December 23, 2015
It all comes down to this -- sort of.
A win against Washington on Saturday night, and the Philadelphia Eagles will be one win from a division crown and a playoff birth. A loss, and their season will essentially come to an end, as their finale against the New York Giants would be rendered almost meaningless.
The good news for the Eagles in this one is that their opponents are just 1-6 this year on the road. Meanwhile, Chip Kelly's team has split their season slate, going 3-4 at home and on the road. The bad news for the Eagles is they could be without two defensive starters -- Byron Maxwell and Bennie Logan.
It only seems appropriate that the race for the NFC East would come down to the final two weeks of the regular season -- based on what we've seen to this point, it doesn't look like any of the three teams still in contention actually wants to win this thing.
But someone is going to have to do it, even if none are actually worthy of being there -- let alone hosting a first-round game -- to begin with.
To make it even worse, the Eagles needed a punt return against the Jets and three non-offensive TDs against the Patriots to get those wins. And of the four NFC East teams, only the Giants -- the least-likely team to make the playoffs of the remaining three still alive in the division race -- is the only team with a positive point differential on the season (+16). The Eagles differential, by comparison is minus-44, which certainly hasn't been helped by the fact they're a whopping minus-75 over their last five games.
Yet, somehow, the division is still theirs for the taking.
Here's what you need to know about Sunday night's matchup at the Linc.
TV: NFL Network | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Eagles -3 | TOTAL: 48.0 (via topbet.eu)
Because of the holiday, we're posting these picks earlier in the week than we usually do, so there aren't many national/local outlets with Week 16 predictions for us to tell you about -- at least not let. With that being the case, let's get right into our staff picks:
Kirk Cousins' numbers since the "You like that!" game: 185 of 254 (72.8%), 2205 yards, 16 TD, 3 INT, 115.0 QB rating. That stretch also happens to closely mirror DeSean Jackson's return to the lineup. Remember him? In roughly half the season, Jackson has as many receptions of 25+ yards as anyone on the Eagles' roster. (Both DeSean and Jordan Matthews have eight). Jackson killed the Eagles last season in a "do or die" game for the Birds, as Bradley Fletcher was repeatedly beaten over the top by Jackson.
This time around the Eagles head into their matchup with the Skins playing terrible run defense, while also being banged up in their secondary. And Washington doesn't just have Jackson -- They have also been effectively getting the ball in the hands of TE Jordan Reed, as well as receivers Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder. Ultimately, the Redskins may have more weapons to throw to in their offense than the Eagles can cover for 60 minutes, much like the Cardinals did a week ago.
Kirk Cousins, 2015 home splits: 192-257, 2,170 yards, 74.7 completion percentage, 16 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 117.0 QB rating.
I like that.
Kirk Cousins, 2015 road splits: 144-225, 1,455 yards, 64.0 completion percentage, 6 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 74.6 QB rating.
Not sure I like that.
Another week, another correct prediction for my dad. And because of that, he gets to make my pick for at least one more week. This time around, Bill has a lot of thoughts about what's going to happen on Saturday night.
First, he's worried about DeSean Jackson. He thinks the former Eagles wideout is going to be targeted early and often by Kirk Cousins, especially deep. That's probably the least out-of-the-box prediction from him this week. In two games against the Eagles, Jackson has caught nine passes for 243 yards and a touchdown.
He also believes that DeMarco Murray is suddenly going to re-emerge as a part of Chip Kelly's offense. Considering he finished with just two carries and was only on the field for eight snaps against the Cardinals, I'm having a much tougher time buying this one. He thinks Chip might have been conserving Murray, and limiting the film with which opponents can study how they use him. But even after I tried explaining that the former Cowboys back has struggled even when he was getting carries, my old man wouldn't budge.
Finally, he thinks that not only will the Eagles win, but it will be one of those games fans talk about for years later -- he even mentioned it in the same sentence as "The Body Bag Game." He said "something special is going to happen" and it's "going to be a weird, funky game." He even went as far as to offer potential scenario that could unfold: late in the game, Jackson fumbles a punt return, which leads to a game-winning score by the Birds.
As for the final score -- which I was only able to extract after he finished a rant on why the NFL is probably fixed -- my dad isn't far off from what I see happening at The Linc this weekend. I'm just not sure I agree with all the things he sees leading up to that result.
But then again, there's a reason I handed over my weekly predictions to him in the first place...
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin