Eagles continue playoff push in rematch with Washington
As Philadelphia has made a playoff push, winning five of its last six, the Eagles have benefited from good fortune as many of its recent opponents have been quarterback challenged.
During the span, Philadelphia has beaten quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater (Broncos), Trevor Siemian (Saints), Garrett Gilbert (Washington), Mike Glennon (Giants) and rookie Zach Wilson (Jets).
On Sunday, when Philadelphia (8-7) plays at Washington (6-9), the Eagles will again face a skidding Washington team still struggling with a shaky quarterback situation. While Taylor Heinicke is set to start, Washington coach Ron Rivera has said that backup Kyle Allen also is likely to play.
In his last two starts, both against the Cowboys, Heinicke went a combined 18-of-47 for 243 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, while yielding eight sacks.
Philadelphia currently holds the final playoff slot in the NFC and can capture a playoff berth with wins in its last two games, including on Jan. 9 at home against the Cowboys. It might not even take two victories to secure a spot ahead of Minnesota (7-8), New Orleans (7-8) and Atlanta (7-8), as the Eagles have wins in hand over the Saints and Falcons, giving them an edge in many tie-breaking scenarios.
“How do you get a little bit better each day?” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said of his approach this season. “When you’re in this trajectory, I don’t think every team thinks that way. If you can get a little better and other people level out at the end of the year, you’re gonna pass other teams.”
Washington (6-9) has yet to be eliminated but is on life support as it needs to win out and have a series of calamities strike other wildcard contenders. After its third straight loss, a humiliating 56-14 defeat Sunday at Dallas, the team’s resilience will be tested.
“There’s a sliver of hope and we’ll see if that’s enough to get motivated to play,” Rivera said. “It’s gonna tell me a lot about who we are and who we have.”
Another factor for the recent success of the Eagles has been their rushing attack. In winning six of its last eight, Philadelphia has averaged 204 yards on the ground, after posting an average of 116.7 yards in its first seven games.
Sustaining the success might be difficult with top rusher Miles Sanders (754 yards, 5.5 yards per carry) out with a broken hand. Sanders had his season high 131 yards in Philadelphia’s 27-17 win over Washington on Dec. 21.
The status of backup Jordan Howard (stinger) is uncertain, leaving Boston Scott as the next best option. Scott (326 yards, 4.5 yards per carry) has produced in limited chances.
“Every time he’s called upon, he’s come through,” Sirianni said of Scott. “We’ve got four backs I think a lot of teams would like to have.”
In surrendering 519 yards in its recent defeat at Philadelphia, Washington was hampered by the loss of five starters and several key reserves to the COVID-19 list. The virus claimed both Heinicke and Allen, leaving Gilbert to run the offense. Washington has since regained Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff and safety Kam Curl. The team’s top tackler, Cole Holcomb, also returns from the virus list after missing the Cowboys game.
–Field Level Media