The Washington Commanders have another division game after last week’s disappointing loss to the New York Giants. This game will be rematch from Week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles. That game saw the Eagles come into their home game as big favorites, but the Commanders took them to overtime with a 31-31 tie. Their drive ended when Terry McLaurin’s foot landed on Reed Blankenship’s arm instead of inbounds, and the Eagles went on to win via a field goal on the next drive.
Since then, Washington has gone 1-2, with their only win coming against the Atlanta Falcons, which was sandwiched between two embarrassing losses to the Chicago Bears and the Giants. The Eagles suffered their first, and only, loss of the season two weeks ago against the New York Jets, but rebounded with a big win over the Miami Dolphins last Sunday night. Philly comes to FedEx Field with the best record in the NFC, and Washington is looking for a win before the trade deadline.
I asked Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation five questions to understand more about the state of the Eagles and what to look for in the game. You can check out my answers to his questions here.
1) The first game went to overtime. What has changed with Philadelphia’s roster since then?
The Eagles have made three noteworthy additions since Week 4: Kevin Byard, Julio Jones, and Bradley Roby.
It seems like Byard is set to make his Eagles debut on Sunday despite only joining the team earlier this week. By pairing him with ascending talent Reed Blankenship, the Eagles might’ve turned safety from a position of weakness into a strength. At the very least, Byard is an upgrade on Terrell Edmunds, who really struggled while starting in the first Eagles-Commanders game. Edmunds dropped an interception in the end zone and got penalized multiple times that day.
Jones only saw one target in his Eagles debut last weekend. He doesn’t figure to play a major role in an offense that primarily features A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and D’Andre Swift. The realistic hope is that he can provide an occasional spark and be a good complementary piece as WR3. He’s sharing time there with Olamide Zaccheaus.
Roby was signed to help replace starting nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox, who is out for the year. The Eagles were previously experimenting with James Bradberry in the slot and Josh Jobe on the outside; that’s the configuration they used in Week 4. Last week, the Eagles used the rotation of Josiah Scott and Eli Ricks in there.
Another notable change: Nakobe Dean returned from injured reserve. The Eagles are now using a three-man linebacker rotation with Dean, Zach Cunningham, and Nicholas Morrow all taking snaps.
2. Washington’s got a new owner after 25 years under Dan Snyder. How worried are Philly fans about Washington turning it around under Josh Harris?
Snyder’s ownership gave the Commanders a zero percent chance of ever achieving meaningful, lasting success. By contrast, Harris now gives them a non-zero chance. So, that’s automatically an upgrade that Eagles fans can’t appreciate.
That said, Harris doesn’t exactly have Philly fans quaking in their boots. The Sixers have been pretty dysfunctional under his ownership.
We should learn a lot more about the Commanders’ direction this offseason. This year was always going to be about being in a holding pattern. A lame duck season. I’m interested to see what they do at head coach and quarterback moving forward.
3. Any concern about Jalen Hurts going into this game despite him not appearing on the injury report?
Not majorly concerned about his health until there’s more reason to be.
I *am* concerned about turnovers continuing to be an issue. I tend to believe Hurts is going to cut down on those since he’s been pretty good at protecting the ball in the past. He’s also had some bad luck this year. But that benefit of the doubt only extends so far. They need to stop happening.
4. Sam Howell had over 300 yards from scrimmage in the first matchup. What should the Eagles defense do differently against him, and what worked last time?
The Eagles should put a bigger emphasis on trying to take Terry McLaurin away. That sounds obvious and it’s obviously easier said than done, especially in their case. But Sean Desai should get more aggressive about making someone else beat them.
Philadelphia’s pass rush needs to be more impactful this time around. They had five sacks in the first matchup … but they could’ve had more if they didn’t allow Howell to escape pressure upfield on multiple occasions. They need to do a better job of accounting for his mobility. It’d also be nice if they could force a turnover this time.
5) DraftKings Sportsbook has the Eagles as 9.5 point favorites. What’s your score prediction?
Seems to me like these are teams trending in different directions since Week 4.
The Eagles had a hiccup against the Jets in Week 6 but they’re starting to figure things out after a slow start to the season. The offense is clicking a bit more with the red zone offense coming into focus. The defense just had a really impressive outing against the Miami Dolphins.
The Commanders, meanwhile, have not played good football recently. Getting blown out at home by a Chicago Bears team that was riding a 14-game losing streak was not a good look. The win over the Atlanta Falcons seemed to be about the Commanders’ opponent beat themselves considering Washington was outperformed in most statistical categories (ex: outgained 402 to 193). Managing to score just seven points (aided by a short field) against the New York Giants is tough.
It’s possible Washington will be angry coming off last week’s game. But I tend to think their frustration might manifest in being a bit checked out with their lame duck head coach at the helm. I also don’t think the Eagles are going to overlook this game considering the Commanders just took them to overtime.
The expectation here is that the Eagles’ pass rush will prove too potent for the Commanders to deal with. Philly’s offense will put up enough points to help cover the spread.
Eagles win, 31 to 13.
Thanks again to Brandon for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Eagles.