NFL Preview - Washington (3-6) at Philadelphia (5-5)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - "We Must Protect This House!"
That was an early slogan for Under Armour and translates well into all sports.
The Philadelphia Eagles haven't been on board lately as far as taking care of business at home and will try to stop a 10-game losing streak at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday versus the NFC East-rival Washington Redskins.
Philadelphia is 0-4 this season at the Linc and last prevailed as the host more than a year ago on Sept. 30 versus the New York Giants. The Giants were the last team to hand the Eagles another home loss on Oct. 27 in an ugly 15-7 finish and wide receiver DeSean Jackson feels the mood should be different.
"(We need) everybody in the stands really encouraging instead of the opposite," Jackson told CSNPhilly.com. "Trying to get that energy to be on our side. I feel like it's against us sometimes."
Jackson wasn't done there.
"We already have to beat our opponent. Now we're trying to fight our fans," Jackson continued. "That energy to help us go out there and help us (get an) interception, delay of game penalty, whatever it is, we need them on our side, not against us.
"Can't blame anybody but ourselves for losing a game. As long as we have that energy to help us go out there and win, that's all we need."
Chip Kelly's team is an impressive 5-1 on the road and came away with a 27-13 win last weekend against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Quarterback Nick Foles made his second straight start in place of the injured Michael Vick (hamstring) and passed for 228 yards with three touchdowns, one week after lighting up Oakland for an NFL-record seven TDs with 406 yards passing.
Foles will get the nod again, and rightfully so, and has 16 touchdown passes to zero interceptions on the season. Foles needs four more touchdown passes to tie Peyton Manning for the most TDs to start a season without throwing an INT. Manning set the NFL record earlier this season, while Foles has thrown 173 passes without a pick.
Still, the second-year quarterback said he still has room to improve.
"I feel like I've improved a lot, but there's still a lot of improving to do," said Foles, who said he made some "ill-advised decisions" in Green Bay.
Either way the Eagles came out on top for their second straight win and fourth in six weeks. The Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are even atop the NFC East, but the latter has the tie-breaker by virtue of a win back on Oct. 20 and a better record in the division and conference.
The Eagles, who are second in rushing yards (153.1), fourth in total yards (413.4) and ninth in passing yards (260.3), are scheduled to play their next three games at home and have a bye week after the Redskins matchup.
Washington has a 1-4 record on the road and an overall mark of 3-6, which is even with the Giants. It still has an outside shot at making a run for two straight NFC East titles, but put a wrench in those plans with last Thursday's 34-27 loss at Minnesota.
The Redskins had a chance at the end.
Robert Griffin III and the Redskins took over from their own 20 with 3:36 to play. Despite having no timeouts, Washington was able to move the ball down the field. Jordan Reed's 17-yard catch moved the ball to the 8-yard line. Following a run by Roy Helu and two incomplete passes, Griffin lofted a fourth-down pass to Santana Moss, who caught the ball but was out of bounds.
"It felt like we were in control, and when you walk off the field with a loss, it's very disheartening," Griffin said, "but I don't think anyone on this team is going to quit."
RGIII knows first hand what it's like to face a 3-6 hole. That's what occurred last season and the Redskins ripped off seven straight wins to capture a division crown and host a playoff game. Head coach Mike Shanahan lighted a fire under the team, saying it's time to evaluate for next season. It worked in his favor and the players responded.
"When we were 3-6 a year ago, we had one goal and that was to improve and become 4-6, and to do that we have to have a group effort," Shanahan said.
Washington has a potent offense just like Philadelphia and is third in rushing yards (151.2), fifth in total yards (410.4) and ninth in scoring (25.6). Running back Alfred Morris has quietly led the offense and has rushed for 448 yards and two scores in the past four weeks. Morris is third in the NFL with 825 rushing yards to go along with five rushing TDs.
Morris will face an improved Eagles defense and isn't going to back down.
"When I've got the ball in my hands, it's like, 'Get as much as you can.' I refuse to let one person tackle me," Morris told ESPN 980. "It's going to take a gang of you guys to tackle me. That's just my mindset. Each play is my last play and that's the way that I look at it and I try to do as much as I can on that one play.
"If you watch a lot of players who go down pretty fast, watch their legs. First thing (that) stops is their legs. If you don't have your legs (moving), you're not going anywhere."
The Redskins, who have lost three in a row on the road, received 45 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries from Morris in a season-opening 34-27 loss to the Eagles. The Eagles racked up 443 yards of offense and were led by Vick and LeSean McCoy that day. McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher with 932 yards, grinded out 184 yards and a score on 31 yards in that one.
Washington leads the all-time series which started back in 1934 by an 81-72-6 margin, but the Eagles have won four of the past six in this series. The series is five apiece in games played at Lincoln Financial Field.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Redskins defense can take a page out of the Eagles' stop unit in defending the run. The Eagles were able to slow down Lacy and the 'Skins are faced with a similar obstacle against McCoy. McCoy talked about the matchup and what's different since a Week 1 encounter.
"A lot has changed since game one," McCoy said. "We don't really look at that game and think we're going to have the same results. We're going to watch tape and get the game plan together and be ready to execute on Sunday. A lot of teams are trying to stack the box and want us to win the game by throwing the ball, and we're doing that. I'm curious to see how they play us and what type of different stunts they pull."
While the Redskins want to improve their pass rush and force Foles to beat them, they have to take McCoy out of his game and give him barely any daylight to run. Philadelphia's offensive line could be without All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters Sunday. Peters suffered two different injuries at Green Bay and his quad and pectoral issue has him day-to-day.
Allen Barbre will start in Peters' place and took over last week.
Washington will try to establish a pass rush to get Foles off his game and Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan explained that.
"You want to be able to get pressure with your down four," Kerrigan said. "It's kind of disappointing for all of us up front, not just Brian (Orakpo) and myself.
"I think we have had to rely too much on blitzes to get pressure and you don't want to do that."
Kerrigan said Foles "looks pretty comfortable" in the offense and that the Eagles' run game sets up the big plays down the field. That's where Washington's secondary comes into play with DeAngelo Hall, Reed Doughty, Brandon Meriweather and Josh Wilson.
Hall is aware of the importance of this game.
"It's about executing, getting down to the fundamentals, tackling, doing the little things that we have been doing since we were little kids to be successful in football," Hall said. "That's what we have to get back to, that's what we have to hang our hat on to win football games."
The Eagles could unveil new weapon Brad Smith, a versatile receiver and return specialist who signed on this week, to jump into the mix with Jackson, McCoy and even Riley Cooper, who's contributions the last few weeks have been immense.
Philly's defense has to be wary of what Griffin, Morris and the offense can bring, but has improved over the past month or so. While the offense has racked up at least 400 yards in eight of the first 10 games, the defense has held the opposition to 21 points or less in each of the last six games.
The Eagles' linebackers, especially DeMeco Ryans in the middle, has to be ready for a fist fight Sunday. Ryans could be playing without linebacker Mychal Kendricks alongside him after the second-year player suffered a knee injury against the Packers. Safety Earl Wolff (knee) also went down and both players are day-to-day.
Philadelphia has seven interceptions in four division games this season.
The Eagles can take over the NFC East with a win Sunday because the Cowboys are in their bye week. But the stigma of losing 10 in a row at home will most likely have the hosts come out tense. Either way, the Eagles' offense is too good to fall flat on its face after recent weeks.
If the Philly team from the past two games shows up, then they'll be in good shape. If the offense from losses to Dallas and New York rears its ugly head, then consecutive loss No. 11 at the Linc will be a sure thing.
In a matchup between two high-powered offenses and talented running backs, the Eagles will finally win at home behind another efficient effort by Foles and Bill Davis' defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eagles 31, Redskins 20
11/14 15:15:53 ET
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