The Eagles have had some games to forget against division rival Washington in recent seasons. They will look to put an end to a three-game losing streak against the Redskins this weekend at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.
The last two times the Eagles have played in the Capital Beltway region, the games have ended in disaster. Of course, Carson Wentz wasn't the quarterback for either of those games, nor did the defense have the aggressive look that it has now. Hopefully that means a different outcome this time around.
In Week 16 of the 2014 season, the Eagles needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Though the previous week's result against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football proved to be the fatal blow in their season, a dreadful Washington team edged the Eagles, 27-24. A late turnover from Mark Sanchez -- no surprise -- ended Philadelphia's playoff chances. Even with a win, Dallas would have still claimed the NFC East -- but a playoff berth remained attainable.
Last season during a Week 4 matchup between the Eagles and Redskins at FedEx Field as well, the result hurt even more. Kirk Cousins led a 90-yard drive in the final minute to beat the Eagles, 23-20. Pierre Garcon's touchdown catch with 26 seconds left sealed the Birds' fate. They fell to 1-3 at that point of the season, and never recovered from there.
And finally, the Eagles lost to the Redskins, 38-24, in a Week 16 matchup at home last season. That ended their division title hopes, and Washington claimed the NFC East crown at the Linc. The Saturday night game on the day after Christmas was the final game Chip Kelly coached in Philadelphia, as he was shockingly fired three days later. Washington's blowout win against a faltering Eagles' squad can be partly thanked for that outcome.
Now, fast forward to 2016. The Eagles roster might not be dramatically different, but the results have been more positive through four games. It will be the team's first NFC East contest, with two more to go in the next three weeks. This part of the schedule is the most important, though the remainder of the season is filled with difficult matchups and uncertain outcomes.
For the players that have been here since 2014, they know in the back of their minds what it has felt like losing to the Redskins the last three times they have met. It should have left a bad taste in their mouths. The performance against the division is the most crucial moving forward, and it starts this week.
Since 2010, the Eagles-Redskins matchup has produced a record of 6-6. In the 2000s, the Birds dominated the rivalry with a record of 13-7. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Redskins dominated the season series. It has been a back-and-forth battle between the division foes for years, and the Eagles will look to turn the tides, beginning on Sunday.
The Redskins have won three games in a row after an 0-2 start, beating the Giants, Browns and Ravens during that stretch. Washington's offense has been pass-oriented so far, as they have thrown the ball 193 times compared to 105 rushing attempts.
Tight end Jordan Reed is the team's biggest threat, as he has been targeted a team-high 45 times and leads in receptions (33) and yards (316). Reed is tied for first in touchdown receptions (2) with Jamison Crowder. Crowder has also been a threat in the punt return game, as he has 194 return yards and a touchdown. His 85-yard punt return TD was the difference in last week's win against the Ravens.
Washington's defense has been mediocre through five games. Loud-mouth Josh Norman has backed up his words with solid play. Norman has eight passes defensed and one interception. With the Eagles not having a No. 1 downfield threat, he won't have to focus on one offensive option this week. The 'Skins are allowing 24.4 points per game, which ranks 19th in the NFL. They are allowing 130 rush yards per game, which is third to last in the league, plus 262 passing yards per game, which ranks 20th.
With a five-game sample size of stats accumulated so far in 2016, the Redskins are proving to be a similar product to last year. They finished 9-7 in 2015, claiming the weak NFC East by winning four in a row against teams with losing records. This year, they are headed towards a 7-to-9-win season. Their defense is marginally better, but still far from elite, and the offense relies too much on Cousins.
On Sunday, the Eagles will look to erase the memories of the last three matchups with the Redskins. It is a favorable matchup to get back on the winning track. Defensively, there should be opportunities to make some plays and put the offense in fair to great field position.
Currently a two-point favorite on the road against Washington, the Birds are expected to win. Whether, they deliver on those expectations remains to be seen. The NFL is always a mystery with a continued mediocre product.