For the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles, being in the playoffs to defend their Super Bowl title is not yet guaranteed. It’ll all come down to their Week 17 game against the Washington Redskins. The two NFC East rivals will kick off at 4:25 EST on Sunday, December 30, at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Fans on the east coast will be able to watch the game on Fox.
The Eagles have opened the week as 6.5-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 42 points. Be sure to check out all of this week’s NFL betting odds.
It was a close call, but the Eagles were barely able to keep their postseason hopes alive last week. Despite holding a 13-point lead midway through the 4th quarter, the Eagles found themselves trailing by a point with two minutes left to play. However, Nick Foles (with help from a penalty he drew) led Philadelphia on a game-winning drive to get to 8-7 and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Of course, the Eagles still aren’t in a position to control their own destiny. In addition to beating the Redskins, Philadelphia also needs the Vikings to lose to the Bears in order to earn the final wild-card spot in the NFC. Needless to say, a loss by the Eagles this week will end any hope of returning to the playoffs to defend their crown.
Meanwhile, the Redskins were officially eliminated from playoff contention with last week’s loss to the Titans. Washington got a brief reprieve when they beat Jacksonville a couple of weeks ago. But they’ve been spiraling for nearly two months since losing both Alex Smith and Colt McCoy to season-ending injuries. Amidst those injuries, the Redskins have lost five of their last six games, dropping them to 7-8 on the season.
However, this is still a rivalry game. After sweeping the Redskins last season and beating Washington 28-13 in Week 13, the Eagles have a chance to win four in a row against their NFC East rivals for the first time since 2004 when they won seven in a row. The Redskins, of course, would prefer to avoid such a losing streak. They would also get some satisfaction out of knocking the Eagles out of the playoff picture.
It’s hard not to be impressed with Washington’s effort late in the season, despite how short-handed they are. If not for a pick-six on the final play of the game last week, they would have only lost by three points against a tough Titans team on the road. However, they have another difficult game ahead of them against a Philadelphia team that has found their stride late in the year. I don’t doubt that the Redskins will play hard, but I don’t think they have the horses to hang with the Eagles for four quarters. I’ll lean toward Philadelphia to cover in a must-win game.
I’ll admit to being a little skeptical when Foles was forced into duty in place of an injured Carson Wentz for the second straight season. He’s been incredible over the past two games, throwing for over 700 yards and four touchdowns. Keep in mind that he put up those numbers against two playoff teams in the Rams and Texans. The Philadelphia running game is still lacking, but the team’s wide receivers have suddenly come alive since Foles took over at quarterback.
Meanwhile, the Washington defense is not that reliable. They’ve played well the past couple of weeks against teams with subpar quarterback play. But they won’t have such a luxury this week if Foles continues to play at a high level. Outside of the Jaguars and Buccaneers, the Redskins haven’t held a team to 20 points or less since Week 8, and even at home, they may not be able to keep the Eagles under that total.
If the Redskins are going to stay within striking distance of Philadelphia, their offense will have to produce something substantial. Josh Johnson has probably been a little better than expected during his two starts. However, he’s not been good enough, especially with how limited the Redskins are at the receiver position.
On the bright side, Adrian Peterson’s 119 yards rushing gave them a chance last week against Tennessee. But his big games have become few and far between the second half of the season. Washington may not be able to rely on Peterson and the running game carrying the offense. It’s also worth noting that the Eagles have been a little better against the run the past couple of games. They will also be able to focus on stopping Peterson knowing that Johnson doesn’t give Washington a deep passing threat.
In the end, I expect the Eagles to slowly create separation in this game. I don’t see any let up from Foles after two strong performances whereas Johnson and the Washington offense don’t have enough in their arsenal. With the spread at less than a touchdown, I think it’s reasonable to think the Eagles will cover.