October 02, 2015
The Eagles dug out of their 0-2 hole last weekend at the Meadowlands, but considering the opponent, losing this week’s game against eminently beatable Washington would feel like a major missed opportunity. If the Birds manage to win, the schedule opens up a bit. There are a couple of manageable home games (New Orleans, New York Giants) over the next two weeks.
No DeSean, which is one skeleton that Chip Kelly avoids. For now, it also seems like Hurricane Joaquin will miss the East Coast and we’ll be able to play a football game in Maryland. Sam Bradford might be dealing with pretty windy conditions, though.
Even if the Eagles are in fact the better team than Washington (which isn’t clear yet), NFC East games often make little sense. The Birds were a much better team last year, and you could argue they were lucky to split the season series against WASTEAM. Here are our picks:
TV: FOX | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Eagles -3 | TOTAL: 43.5 (via Sports Book Review)
The Eagles still can't throw or catch, particularly whenever they try to throw the ball more than 10 yards down the field. Meanwhile, the Redskins, believe it or not, have the #2 ranked defense in the NFL. However, they come into this weekend very banged up in their secondary. DeAngelo Hall will be out, and Chris Culliver did not practice Thursday or Friday, which does not bode well for his chances to play either. Maybe the Eagles will complete a pass or two that is in the air for more than, dare I say, 20 yards? Fingers crossed!
Offensively, the Redskins employ the most interception-prone quarterback in the NFL in Kirk Cousins. If the Eagles can pressure Cousins and force him into bad throws like they did a week ago with Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Eagles should be able to win the turnover battle, and in turn, the game. I'm expecting another ugly slop-fest.
The Redskins just don’t scare me. I don’t really know how else to put it. What does scare me in this game, however, is the wildly inconsistent play we’ve seen from the Eagles so far this season. It’s a game they should win — we’ve said that before, though — but until Sam Bradford and the offense can string together more than a half of solid football, it’s going to be nearly impossible to look past any of the Birds’ 11 remaining opponents.
Full disclosure, I’ve been in Hawaii for a wedding since before the Jets game, and am actually writing these predictions from 27,000 feet above the Pacific. To be honest, it’s really given me an opportunity to step back and view the Eagles from afar, the way I used to as a fan. And while we’re still here, in the circle of trust, let me tell you that I didn’t really like what I saw. Still, their Week 3 win was huge for the team and the fans, but mostly for Chip Kelly. Starting 0-3 in his first season with full control of personnel would likely have been the start of a long, cold Philadelphia winter.
The potential return of DeMarco Murray to the starting lineup should help the offense, but even that comes with caveats and question marks. Why were they so much more effective running the ball without Murray? Should Ryan Mathews see the ball more? Is it possible that constantly rotating through running backs — traditional logic suggests this will help keep those guys fresh — actually hurting the ground game by never allowing the backs to develop a rhythm?
One game won’t likely help us answer those questions. But on Sunday — at least for this week — I think the Eagles continue to right the ship. Washington’s Matt Jones came back down to earth last week against the Giants, while DeSean Jackson remains sidelined. But with their team coming off a long week (they played the Giants last Thursday night) and having home field advantage, this is going to be a close one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles fail to cover. It would be nice to see a complete game, one in which they leave their opposition in the dust — from Kelly’s crew, but until they prove their capable of doing so, it’s hard to imagine that as a realistic scenario.
The Jets have an excellent defense, but I really didn’t like what I saw from Bradford and the offense in the second half. They looked inept. To me, the Eagles will try to win the same game they did last week, which is essentially the 23-21 score my two esteemed colleagues forecasted.
Even if the other team employs Kirk Cousins, it’s hard to completely rely on a stinkbomb from the opposing quarterback. Until the Eagles start making semi-consistent plays on offense, it’s going to be difficult to confidently pick them.
If the Eagles do find a way to pull this one out, the good news is that they may have a couple of weeks to figure out the offense while still racking up wins. These early-season struggles could be like that one difficult level early in a video game that you just can’t make it past for whatever reason. Once you beat it, though, it’s smooth sailing from there. That’s the optimistic way to look at things, anyway.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann