A couple of weeks ago, it appeared as if Philadelphia Eagles season was going down the drain as they lost to the Dallas Cowboys at home and then followed it up with an ugly loss a week later against the New Orleans Saints.
However, they now have new life when it comes to the NFC East race, despite the Cowboys pulling the upset over Saints on Thursday night. If the Eagles (5-6) can beat Washington (6-5) on Monday night (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN), they will only be one game behind Dallas for the division lead.
It will not be an easy game for the defending Super Bowl champs as they have still played a complete game yet. Also, Washington is looking to snap their two-game losing streak, after losing to Dallas, 31-23, on Thanksgiving.
What must the Eagles do to secure a much-needed victory in prime time? Here are three things to watch out for in this Week 13 division battle.
1. Keeping a balanced offensive attack
Last Sunday against the New York Giants, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh did a great job by mistake of having a balanced offensive attack.
After only giving eight total carries to both Corey Clement and Josh Adams in the first half, the Eagles made it an emphasis to pound the rock with Adams in the second half.
The undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame did a great job of moving the chains and racked up 80 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the final two quarters. The 6-foot-2 Adams has 291 rushing yards over the last three games and is making it clear that he is Philly’s lead back.
Furthermore, in their five wins this season, the Eagles are averaging 127 yards per game on the ground. If this is the case, then that is good news for quarterback Carson Wentz, who only had one touchdown pass last week but did not have any turnovers.
For the Eagles to have a chance to win, Pederson and the rest of Eagles’ offensive coaching staff must feed Adams but also mix in Clement, which should open up things for Wentz in the passing game.
2. Forcing Colt McCoy to win the game
Heading into Monday night’s contest, Washington is looking to get back on the winning side of things with newly cemented starting quarterback Colt McCoy. McCoy made his first start on Thanksgiving after they lost Alex Smith the previous week to a season-ending leg injury.
In his first start against Dallas, McCoy did not look great as he had three interceptions along with two touchdowns and threw for 268 yards. The Cowboys’ defense also sacked him three times and made it a point of emphasis to shut down Washington’s running game, which only had 80 yards (28 — from McCoy).
Therefore the game plan for the Eagles’ defense is quite simple tonight. If they can contain the running back tandem of Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson, who are both listed as probable for the game and apply pressure to McCoy, then they should come away with a few takeaway opportunities.
Last week, Philly’s defense did a great job of shutting down the Giants’ offense in the second half (56 total yards), after giving up 346 yards of offense in the first half.
3. Wentz might be due for a huge game
If the Eagles want to extend their winning streak and make the playoffs, they will need Wentz to return to his MVP-caliber form from last season.
After having one of the worst games in his career against the Saints, Wentz bounced back last Sunday, completing 71 percent of his passes for 236 yards and a touchdown. While there was not a lot of big plays through the air against the Giants, Wentz made the throws that he needed to.
However, against Washington, the Eagles will need those big passing plays from him. And if history serves us correct, then he should able to do that en route to a huge game.
Last season, the former second overall pick picked Washington’s defense apart for six touchdowns and two interceptions with a completion percentage of 67.4. Overall, Wentz is completing 65.2 percent of his passes for 1,068 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions in four games versus Washington.
In addition to those stats plus Washington’s defense, allowing on average 5.7 first-quarter points over the last three contests, it seems like a prime situation for Wentz to have that breakout game, which we were so used to seeing last season.