The mess that has been the Philadelphia Eagles this season travels down to Washington on Sunday to take on the surprising division leading Redskins.
What is more surprising is that with a win on Sunday, the Eagles will have only one less win then the Redskins, and can enter the bye with a realistic chance to take a week of, and re-focus on turning this season around.
After 4 weeks of playing sloppy, undisciplined, losing football, Andy Reid and his players just need to get a win to end what has been perhaps the most disappointing stretch of Eagles football in the Reid era.
But can they do it?
Here is the complete Buzz on Broad Eagles-Redskins preview.
Coaches Take the Spotlight on Sunday
The game is decided on the field by the players, but this Sunday as the Eagles take on the Redskins and try to save the season, their is no question that the pressure is solely on the coaches on the sideline.
The fact is that the core players on this team- Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, Nnamdi Asomugha, etc.,- are all either financially committed to this team for the long haul, or soon will be. Unlike the Phillies, who will see changes be made in the lineup to alter the atmosphere on the team, this Eagles organization will make changes on the coaching staff if this season is not turned around.
That means that Juan Castillo, Marty Morhinweg and even Andy Reid could potentially be coaching for their jobs this Sunday.
It is unlikely that even with a loss on Sunday that Reid could been shown the front door by Joe Banner and Jeffery Lurie, a loss all but ends the season for the Eagles. Given all he has done for the organization, Reid will be given the rest of the season even if the team implodes worse then it has already. But that guarantee, for maybe the first time, does not carry over to the off season. If this Eagles team continues to play losing football, Reid could be gone- making this game one of the more important games in his coaching career.
Castillo and Morhinweg, on the other hand, could be gone sooner rather then later if their units don't show up on Sunday. Castillo has gotten the brunt of the criticism this season, and for the most part it has been well deserved. He will be the first to tell you that if the defense is not performing- and their is little debate that it is one of the worst in the NFL right now- it falls solely on him. Rumbling already have started to surface that the players may not respect the coach, and it has shown with a lack of effort and attitude on the field. The defense picked it's game up in the second half in Buffalo, but if it is unable to carry that over to Sunday and have a strong performance, Castillo could be gone by the time this team returns from the Bye Week.
Morhinweg is not talked about as a coach that could lose his job, but for multiple reasons he could be gone soon as well. First, the play calling in the red zone has left much to be desired. Second, while it is partily because of the players he has, the Eagles offense has shown no consistency this season. That could have to do with constantly trying for the big play, and not just establishing an offense early in the game. Like Castillo's unit, Morhinweg's offense has been just as sloppy.
Throw everything together, and you have a coaching staff that is coaching for their jobs on Sunday.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins- The Redskins will never fool anyone into thinking they are a pass happy team, but that doesn't mean that they can't hurt you through the air. One of the players the Eagles will have to keep under control is Santana Moss. Moss has 21 receptions for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns this season, and is really the only threat in the passing game the Redskins have. Shutting down Moss and the Redskins passing game will allow the Eagles to focus on the run, which makes keepin Moss under control all that more important.
Winston Justice, OT, Eagles- Winston Justice admitted earlier this season that he was not happy when King Dunlap got the nod to start with Jason Peters injured over him. Well with Dunlap now suffering from back spasms, it is likely that Justice will see his first action of the season tomorrow. What the Eagles will get out of Justice is unknown at this point. He played well at times last season, but was benched in the Eagles playoff game for his poor play. Now that he returns from a knee injury, it is important that he plays well enough to allow Michael Vick time to get the ball out.
Sav Rocca, P, Redskins- All of the talk this offseason in the Eagles special team game focused on David Akers leaving, but the team also let a good punter go in Sav Rocca. Rocca now punts for the Redskins, and is having a career year. Rocca has punted 21 times, and 12 of them have landed inside the 20. What's more impressive is that none of them have gone for a touch back. In a critical division game, field position is always key. Rocca could be the difference maker.
Jamar Chaney, MLB, Eagles- It is no secret what the Redskins gameplan will be against the Eagles on Sunday- run, run, run. That means that Jamar Chaney, who had a decent game and an interception last week in Buffalo, will have to have a big game for the Eagles to save their season. The importance that the Wide 9 Technique places on the linebackers has been discussed to death, but that dosn't make it any less true. Chaney needs to step up big against the run.
Eagles Morale High Heading Into Washington
With protesters outside, radio talk shows ripping the team, and national media calling them dumb, it is hard to keep your head up as an Eagles player these days.
But as the team goes into an absolute must win game this Sunday against the Washington Redskins, players talked today about forgetting the past, and focusing on the future.
"I think being loose is probably the best way to be right now," said Michael Vick. "I think when everyone is tense and uptight, it creates more pressure and we already have enough pressure on ourselves. We just need to go out and focus on playing good, mistake free football, and trying to come out with a win."
Getting a win, needless to say, is something this team needs desperately. With rumblings already about possible moves in the coaching staff, a loss this week would mean that jobs could be lost. Andy Reid, at least in the eyes of the fans, is someone whose seat will get even hotter if they were to fall to the Redskins.
"He was upbeat and encouraging" said Vick on Reid's mood this week. "Nothing has changed about him. I think his energy is directly carrying over to us, and we've had a great week of practices so far. We're ready to go."
Continue Reading "Eagles Morale High Heading Into Washington"
By The Numbers
233- Rushing yards by Tim Hightower, the Redskins lead running back
7- Total touchdowns by LeSean McCoy so far this season.
15.8- Points allowed per game by the Redskins, 3rd in the NFL
23- Quarterbacks that have a better quarterback rating then Rex Grossman
13- Sacks this season by Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins
Eagles Offense vs. Redskins Defense
Eagles Passing Game vs. Redskins Secondary
Michael Vick's coming out part last year- the game where he really (at least at the time) cemented himself as a top QB in the league- came against Washington. If the Eagles want to win this week, he will need to do it again. This time, however, Vick faces a much improved Redskins secondary.
Washington has been great against the pass this season, allowing only 212 yards per game through the air. That number is good for 8th in the league, but the Redskins have also kept teams out of the endzone. The 3 passing touchdowns the Redskins have allowed is nearly 1/4th of the passing touchdowns surrendered by the Eagles. This could be a problem for a pass happy Eagles team that has been struggling in the redzone.
The Eagles passing game has stepped up in the past few weeks, as they have moved the ball against the Bills and 49ers. While points have not always been the end result, that has not stopped the Eagles from jumping up the board to now be the 8th best passing team in the NFL. No team this season has showed it can shut down this Eagles offense, as they have scored 31, 35, 16, 23, and 24 points in their 5 games.
Eagles Running Game vs. Redskins Front Seven
Much like the passing matchup, the Eagles rushing attack versus the Redskins rush defense will pit two of the top units in the league against each other.
The Redskins are currently 6th in the NFL against the run, allowing just under 85 yards per game on the ground. They do this behind a strong defensive line and an outstanding group of linebackers in Ryan Kerrigan, Lond Fletcher and Brian Orakpo. While the Redskins have not allowed a lot of yards on the ground, they have not been tested as much as other teams. Teams have rushed against the Redskins 78 times this season, least in the NFL. While that is likely because of how good they have been against it, Washington has allowed 4.3 yards per carry, which put them at 19th in the NFL in that cateagory. For some perspective, the Eagles rushing defense allows only .7 yards more per carry.
Don't expect that number to go up much this weekend, as Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg will not likely test the Redskins rushing defense very much. Despite being 1st in the NFL in rushing yards per game, the Eagles have shown this season- and really the whole Reid era- that they will abandon the run.
Eagles Defense vs. Redskins Offense
Eagles Secondary vs. Redskins Passing Attack
The Eagles much hyped secondary is in need of a week much like Week 1, where they faced a pedestrian group of receivers who they over whelmed purely on talent. They get that this week in the Washington Redskins, whose talent at the wide out position is only slightly better then that of the St. Louis Rams. The key difference in Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney is that they are veterans. So while they may not longer possese the skill they once had, they can still make the Eagles pay if their cornerbacks fall to sleep. Fortunitly for the Eagles, they have not made many teams pay this season, as the Redskins are 19th in the NFL in passing yards per game.
Like the offense, the defense- especially in the secondary- has been marked with dumb penalties and giving up big plays. Take away a few bad plays, and the Eagles secondary is actually still one of the best in the league. They are 7th in yards allowed, although it would be hard pressed to find someone who actually thinks this defense should be ranked that high.
Still, facing Rex Grossman and a sub par group of receivers, the Eagles secondary should have their way with them.
Eagles Front Seven vs. Redskins Rushing Offense
Let's keep this short and sweet: The Redskins bread and butter then season has been the rushing game, as they are 8th in the league in yards allowed. They do it with Tim Hightower, who while has been impressive at times, still is not an elite back in the NFL.
But does it matter? At this point, the Eagles rushing defense could line up against Temple and still be in trouble.
Sometimes, reputation rules in the NFL. Like a superstar in the NBA who always gets the call, certain franchises- Pittsburgh, New England, Indianapolis (until this year)- will be favored in games they should not be because of past success, and a feeling amongst experts that they couldn't possibly lose this game.
Last week in Buffalo, you have to think the Eagles hit rock bottom as players, coaches, and really in recent years, as a franchise. They looked disinterested at times, sloppy at others, and overall like a team that is simply unable to win right now.
However, the defense still looked good in the second half and the offense seemed to put everything together. If they are not playing Buffalo in Buffalo, it's hard to imagine they don't squeak out a win. The Bills are playing great right now, and just like everything seems to be going wrong for the Eagles, things are going right for the Bills. While it was a crushing loss, it was against a good team in their building.
Still, the Eagles could have won, and really beat themselves, which oddly enough, is a good sign going into Washington. If they can play close to the game they played last week, they should be able to beat the Redskins.
It's hard to see the Eagles losing this game. Not with so much on the line. Can Rex Grossman and Tim Hightower end the Eagles season in Week 6? Most likely not.
Despite turing the ball over time and time again, this Eagles offense still scores, and should be able to win this game by simply outscoring a Redskins offense that is not explosive or threatening.
It comes downs to this. Win the game, and the Eagles go into the Bye Week very much alive in the division, and the dream still alive.
Lose the game, and the dream is over.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Redskins 17
Follow Buzz on Broad Eagles Beat Writer Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks
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