Week 5: Skinning the Birds Part II
This week the Redskins find themselves not merely attempting to knock down another battle tested team, they are going against one of the NFL Elite and division champs. The Eagles have been to the NFC championship game for two straight years, and just last week, started to play like it. Because they faltered early in the season, the Eagles need a win to keep close to the Redskins, Dallas Cowboys (2-1) and New York Giants (2-1) in the division race. The question will be can an Eagles team with a decimated secondary and the off-field insanity brought on by Rush Limbaugh focus enough to beat the Redskins at home – we certainly hope not! While many Redskins fans would like to see victory well at hand by the fourth quarter, this does not appear to be the week. Look for another close, hard fought game.
Keys to Victory
The Rush Factor: The national flap in the NFL this week dealt with Rush Limbaugh's comments on Sunday's ESPN NFL Countdown, in which he stated that Donovan McNabb was over-rated because he was black. Ignoring the idiocy of these comments (we Redskins fans remember what he did to us last year), one of the keys this week concerns how McNabb responds: Will he go crazy trying to prove something and end up forcing poorly thrown balls into double coverage or will he become "ultra-focused" and pick the Skins apart? Nobody knows the answer to this, but suffice to say, a larger audience will be watching just to find out this answer. Regardless, thanks to Rush, the Eagles as a team probably have not focused on football the way they would have preferred.
The Redskins Passing Attack: The Eagles are 31st overall in pass defense but 1st overall in rush defense. While Spurrier has said all the right things about a balanced offense, we know the truth to be different. The Redskins have had success rushing the ball to date, but it's pretty clear that the Skins will not be able to employ the rush to set up the pass this week. If the Redskins have a good rushing day, it will only be after they have "lit up the sky" with their passing attack. With secondary starters Bobby Taylor and Brian Dawkins out and Troy Vincent doubtful, the Redskins should be in prime position to draw blood.
The only thing holding back the Redskins passing attack will be an ever present, ever shifting blitzing pass rush led by former Skin N.D. Kalu. If the Skins cannot halt the pass rush, their chances for victory diminish greatly as sacks and Redskins turnovers will become the late day highlight reel. If the Skins are going to win this one, look for Patrick Ramsey to have another career day with both Coles and Gardner getting in the 100+ receiving yard range.
The Eagles Running Game: After a beginning hiatus, The three-headed Eagle "running attack by committee" approach (Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook) has started to come alive. Last week in Buffalo, the Eagles ran for 177 yards and dominated the time of possession. On the other side of the ball, after an early burst of success, the Redskins running defense is starting to sprout some holes. With offensive tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas, the Eagles have a real shot for a repeat running performance. The Skins first and foremost job on defense must be to find a way to slow the running game. If the Eagles running game "earns its wings" for the second straight week, this will open up McNabb's passing attack, which will lead to a very long afternoon for Skins fans.
The Big Play Battle:
The Redskins are going into hostile territory playing a team that has been to the NFL championship game two years in a row. Keys to victory have to include winning decisively the big play battle. The Skins need some home run strikes to pull this out, either by offensive bombs to Coles and Gardner, the much promised special teams returns by Morton or defensive turnovers like we had last week. If the Skins do not decisively win the big play battle, look for an Eagles victory.
If the Redskins play as careless as they have been, this won't be another close nail-biter, it will be an Eagles blow-out. The Skins have to play consistently clean. This means no off-sides, no false starts, no late hits and no turnovers. They are good enough to win this game, but only if they rise to the occasion.
TheHogs.net staff feels the Redskins can pull this one out. They will be focused and play a clean game in a hostile environment. Look for Redskins to win a close one in the air with a final score of 24-21.
This article was released on 2003-10-04.
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