Week 16: While there is the development of Nick Foles, the harmony between LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown, the progression of Brandon Graham and other subplots still to watch, much of the attention Sunday will be directed at one man likely coaching in his last home game at Lincoln Financial Field.
Will Eagles fans give Andy Reid his proper send off, and by that I mean, will they give him an ovation? It says here they will, although there will surely be a few that will sit on their hands still fuming over the last two seasons – and who could blame them?
As for the game, the Eagles will put up more than the six points they posted in last month’s loss down in Washington. It won’t be enough. The Redskins will have Robert Grifffin III a week after he missed a game with a knee injury. Washington’s offense didn’t miss a beat with backup Kirk Cousins under center, but the multi-faceted Griffin presents a challenge the Eagles could not stop in the first meeting.
The Birds defense has been more aggressive up front and stouter on the back end in the last two games. But Josh Freeman and Andy Dalton aren’t as accurate and elusive as Griffin. Throw the still-churning Alfred Morris (1,322 yards rushing) and the peaking-at-the-right time Pierre Garcon (23 catches for 340 yards in the last four games) into the mix and the Redskins will be difficult to contain.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles are just beat up. It’s going to be awfully difficult for the team to draw any conclusions on Foles’ future based on these final seven games. The Eagles are without four-fifths of their offensive line, their top receiver, and have been without their top tailback and tight end for at least one game. LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek will be back on Sunday, and that will aid Foles. But the Redskins are likely to attack the rookie the same way they did in November when they blitzed Foles on 20 of 50 drop backs.
Foles completed just 8 of 18 passes when blitzed and threw two interceptions. With the Eagles offensive line still struggling in certain spots, there’s little reason for the Redskins to not send additional pass rushers, especially up the middle in the “A” gap where center Dallas Reynolds is susceptible.
Prediction: Redskins 30, Eagles 18.
What goes right: Fletcher Cox picks up another sack – his sixth in the last six games – and continues to make a strong case that he belongs in the Pro Bowl.
What goes wrong: Bryce Brown fumbles again.
Week 16: The Eagles and Redskins were once both 3-6. Look at them now. That is all the indication one needs to reveal the trajectory of both teams. Those trajectories will be illustrated on Sunday, when the Redskins continue to contend for the NFC East crown and the Eagles play what will likely be Andy Reid's final home game in Philadelphia.
This game will be more competitive than the last meeting in November, when the Eagles suffered a 31-6 loss. Foles has progressed since that day, and the Eagles have a better sense of how to use him. Jeremy Maclin was held without a catch in that game, but Maclin will have a greater role on Sunday. The question is how the Eagles use their running game. McCoy will likely be on a play count and must continue rounding into shape, but he’s still an elite running back -- albeit one who was limited to 45 yards on 15 carries in the last game. Bryce Brown has been inconsistent in recent weeks, but he remains a threat. The Eagles will score, just not enough.
Griffin had a historic day when he played the Eagles. Griffin will play on Sunday. The Eagles’ defense has improved in recent weeks, but so has the Redskins offense. The presence of Garcon helps, and Morris has proven to be a tough rusher.
The Eagles cannot allow the Redskins to score in the high 20s. If it’s a low-scoring game, the Eagles have a chance. But the Eagles are too prone to making mistakes and not experienced enough to make winning plays. Expect them to record their 11th loss, which will tie for the worst in Reid’s tenure. It would be another low in a forgettable season for Reid, but also a chance for Eagles fans to express how they feel about the past 14 years -- for better or worse.
Prediction: Redskins 27, Eagles 17
What goes right: McCoy scores a touchdown. Maclin tops 100 receiving yards. Cox records a sack.
What goes wrong: Griffin makes Eagles fans envious. The turnover problems continue.