earth a bit and is playing like a very good rookie, but a rookie nonetheless. What's the consensus on Wentz's rookie season and his career moving forward?
The consensus is that he needs some dang help. If you look at the weapons surrounding him, and the state of his offensive line this season (injuries to two consecutive starting right tackles!), it's not hard to figure out why he's been asked to do too much this year, and why he's finally starting to show signs of struggles.
Take, for example, the Eagles' hideous loss to the Bengals in Week 13. The Eagles' defense fell apart in a big way in the first half, allowing the Bengals to score at will, and when the Eagles' first drive came up fruitless, and then the hole grew larger, Doug Pederson switched to "throw the ball" mode. Wentz ended up with 60 pass attempts, the second-most ever by a rookie. (Chris Weinke.)
Wentz shouldn't be throwing the ball 60 times, ever, much less as a rookie with an abhorrent set of wide receivers, against a Bengals defense which, while falling off, certainly isn't devoid of playmakers.
He has a complete lack of a run game (which we'll talk about a little later in this post), he has a banged up offensive line, and he has wide receivers and a tight end (Zach Ertz) who simply aren't doing what they need to do to help him progress. He's fine moving forward. He's still very much the future of the position for the team. He just needs some assistance.
The Eagles started off the season on fire and have gone the other direction of late. Why the big change?
It's sort of been the inevitable come-down-to-Earth stuff which most teams with unexpected hot starts experience. The offense cooled off, the defense did the same, and opponents piled up tape on Wentz, meaning they understood how to attack him and keep him under wraps, which they've done pretty well since Week 4.
There's not much else to it other than the Eagles remembered who they were: a team without a ton of talent, playing way above their pay grade through four weeks. It was a fun ride, but it was never going to last.
Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood... who's the guy in this backfield for the remainder of this year and are any of these guys the clear starting RB for this team moving beyond this year?
Mathews will probably be back for this weekend's game, but he isn't expected to see more than a dozen carries as they nurse him back from yet another injury. (Yes, seriously, he was hurt again. It never ends.) Which means Smallwood will probably get more carries than any other back on Sunday, if Doug Pederson gets to run it as much as he'd like.
As far as the future of the position, Smallwood is probably the only guy who you can look at as a possible answer after this season. He doesn't seem to have the pure talent of a lead running back, or at least an ideal running back, but he could certainly be a serviceable spot back who gives the team's lead runner a breather during drives.
Mathews, who is owed $4 million in the final year of his deal next season, but can be cut for a savings of $3 million, will almost certainly not be back on the team. And Sproles, while a terribly fun guy to have on your team, is 33 years old and probably going to start showing signs of wear and tear pretty soon. He'll still get spot work if he remains in Philadelphia for the rest of his career, but he's obviously not the team's answer at running back.
How's the Eagles' defense been looking the past few weeks? Where should the Redskins' offense look to try to exploit a match-up or gain an advantage?
Washington's going to want to throw the ball early and often. The Eagles' cornerbacks are the biggest weakness of Jim Schwartz's defense, and while a stout pass rush and excellent safety play, not to mention early leads, covered that up in the first half of the season, the last few weeks have exposed Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin as a pair of corners who simply aren't good enough.
Last weekend, for example, Andy Dalton had his best game of the season (23 of 31, 332 yards, 2 TDs) without A.J. Green. It was the first time in over two years Dalton eclipsed 300 yards without Green. The week before, Aaron Rodgers shredded the Eagles for 313 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
Plain and simple, with the defensive line (yes, Fletcher Cox included) not generating near enough disruption at the line with just four rushers, and the corners a decided disadvantage on the back end, the Eagles' defense isn't good enough to stop a solid passing attack, nor can it play from behind, when an opponent has the luxury of mixing up calls and catching those corners off guard.
Who's going to win, why, and what's the score?
Washington's going to win, because the Eagles simply aren't good enough to stay with them right now, and also because Washington OWNS the Eagles as of late. Kirk Cousins is playing substantially better than I ever thought he would. Jordan Reed (if he plays) is a matchup nightmare, even for Nigel Bradham, who has proven solid in pass coverage for a linebacker. And no corner on the Eagles' roster can contain Washington's bevy of weapons at wideout.
On offense, while the offensive line should offer up a better showing than the last time these two teams met, Carson Wentz just doesn't have enough help to put a dent in Washington's defense, which is as I understand it still a very solid unit. Two of the Eagles' four active wide receivers on Sunday will likely be rookies who went undrafted this past spring, which should tell you all you need to know.