It seems like an entire season ago, but it’s been just over three weeks since the Eagles were entrenched in first place and were big favorites to breeze into the playoffs as the NFC East champs.
But back-to-back losses following their Thanksgiving Day massacre to the Seahawks and Cowboys have them stuck in seventh place and scratching at the feet of the six playoff spots.
Needing losses from other teams in the NFC, all the Birds can do is focus on earning their 10th win for the second year in a row down inLandover, MD.
Here are three of the biggest keys for the Eagles’ success in their Week 16 matchup vs. Washington:
1.Stop turning the ball over
To say the Eagles are prone to turning the ball over is a bit of an understatement.
Like everything else the Eagles do, they turn the ball over with authority.
The Birds lead the NFL with 33 giveaways, lead the league in interceptions with 19 and rank 25th in turnover differential at -8.
The only reason the Eagles are able to boast a 9-5 record is their ability to score on special teams and defense, as well as some fortunate instances where turnovers didn’t prove costly.
But hoping for defensive scoring or lucky bounces isn’t the way for a team to make the playoffs.
“It’s still something that you have to clean up,” Chip Kelly said. “It’s something that we need to continue to work on and we need to continue to fix because you’re not going to win games when you turn the ball over that many times. You’re giving the other team an opportunity and you’re also not giving yourself an opportunity.”
Washington is 26th the league with just 16 takeaways, offering a nice respite for the Eagles.
2.Keep Griffin III under wraps
The first time Philly played Washington, it was Kirk Cousins under center.
The young quarterback threw for over 400 yards and nearly upset the Eagles before a comeback got the Birds to 3-0 at the beginning of the season.
This time, another mobile quarterback will try to take down the Eagles (like Russell Wilson did in Week 14).
Robert Griffin III, who was benched earlier this year but has taken over due to injuries to Colt McCoy and Cousins is auditioning for a job in 2015. And it makes him dangerous.
“I know he can run and I know he can throw,” Kelly said. “That’s what we’re preparing for. We’re preparing for the best.”
If there was a golden opportunity for the Eagles defensive line, this is it.
The Eagles have the second most sacks in the NFL with 47. The Redskins have allowed the second most in the NFL with 53.
Connor Barwin has 14.5 sacks to lead the Eagles and the NFC.
If the Eagles can take care of business against the battered Redskins offensive line, and perhaps a still recovering Griffin III, things could get out of hand in Washington.
Working in Washington’s favor is last week’s injury to Trent Cole. With Cole out, Brandon Graham will make his first Eagles start since 2012.