It’s win-and-in, plus the opportunity to smash 5 to 7 hours of anticipation and hope for either the Giants or Cowboys fans who will be rooting for the Eagles following the end of the 1:00 game.
Here are ten things I’d like to see against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football.
No. 1 - Sacks, lots of them
Last year, the Redskins had 46 sacks as a team for the entire season. In the first 16 weeks of the 2020 season, Washington has 44 of them.
I’m looking for 6 sacks tonight against Jalen Hurts to get to an even 50 sacks for the season.
After opening the 2020 season with Jason Peters and Lane Johnson as their starting tackles, the Eagles have fought a slow, losing battle against injuries on their offensive line, and this week Philly will be starting Matt Pryor and Brett Toth. I haven’t even bothered to find out which one will be on the right and which on the left because it won’t matter. Montez Sweat and Chase Young are gonna take them to school. In the words of a certain NY Giants linebacker, the Washington defensive line should play tonight “like a bunch of crazed dogs” and abuse the Eagles OL.
Washington sacked Carson Wentz 8 times in the season opener against the Eagle’s two best tackles; I think it’s reasonable to ask for half a dozen in the season finale against Matt Pryor, a 2018 6th round pick with fewer than 800 career offensive snaps, and Brett Toth, a 2018 UDFA with 28 career offensive snaps who is making his first start.
No. 2 - Blitzes, lots of them
Washington is 13th in the league in 2020 in blitz percentage, at 32.1%%, per Pro Football Reference. Despite Jalen Hurts’ mobility, given the likely state of the Eagles offensive line, this feels like the game to dial up the blitz percentage. I’m thinking that Del Rio should bring 5 rushers about 40% of the time, with stunts/twists/games/delayed blitzes... everything conceivable to confuse an inexperienced pair of OTs and put constant pressure on the rookie quarterback.
No. 3 - Score a touchdown on the first possession; build a double-digit lead by halftime
Washington has been a second-half team all year. Win or lose, they have typically started slow, spotting their opponents a sizeable lead, then come out in the second half playing suffocating defense and looking better on offense than they had in the first half.
We are reminded by the announcers every week that Washington is the only team in the league that hasn’t scored on its opening possession all season long, and that no team in the NFL has ever failed to score on the opening possession of all 16 games in a given season. Washington is, therefore, one offensive drive away from making history in a way that we don’t really want to make it.
I think it’s really cool, as a fan, to have the confidence that the team can come out in the second half and take control of a game, but let’s do it differently this week, shall we? For this Week 17 contest, I’d like to see Washington come out and just dominate the Eagles from the first snap of the game. I’d like to see the Football team with a 17 or 20 point lead by halftime, and see the Eagles players on the sideline Googling vacation destinations on their tablets by the third quarter.
Let’s put this one away early.
No. 4 - Antonio Gibson all night long
Philly is 24th in run defense in the NFL, giving up 127.3 yards per game.
In the season opener, Washington rushed for 80 yards at an average of only 2.2 yards per carry. Two things have changed since then.
First, Antonio Gibson has developed his skills weekly, and is now looking like a talented and explosive NFL running back; he is much more skilled at finding the hole and hitting it than he was at the beginning of the season.
Second, Eagles defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Derek Barnett are both “out” this week, which should give the WFT offensive line an advantage.
I would encourage Scott Turner to hand the ball to Antonio Gibson on at least the first 4 offensive plays from scrimmage, and to continue feeding him all night long. I think the relatively healthy Washington OL can beat the injured Philly DL, and that a fresh Gibson, who has just 25 offensive snaps in the past four weeks, can run for over 120 yards in this game. I’m looking for him to get 20-25 carries, maybe more. Based on his production from his last 4 games, it seems reasonable to think he can average around 6 yards per carry.
No. 5 - Logan Thomas breaks 1,000 career receiving yards
TE Logan Thomas is a guy I was unenthusiastic about at the start of the season, but I liked what I saw from him in the opening week game against the Eagles, and I’ve paid close attention to him all season long. It’s clear that the former college quarterback has developed into a skilled NFL starting tight end, and I am now one of his biggest fans.
After 16 weeks, Logan Thomas has 104 catches for 950 yards in his career. At his current average of just over 9 yards per reception, Logan needs about 6 catches against the Eagles to reach the 1,000 yard threshold, and he hasn’t had fewer than 6 receptions in a game since November.
Thomas has been a key factor in all of the success the WFT has enjoyed so far in 2020. He is now a clear TE1, and breaking 1,000 career receiving yards on the way into the playoffs would be a nice ‘thank you’ to the selfless player whose skill set extends to rushing the ball (3 rushes for 2 first downs), passing (118.7 passer rating in 2020), and blocking effectively in addition to being a reliable pass catcher with the ability to run after catch and get the “effort” yards against opposing tacklers that make the difference between winning and losing.
Logan Thomas has revived an NFL career that appeared to be on life support a couple of years ago, and now provides Washington with stability at TE that they can count on as they build the roster in 2021.
No. 6 - get both running backs over 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the season
Currently, both Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic have more than 900 offensive scrimmage yards each. Gibson has 961 (720 rushing/241 receiving) while McKissic has 924 (365 rushing/559 receiving).
It would be a great milestone to hit on the way to the playoffs if they could get the 39 yards and 76 yards, respectively, needed to get them each over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
No. 7 - Two sacks for Ryan Kerrigan
Kerrigan has never had less than 7.5 sacks in a season in any of the eight previous 16-game seasons he has played. Even with his reduced snap count in 2020, RyKer has amassed 5.5 sacks, and surpassed Dexter Manley’s franchise career sack record. With 2 sacks today against the Eagles, he can keep his streak alive of at least 7.5 sacks in every full 16-game season of his career, and he can end this season (and possibly play his last regular season game in a burgundy and gold uniform) on a high note, and he can do it against the Eagles, for whom he has been an especial terroriz for a decade.
The only thing missing will be the crowd that should fill the stadium to witness the quiet finish to an outstanding career in Washington.
Of course, there’s no reason that Ron Rivera wouldn’t want Kerrigan back next year, but one has to imagine that Ryan will have opportunities to play more and get paid more with a defense that has greater need for his prodigious skills than does the WFT.
No. 8 - Terry McLaurin relaxing on the sideline with his helmet off and a smile on his face
Terry McLaurin has been recovering from a high ankle sprain, an injury that usually takes several weeks of recovery and which can linger for months if a player continues to go out on the field and play through the injury.
McLaurin has said that he understands the importance of this final regular season game, and that he plans to play through the pain Sunday night to help his team.
What I’m hoping for is that his teammates show early in the game that they can do it without him, and that Terry can simply sit on the bench watching and resting. He’ll be needed in a big way next week against Tampa Bay or the Rams, and resting that ankle for most of Sunday night would be the most satisfactory way to give him a chance to play big next week.
No. 9 - No drops by the receivers
I want to see Steven Sims catch the ball and hold onto it. If he fields a punt, I want him to field it cleanly...no muffs.
That’ll go for the rest of the crew too. Cam Sims, Isaiah Wright, Robert Foster and Dontrell Inman need to catch every ball that they can touch.
No. 10 - Hats
Post-game, I wanna see NFC East Champion hats being worn in the Washington locker room.
Jim Schwartz: "We've got to have a no-hat rule this week. We can't let opponents put division win hats on at the Linc. There's a lot of pride in that, and all our focus has to be to accomplishing that this week."— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) December 29, 2020
Eagles draft between Nos. 6-10 if they win, 3-6 if they lose.