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Xs and Os: Eagles Look to Play Spoiler in Matchup with Redskins

Background/Storylines: Eagles (4-10) and Redskins (8-6)

The last time the Philadelphia Eagles played the Washington Redskins, the Eagles were 3-6 and looking to save face in what had been an otherwise disastrous 2012 campaign. Since then, however, things have only gotten worse in a 1-4 slide that puts them at 4-10 and tied for dead last in the NFC (with the Detroit Lions). Everyone knows the negatives—poor tackling, bad quarterback play, Bryce Brown fumbles, AFL-caliber safeties—but instead I’d like to take this time to list some of the positives going forward: two rookies—Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox—who are future Pro Bowlers and will anchor the defense for years to come, a running back tandem of LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown that will be as dynamic as any, and the thought of a healthy offensive that can help protect Nick Foles and create holes consistently. Oh, and don’t forget, in all likelihood, it’s Andy Reid’s last home game as Eagles’ head coach.

Conversely, the Washington Redskins were also 3-6 the last time these two teams played and left for dead in the NFC East race. A big win over the Eagles jumpstarted this Redskins team, which has used a five-game winning streak to move into a three-way tie atop the NFC East leaderboard with the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. Although he won’t play against the Eagles this Sunday, rookie Kirk Cousins stepped in for fellow rookie Robert Griffin III last week and led Washington to a big win over the surging Cleveland Browns, and Washington’s resurgent rushing attack featuring yet another rookie, Alfred Morris, will help keep the ‘Skins offense churning when RG3 returns to the fold this week. Their defense subdued the Eagles earlier in the season, and despite losing Brian Orakpo for the season, this unit has continued to persevere and keep the team in games.

Fantasy Watch: LeSean McCoy (PHI) and Alfred Morris (WAS)

McCoy returns to face the team that knocked him out (via Getty Images).

The last time he saw the field, LeSean McCoy was given a concussion by these very same Redskins. No. 25 is back to exact revenge on the hated division rivals. In that game, however, it was McCoy’s hands (6 catches, 67 yards) not his feet (15 carries, 45 yards) that made him such a threat offensively. The Redskins’ 3-4 defense is strong up the middle led by cornerstone defensive tackle Barry Cofield. That’s why Eagles fans will see Bryce Brown get 5-10 carries up the middle to soften the defense up for potential outside runs or even screen plays, the latter of which is what accounted for most of McCoy’s touches one month ago.

My projected stats for McCoy: 41 yards rushing, 56 yards receiving, 1 receiving TD (15.7 points)

For those of you counting on Morris in key playoff games, myself included, you couldn’t have gotten a better week to have the rookie back. Facing an Eagles rush defense that’s ranked 20th in the league, Morris should pile up the yards and scores in style with his tough, never-go-down rushing style. Mike Shanahan’s affinity for loaded backfields and extra linemen will help open up holes for Morris and once he gets running downhill there aren’t many players on the Eagles who can bring him down.

My projected stats for Morris: 103 yards rushing, 2 touchdown, 8 yards receiving (23.1 points)

Key Matchup: Dennis Kelly vs Ryan Kerrigan

The Redskins know the key to stopping rookie quarterback Nick Foles: get pressure in his face, early and often. According to Philly.com’s Jeff McLane, Foles was 8-for-18 (44.4%) with zero touchdowns and two interceptions when blitzed the last time these two teams played. The Redskins’ 3-4 has been very effective all year at getting pressure and was especially potent last time these two teams played, sacking Foles four times.

Ryan Kerrigan has played a big part in making up for the absence of Orakpo, the team’s leading pass rusher from last season, with 6.5 sacks this season. Likewise, Kelly has been forced to step in to replace the injured Todd Herremans at right tackle, one of the many replacement players the Eagles’ offensive line has seen this season. Kelly has played very well over the past two weeks, surpassing all expectations for a sixth-round rookie, but he will truly be tested by Kerrigan and the 3-4 defense. Whether he can hold up will determine how well Foles is able to perform this Sunday.

X-Factor: Fletcher Cox (PHI) and Pierre Garcon (WAS)

Cox helps bring down Andy Dalton (via Philly.com).

Eight games into the season, many Philadelphia fans were ready to proclaim first-round pick Fletcher Cox as a bust. He had only 19 tackles and one sack, and he didn’t seem to be developing into the inside force he was at Mississippi State. Then, something seemed to click in Cox, who has 18 tackles and 4.5 sacks in his past six games. His ability to penetrate the A-gap has allowed fellow lineman Brandon Graham to get more space on the outside and has completely transformed what was an inept pass rush back into the one of the league’s best. The abolishment of the wide-nine has aided Cox, given that he now sees less attention from fullbacks. His ability to get upfield and force Morris sideways will be paramount in whether the Eagles defense can contain Washington.

Talk about the right time to peak. Pierre Garcon has become the Redskins’ go-to guy on offense over the past four weeks, emerging as the top-flight target they signed him to be this past offseason. In that time, he’s amassed 340 yards and three touchdowns. He will likely be matched up with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who’s started to return to early season form with a couple of consecutive good performances. If he can continue to run good routes and beat DRC in and out of cuts, he will make things too difficult to handle for the already thin Eagles’ defense.

Prediction: Redskins 31, Eagles 13

The Eagles will get one big play to LeSean McCoy or Jeremy Maclin, but apart from that, the Redskins’ defensive onslaught will be too much for Foles to handle. Expect the rookie to turn the ball over once or twice while Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III run roughshod over an overmatched Eagles defense.

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Categories: Eagles, Editorial

Author:Manav Khandelwal

I am the founder of Khandyman Sports, and follow all Philadelphia pro sports teams religiously. I also write for the Hoop76, covering the Sixers for ESPN, and am a credentialed Flyers reporter for Main Line Media News.

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