8:15 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Eagles -6, Over/Under: 45
A crucial NFC East matchup concludes Week Thirteen, as the Philadelphia Eagles host the fading Washington Redskins in a contest featuring a pair of desperate teas trending in opposite directions from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2018 began as a surprisingly optimistic season for the Redskins (6-5, 2nd in NFC East), who took advantage of the chaos inflicting their division brethren, grinding their way to a 6-3 record that placed them firmly in the driver’s seat in the NFC East. Unfortunately, an all-too familiar issue resurfaced as the roster was once again ravaged by injuries in a slew of key areas, most notably along the Offensive Line and at Quarterback. Needless to say, in such an offensively-driven league, that is NOT where you want to suffer the bulk of your injures, but that has been the reality that Jay Gruden and his charges have had to face over the course of the second half of the term. Starting Guards Brandon Scherff (Pectoral) and Shawn Lauvao (Knee) have been languishing on Injured Reserve for weeks now, while Tackles Morgan Moses (Knee) and Trent Williams (Thumb) have both missed time as well, with the former labeled as Questionable for tonight’s outing and the latter as Probable. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Alex Smith is out for the season as well with a gruesome broken leg suffered in a 21-23 loss to the Houston Texans two weeks ago. The 34-Year Old Quarterback had been a largely stabilizing influence on Washington’s Offense, after he was acquired via trade with the Kansas City Chiefs in the Offseason, completing 62.5% of his Attempts for an average of 218.0 Yards per Game on 5.88 Net Yards per Attempt, with Ten Touchdowns to Five Interceptions. Granted, the attack was far from explosive with Smith at the controls, but they knew exactly what they were getting when they replaced former signal-caller Kirk Cousins with the three-time Pro Bowler; On the season, the Redskins have rarely beaten themselves hen in possession of the football, committing just Twelve Turnovers thus far (12th Overall), a steep improvement over the Twenty-Seven they handed out in 2017 (26th Overall). With that said, keeping this team afloat and in contention for the NFC East has fallen on the shoulders of longtime backup Colt McCoy (60.0% 322 YDS, 5.31 NY/A, 3 TD, 3 INT, 39.5 QBR), who has quite the arduous task ahead of him, particularly given the holes along the Offensive Line. Now in his fourth campaign in the Nation’s Capital, McCoy is certainly well-versed in Gruden’s Offense, though in the early stages of his takeover under Center has not shown Smith’s proclivity for taking care of the football; in Washington’s 23-31 loss at the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, the journeyman completed 24-of-38 Passes for 268 Yards and Two Touchdowns, but also tossed Three Interceptions as well, failing to move the chains against the hosts’ tenacious Defense, converting on just 4-of-11 Third Downs. With a 7-19 record over the duration of twenty-six career starts, it would be unrealistic for the faithful in Washington to believe that this guy will be able to get the proverbial needle pointing upward once again, particularly given the sudden improvement of their neighbors within the division. In all honesty, the only hope of contending at this juncture lies with the Defense, which has quietly been one of the better units in the league this season. Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky has done an excellent job on this side of the football, with the Redskins allowing 20.8 Points (8th Overall) on 361.2 Total Yards (17th Overall), including 260.9 Yards against the Pass (24th Overall) on 6.7 Net Yards per Attempt (20th Overall), along with 100.3 Yards versus the Run (8th Overall) on 4.3 Yards per Carry (13th Overall). Furthermore, they’ve been able to compensate for the yardage allowed and the fact that they’ve largely struggled on Third Down (43.2%, 29th Overall), by amassing a healthy Twenty-One Takeaways (4th Overall) stiffening up in the Red Zone where they’ve allowed a Touchdown on just 50.0% of their opponent’s opportunities (5th Overall).
Meanwhile, though they’ve appeared dead in the water on a number of occasions this season, the Eagles (5-6, 3rd Overall) remains alive and in contention in the NFC East, with an opportunity to sneak back in the Postseason after earning the franchise’s first Super Bowl Championship last February. A campaign that began with Starting Quarterback Carson Wentz (69.7%, 2,540 YDS, 6.53 NY/A, 16 TD, 6 INT, 64.7 QBR) sidelined while rehabbing from a Torn ACL that robbed him of participating in Philadelphia’s run to a Lombardi Trophy, and has been maddeningly inconsistent due to a rash of injuries afflicting both sides of the football (particularly their devastated Secondary), has somehow seen fortune favor them, due to how the remaining schedule lines up. Doug Pederson’s charges are in the midst of a three-game stretch against NFC East Rivals, which given the chaotic nature of the division, could propel them to a second consecutive Playoff Birth. Their run started last weekend, though for a good while it certainly appeared that this rally had indeed ended long before it could begin, as the Eagles found themselves inexplicably trailing the New York Giants 19-3 shortly before Halftime, before the hosts could author a furious comeback in the Second Half. Philadelphia outscored the visiting side 13-3 over the final thirty minutes of action to steal a 25-22 victory that could have very well saved their season. The Offense was balanced despite only totaling 341 Yards and converting on 3-of-11 of their Third Downs. Pederson remained committed to the run, with the hosts rolling up 127 Yards on Twenty-Nine Attempts, courtesy of Rookie Tailback Josh Adams (22 CAR, 84 YDS, 1 TD) an a healthy Corey Clement (5 CAR, 45 YDS). The aforementioned Wentz was solid, completing an efficient 20-of-28 Passes for 236 Yards and a Touchdown, connecting six different targets, none more so prominent than Pro Bowl Tight End Zach Ertz (84 REC, 895 YDS, 10.7 Y/R, 6 TD), who hauled in Seven Receptions on Eight Targets for Ninety-One Yards and a Touchdown. Wentz looks just about all the way back from that unfortunate knee injury that ended his season prematurely in 2017, though the Offense around him has been a shell of itself in 2018. There have been a wealth of factors here, from injuries in the Backfield and along the Offense Line, to the departures of Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich (now with the Indianapolis Colts) and Quarterbacks Coach John DeFilippo (now with the Minnesota Vikings), but that physical balance that made this unit so effective a year ago is all but gone; the Eagles have mustered just 100.8 Yards on the ground (25th Overall) on 4.2 Yards per Carry (22nd Overall), while averaging just 24.1 Rushing Attempts (22nd Overall), a year after ranking in the Top-Six on those respective categories. And then there is the Defense, which has been a proverbial train-wreck throughout the term, with Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz pulling his hair out due to a plethora of breakdowns. You can chalk this one solely up to injuries, folks, for Philadelphia currently six Defensive Players on Injured Reserve (two which are Starting Defensive Backs, Rodney McLeod and Ronald Darby), with three more counted out for tonight’s contest, while another four are either listed as Questionable or Probable. Out of these thirteen, five of them are Cornerbacks, which in today’s NFL puts a Defense behind the proverbial 8-Ball. And you has better believe that the opposition knows this; opponents have passed the football against the Eagles the fourth-most in the league this season, averaging 38.6 Passing Attempts (29th Overall), which has led to a wealth of Passing Yards (276.5 Y/G, 29th Overall) on 6.7 Net Yards per Attempt (19th Overall). Furthermore, when you’re decimated in the Secondary, it’s really difficult to take the football away, for they’ve registered a mere Five Interceptions (29th Overall) and just Eight Turnovers altogether (31sr Overall).