A lot is on the line as the Philadelphia Eagles visit the Washington Redskins for a Monday night showdown just outside the nation’s capital. It’s as simple as this: barring a tie, the Eagles will either end the night as the current two-seed in the NFC or as the 9th place team in the conference. Even if it is a tad early to look at playoff scenarios, that’s an enormous swing to be on the line 10 weeks into the season.
Adding to the importance within the division, an Eagles loss would leave them tied with the Redskins at 5-4, but having lost both head-to-head matchups, thus ensuring that Philadelphia could not beat Washington in a two-way tie. So no matter how you slice it, this game is every bit as big as its Monday Night Football stage.
While the Redskins won the first meeting 17-12, it wasn’t exactly the storyline everyone expected in Donovan McNabb’s return to the City of Brotherly Love. The quarterback completed 8-of-19 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, but won thanks to the Redskins’ 165 yard rushing effort. McNabb is listed as questionable with hamstring injuries, but earlier in the week Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan indicated that he would play.
“[The only way he wouldn’t play the whole game is] just if he felt something was wrong before the game, physically,” Shanahan said.
Meanwhile, Michael Vick left the first game with a rib injury that would turn out to be torn cartilage. The Redskins used a Cover-2 defense, not allowing DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin to make any big plays down the field.
“I think that was one of our better games,” Shanahan said. “We played well relative to slowing down their wide receivers because they’ve got a great group when you take a look at their skill – running backs, tight ends, wide receivers, quarterbacks – they’ve got it all.”
This time around, the Eagles might look to take their shots downfield if the Redskins show a similar scheme. It won’t hurt having Vick at 100 percent and leading the league with a passer rating of 105.3.
“Challenge it, but you do have to be precise and efficient,” Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “Look, we’ve had great success against some of these teams that try and do that.”
When the Redskins have the ball, the Eagles focus will be on stopping the run. Washington averaged 4.8 yards per carry the first time around. Since, the Eagles haven’t given up more than 75 rushing yards in a game and opponents are averaging just 3.2 per attempt.
“I think the physical play of our defensive line [is the difference], number one, and then just our defense continuing to come together as an overall defense,” said Sean McDermott, the Eagles defensive coordinator.
“It really doesn’t matter to us [who is playing running back],” McDermott added. “The system is the system. It’s a zone running scheme with some misdirection built in. Whether it’s Torain or Portis or whoever falls in behind those two or three, we’ll take the challenge.”
In each of their four wins, the Redskins have scored 17 or fewer points. In each of their four losses, the winner has scored 27 or more. So if the Eagles can slow down the ground game of the Redskins and connect on a couple of big passing plays, turning it into a higher scoring game, their chances of escaping FedEx Field with a win look good.
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