Washington Redskins (9-6) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (6-9)
January 1, 2006 at 4:15pm
Lincoln Financial Center
FOX Sports (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver)
The Redskins gave their fans a tremendous Christmas gift last week when they defeated the New York Giants to move within a game of the NFC East lead as well as one game closer to looking up their first playoff appearance since 1999. The win, the Redskins fourth in a row, was not without a cost as Mark Brunell went down with a sprained right knee in the third quarter. He was relieved by Patrick Ramsey, who led the team to a touchdown to lock up the game. Brunell’s status for the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles remains uncertain, but the team and Coach Gibbs remain optimistic that the 35-year-old veteran will be available for the critical road game.
This week’s match up between longtime NFC East rivals is a stark contrast from last season when the Eagles were the team getting ready for the post season and the Redskins were the team looking forward to the off-season after a long and disappointing campaign. The Eagles, who prior to the November 6th loss to the Redskins at FedEx Field had won seven straight over the Redskins, can now play spoiler by beating Washington. The Eagles are 4-3 at home this season but have not lost to the Redskins at home since 2001. A loss would give the Eagles their first winless season in divisional play since 1972. The Redskins on the other hand are 3-4 on the road this season and with a win would sweep the Eagles in a season for the first time since 1988. A win would guarantee the Redskins their first post season berth since 1999. They would win the NFC East crown if the Giants are upended on the road by the Raiders on Saturday night. If the Giants win, the Redskins would enter the playoffs as a Wild Card and would have a game next weekend. The Redskins also could make the playoffs even if they lose their game against the Eagles and the Cowboys lose to the Rams on Sunday night but Coach Gibbs will none of that thinking within Redskins Park. He has gone on the record to state that no one on the team is thinking of anything but beating the Eagles and punching their own ticket for the post season.
The Redskins offense (334 yards per game, 12th in NFL) faces an Eagles defense that has allowed an average of 27.8 points per game over their last four contests. While it remains to be seen if and how much Mark Brunell will play in the game, the Redskins should be able to move the ball effectively on the ground as the Eagles are allowing 115.5 yards per game (20th). Getting Clinton Portis and the running game on track will be paramount if Ramsey is given the reigns to the offense to give Brunell time to recover from the knee injury he suffered last week. Brunell has stated that he is “day to day” and the knee is getting better each day. No doubt he will want to play and considering that he is 3-0 with a passer rating of 96.8 against the Eagles, it might be hard to keep him off the field. Coach Gibbs has confidence in his veteran quarterback, who has returned to Pro Bowl form this season, connecting on 253 of 429 passes for 2,909 yards with 22 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. His 87.8 passer rating is third best in the NFC. Brunell needs 3 touchdown passes to be the first Redskin quarterback since Mark Rypien (1991) to reach 25 touchdown passes in a season. The Eagles defense allows 213.0 yards per game (21st) through the air and more than a hundred yards (115.5, 20th) on the ground. The Redskin running game, which many feel has been the catalyst for the offense during the current four game winning streak has been powered by Portis and the dominant offensive line. During the four game winning streak, Portis has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in every contest. He needs only 29 rushing yards to break the Redskins single season yardage record (1,432 yards) held by Stephen Davis. As any good running game will do, it has allowed the passing game to flourish as Santana Moss has enjoyed a Pro Bowl season as comes off a 160 yard, 2 touchdown game against the Giants. That performance gave him the NFC Offensive Player of the Week. Also enjoying a breakout season is Chris Cooley. Cooley has scored five touchdowns in the last four weeks and is becoming more and more of a threat for defenses to worry about. He owns the team record for receptions by a tight end and needs only 84 yards for the club record for yardage by a tight end (849) currently held by Jerry Smith. The Eagles will be facing one of the most dangerous offenses at a time when they seem to be firing on all cylinders.
On the defensive side of the ball, the current cast of characters operating the Eagles offense bears little resemblance to the one that represented the NFC in last year’s Super Bowl. It is an offense without McNabb, Westbrook, and Owens and with only LJ Smith as the only proven threat in the passing offense as well as a rookie running back in Ryan Moats, they lack the confidence and swagger that has allowed the Eagles to dominant the NFC East for so long. The Eagles passing attack (229.2 YPG, 8th) continues to be the focal point of Andy Reid’s offense but with Mike McMahon running the show instead of Donovan McNabb and losing Brian Westbrook to injury, Reid has been forced to use his rookie (Moats) in a running game that ranks 28th in the league with an average of 89.1 yards per game. Moats, however, has taken advantage of his time in the lineup as he has posted 205 yards (6.4 yards per carry) with 3 touchdowns on the ground in the Eagles’ last three games. The Redskins defense (295.5 YPG, 7th) has been quite impressive during their post season push and should be able to contain the Eagles offense. McMahon has yet to show that he can carry the offense through the air and has hurt himself with turnovers. He has connected on 78 of 176 passes for 924 yards with 3 touchdowns and 7 interceptions since taking over as the starter for the injured McNabb. At home, McMahon has not found his comfort zone either. In three starts, he has only completed 43% of his passes and has yet to throw a touchdown pass. Not all the problems can be laid at the feet of McMahon, however, as injuries have affected the offensive line as well and they have not responded well. After allowing only 20 sacks through the first 11 games, the Eagles have surrendered 18 in their last 4 games. The Redskins defensive front, especially led by the play of Phillip Daniels, has stepped up their play and applied pressure to opposing quarterbacks allowing the defense to get away from constant need for the blitzing that is so common with Gregg Williams’ schemes. The Eagles still have some weapons in their arsenal with Greg Lewis, Reggie Brown and Billy McMullen but as a unit they have struggled to get consistent production. Reggie Brown is second among NFL rookies with 494 receiving yards and is third with 36 receptions. The Redskins pass defense (189.5 YPG, 9th) has overcome early troubles to become a solid unit.
The Redskins have an opportunity to put an exclamation mark on a season that few expected them to have. While they may not win the division, the fact that they can put themselves in the playoffs in a season in which they will have swept both the Eagles and Cowboys is quite satisfying. The Redskins cannot take the depleted Eagles squad lightly however as they need this win to clinch their spot in the playoffs. Considering the magnitude of the game for the Redskins, count on Coach Gibbs and the coaching staff to have the team focused squarely on the Eagles.
- The Redskins hold the advantage in the series 73-62-5; with the Eagles winning 7 of last 8 meetings.
- Coach Gibbs is 18-10 against the Eagles while Andy Reid is 9-4 against the Redskins.
- Coach Gibbs’ 155 victories place him 12th in NFL history.
- The Eagles will finish last in the NFC East for the first time since Andy Reid’s first year as Head Coach (1999).
- Santana Moss needs only 37 yards to break Bobby Mitchell’s record for receding yards in a season (1,436 yards).
- Moss needs 1 touchdown catch to be the first Redskin receiver to reach 10 in a season since Gary Clark (10 in 1991).
- Phillip Daniels needs 3 sacks for first career 10 sack season.