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December 14, 2019

Five over/unders for Eagles' Week 15 matchup vs. Redskins

Eagles NFL
840922_Eagles_Lions_Miles_Sanders_Kate_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders.

The Eagles are a much different team than the one that beat Washington in their season opener earlier this year. 

Back then, there were visions of a return to the Super Bowl dancing through the minds of Eagles fans as some called this the deepest roster the team has ever had. And they've needed every one of those players after injuries have decimated this roster. In fact, both the players who scored touchdowns in that Week 1 win — DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery — are out, as are the Eagles' two leading rushers from that game — Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles — leaving the Birds in a delicate spot heading down the stretch.

Of course, that's not the only problem this team has had in 2019. Yet, somehow, here we sit in Week 15 with the Eagles at 6-7 and still in control of their playoff fate. They're currently tied with the Cowboys for first in the NFC East and a big matchup with Dallas looms on the horizon next weekend. 

Could Sunday's game against Washington be a trap game? Or will the Birds pick up another division win before their rematch against the Cowboys? We've already broken down some key matchups, offered up our own predictions and rounded up some others, both locally and nationally. Now, as we do every week, let's take a look at some numbers to watch in the form of our five over/unders... 

Total points: 39.0

That's the current total being offered over at Bovada, and to be honest, we have no idea what the final score is going to look like on Sunday — that's going to be a real common theme in these over/unders. Washington has the worst offense in the NFL, both in terms of total points and yards, and their defense isn't much better, although they have held opponents to 21 points or fewer in each of their last three games — and 24 or fewer points in seven of their last eight games. There's less of a question mark surrounding them, and a much bigger one hanging over the Eagles, a team who has been as inconsistent as it comes this season. 

While the Birds defense should be able to pick up where it left off in the second half of last week's win over the Giants against this last place offense, but what about the Eagles offense? They'll not only be without Lane Johnson on Sunday, they'll also be without Alshon Jeffery, who landed on IR with a broken foot earlier this week, Nelson Agholor and Jordan Howard — not to mention the savior of their Week 1 win over Washington, DeSean Jackson. And without those guys, the Eagles offense is suddenly one of the least dynamic in the NFL, although that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's watched them even a little bit this season. 

If you look at our staff predictions this week, three of five are predicting this game hits the under, including yours truly. 


Miles Sanders total yards: 89.5

In the four games since Jordan Howard suffered his stinger, Miles Sanders has been playing the role of the Eagles' lead back, although it hasn't been a typical workload that you'd expect for a team's No. 1 rusher, with Sanders failing to hit 18 carries in any of those games. However, he has been averaging about five targets and just over three receptions per game, which is a slight increase to what he was seeing before Howard (and Sproles, for that matter) went down. 

Against the Patriots in his first start since Week 5, Sanders posted just 47 total yards, but in the three games since, he's averaging close to 87 yards per game. It's clear that the rookie has been improving throughout the year, and the film backs up the stats on this one. And on Sunday, Sanders could play a big role in helping the Eagles come away with a victory. 

Washington is allowing 4.3 yards per carry to opposing running backs this season and has allowed the sixth-most rushing yards in the NFL this season. But whether or not Sanders hits the over could come down to play calling more than anything else. Sanders numbers have improved in recent weeks, sure, but what makes that even more impressive is that he's  doing it with such a limited number of touches. Doug Pederson continues to work in Boston Scott and Jay Ajayi and, despite the Eagles lack of healthy receivers, he continues to ask Carson Wentz to throw the ball close to 50 times per game. Maybe that will change this week when Pederson's team takes on a Washington team that is much more susceptible on the ground, allowing an average of 135 rushing yards against this season. 


Redskins sacks: 2.5

Another reason the Eagles might want to run the ball is Washington's pass rush. They're currently seventh in the NFL with 40 sacks, one behind the New England Patriots. And that could be a problem for Carson Wentz on Sunday, as his two tackles will be Halapoulivaati Vaitai, (who causes my wife to audibly groan every time he steps on the field), and the ghost of Jason Peters. Add to that the fact that Wentz' penchant for holding onto the ball too long has only gotten worse without any receivers who have the ability to get open on their own, and it could be a rough day for the Eagles quarterback. In other words, if Pederson is insistent on passing the ball, he could do his quarterback a ton of favors by mixing in a good bit of quick release routes so Wentz can get the ball out before it's too late. The problem is, we've seen no indication that he's willing to do either of those things. 

Wentz has been sacked at least twice in each of his last eight games, and has seen that number rise to an average of 3.4 sacks/game in his last five. The combination of all those drop backs, his wide receivers' inability to get open and injuries to his offensive line has proven too much in recent weeks, and unfortunately, at least two of those things are guaranteed to remain an issue on Sunday. 


Zach Ertz targets: 9.5

Over his last five games, Ertz is averaging 11 targets per game and has found the end zone four times. He's also gone for 90 or more yards in four of those five games. Given the Eagles' lack of healthy receivers, it seems impossible for Ertz not to be Wentz' top target. Even if Pederson finally decides passing 45-50 times per game with no healthy wideouts isn't for the best, it's hard to envision a scenario in which Ertz doesn't get his fair share of targets.


Adrian Peterson rush yards: 69.5

Maybe it's appropriate that this week was a Friday the 13th, because that seems to be the magic number for Peterson this season. In games when he has carried the ball at least 13 times (there have been six such games in 2019), Peterson has rushed for 75 or more yards. And it's not just about volume, it's about efficiency as well. In those six games, Peterson has averaged 5.17 yards per carry. In his other six games this season when he's failed to reach 13 carries, Peterson has averaged a woeful 2.71 YPC. 

As you can see, there must be something special about Peterson hitting that 13th carry — and that carries over to his team, as two of their three wins have come when Peterson has carried the ball at least 13 times. Considering the Eagles have allowed just one of their previous six opponents to rush for 100-plus yards, Washington may be tempted to pass the ball, but that might not matter when it comes to Peterson's rushing attempts. With Darius Guice on IR, the 34-year-old veteran is the team's primary ball carrier and should get plenty of work on Sunday. That, however, may not bode well for the Birds, who were able to avoid Peterson in their Week 1 matchup.


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