By Dylan MacKinnon
A win for the Eagles on Sunday could clinch their spot in the playoffs. They will not know if it does until after The Packers-Viking game on Sunday Night, but if a few things go right, they could already have a Wildcard spot clinched before stepping on the Field the following week vs Dallas.
Given that Dallas is one of the better teams in the NFC, it is certainly ideal to not have to count on a win vs them to make the playoffs. And to achieve that they first need to take care of their own business in Washington. Once they get a win, they can focus on watching for the rest of the pieces to fall in line. They will need a Vikings loss, and either a 49ers win or a Saints loss. They can only control their own part in it. So a win on Sunday is a must.
But what do they need to do to achieve that? Despite already beating Washington, it will be a bit different this time. The last time Washington had most of their team on the Covid list. That is no longer the case. Washington will be at mostly full strength. Although Washington at full strength is still not a great team. But its game Eagles can not take lightly. This team despite all the problems has beaten a couple teams they shouldn’t, including the Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers.
Here are the keys the Eagles should follow in order to win this game.
1)Run the Ball
It is not just a thing drunk Eagles fans shout at Lincoln Financial Field in hopes the coach will hear them. In the Eagles case, it is genuinely the best path to Victory. They have been one of the most dangerous offenses in the league according to the numbers since they became a run first team. They have scored on almost 52% of their drives over this stretch. And don’t tell me its because they have played bad teams. Yea the teams they played may be bad, but several had great run defenses. The Saints in particular was an impressive display. They came in the top run defense in the league. The Eagles more than tripled the average rushing yards the Saints allowed per game going into that week.
They are the best running team in the league. Even with no Mile Sanders they should be able to run all over this Washington team. Let this O Line go to work. The O line is by far your biggest strength. Take advantage of it.
2) Throw it to Smith and Goedert
Obviously they cant run it every single play. They will have to throw it over 20 times at the least even with a run first attack. And when they do throw it, they need to mostly be targeting two guys. Devonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. Both these guys should be getting near double digit targets a game. Both are capable of making great plays every time the ball goes their way. They are far and away the best weapons on the team, and there is steep decline in options in the passing game after them.
3) Get Pressure on Whoever is At QB
We know this wont be via the Blitz. Jonathan Gannon has his scheme, and that wont change. But they still need to get pressure on the QB. The 4 man rush, whether it is Josh Sweat, Javon Hargrave, Milton Williams, Fletcher Cox, or whomever, they have to get to him. With the soft coverage style, a semi accurate QB can bleed this Eagles defense with dozens of short to mid range passes.
I am confident Darius Slay can match up to whoever he is covering on any given snap. I like the chances of Avonte Maddox covering his man, same with Rodney McLeod. But when it comes to Anthony Harris or Steven nelson, or the linebackers, they can be beat. It may not be a deep shot, but that doesn’t matter if they score anyway.
Better to not take that chance, and have your defensive line wreck havoc and not let Heineke or Allen settle in. Get pressure and you force early and unadvisable passes. And that is how you get turnovers. The defensive line needs to play up to what it is getting paid. because if they don’t get pressure, QBs will have all day because their are no additional ass rushers coming on most plays.
4) Don’t Let Them Hang Around
Eagles eventually won the last game vs Washington by 10, but it was pretty close for much of the game. It was not a big deal that time since they had Garrett Gilbert in at QB, and were not going to be capable of a comeback win. But Taylor Heineke is back for this game. And while he has not exactly been good, he has gotten the Football team wins in close games. Despite the 6-9 overall record, they are 5-1 in games decided by 6 points or less.
The Eagles might not get away with starting slow a third time in a row. It is better for them, and for our health as fans, if they get on this team early, and put the game away. This Washington team is not good, but they are capable of taking advantage if a team lets them stick around. They managed to beat Tampa Bay, they are more than capable of beating the Eagles if the Eagles don’t give their A game.