The Philadelphia Eagles take on the Washington Redskins today in their first divisional game of the 2016 season. For the second straight week, the Eagles will face a team missing a key contributor.
The Redskins will not have Jordan Reed in the lineup when they face the Eagles. On paper, you would think that gives the advantage to the Eagles defense. After watching the Eagles look like a bunch of amateurs against the Detroit Lions last week, particularly in the first half, that might not be the case.
For the Redskins, this is what they’re losing this Sunday: Their leader in targets, receptions, offensive yards, and receiving touchdowns. Reed has played a total of 88.6% of the offensive snaps for the Redskins, more than any other skill position player not named Kirk Cousins.
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Speaking of Cousins, he’s been lights out in the month of October. He has completed 50 of 68 passes (73.53%) for 443 yards and four touchdowns. Of course, it helps that Reed caught 17 of those passes, on 21 targets, for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Behind Reed on the Redskins depth chart is Vernon Davis (yes he’s still in the NFL) and Niles Paul. Again, this looks great on paper, but can the Eagles stop the Redskins?
First and foremost, DeSean Jackson (remember him?) has to be contained. The Eagles to their credit have allowed only seven passing plays of 25 or more yards on the season. In order to pull off the divisional road win, they better keep that number in single digits.
The person in burgundy and gold that concerns me the most however is Jamison Crowder. The second year wide receiver has emerged as one of Cousins’ favorite targets this year. Ten of Crowder’s 21 catches have resulted in first downs. Crowder is tied for second in the NFL in red zone targets (9), with four of those occurring inside the ten yard line. Last season against the Eagles, Crowder caught nine passes on 15 targets for a total of 78 yards.
Defensively, the Redskins will finally get cornerback Bashaud Breeland back after a two game absence. The man on the other side of the field, Josh Norman, will be dealing with his own injury. Norman sprained his right wrist last week against the Baltimore Ravens. While both will be playing, it will be very interesting to see whether Doug Pederson has Carson Wentz test the Redskins’ secondary early and often. Considering how Washington defends the run, I have my sneaking suspicions that Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, and the rest of the Eagles running backs get a ton of work.
The Redskins aren’t the only team in this game that will be shorthanded however. Lane Johnson‘s 10 game suspension officially began earlier this week. As a result, Halapoulivaati Vaitai will get his first NFL start at right tackle. Considering that Pro Football Focus has rated the Eagles offensive line highly thus far, the challenge for “Big V” to step in with no drop-off will be immense. Paul Domowitch also suggests the Eagles ease Vaitai in as well by leaning heavily on the run. Let’s just hope this time that Mathews knows which arm to carry the football in.
This isn’t going to be an easy game for the Eagles, regardless of Reed’s absence. A road divisional game against a team riding a three game win streak is a challenge. The Eagles are a quarter through the season exactly where they want to be however. A win today against Washington gives the Eagles a lot of necessary momentum for their Week 7 tilt at home against the Minnesota Vikings and Sam Bradford. I expect a much cleaner game from a penalty standpoint, but I could see the Eagles surrendering some points in this one. Ultimately, the Eagles offense should be able to put up more. Look for a 27-20 nail-biter win from the Birds.