Eagles-Redskins predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Redskins predictions by our (cough) experts

Ready for some football?

The Eagles kick off Year 2 under Carson Wentz when they visit the Redskins on Sunday (1 p.m./FOX).

How will the 2017 season start for Doug Pederson and company?

Our experts provide their Week 1 predictions:

Reuben Frank
Yeah, the Redskins have won five straight over the Eagles, but this is a different team.

DeSean Jackson is gone, Pierre Garcon is gone and the biggest advantage the Redskins had during that five-game winning streak was that outside speed against the Eagles' overmatched cornerbacks. The Redskins still have decent receivers and a quarterback in Kirk Cousins, who has the fifth-highest passer rating ever against the Eagles.

But they don't have that explosive speed, and the Eagles finally do have some speed at outside cornerback, although how that rebuilt secondary performs remains to be seen. Carson Wentz didn't play well in Washington last year — he completed only 11 passes — but I expect much more consistency in Year 2, especially on the road and especially early in games.

So Wentz throws for 278 yards, Wendell Smallwood has a combined 112 rushing and receiving yards, Derek Barnett begins his career with 1 1/2 sacks and the Eagles open the season with a win over the Redskins at FedEx Field.

Eagles 27, Redskins 20

Dave Zangaro
The Eagles have lost their last five games to Washington, and Washington hasn't won in an opener since Jay Gruden took over three years ago. 

So something has to give. 

And it's going to be the Eagles' five-game losing streak to their division rival. Simply put, the Eagles are just the better team. And they have been really good in openers, winning five of their last six and seven of their last nine. 

Even with the addition of Terrelle Pryor, I'm not sure Washington is going to be the same team without Jackson and Garcon. And the Eagles will have Lane Johnson back for this game after playing both against Washington last season without him. 

It's a big game for the Eagles and I think they start off with a win. 

Eagles 27, Redskins 19 

Derrick Gunn
So many unknown elements to figure into the equation. Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Pryor, Josh Doctson. How will they all fit into this divisional rivalry?

Gruden is beginning his fourth year as the Redskins' head coach, but he's 0-3 in season openers. How will Doug Pederson distribute the ball among his running backs?

Big things are expected from Wentz in Year 2. In five career games against the Eagles, Cousins has feasted on the Birds. He's averaged 315 yards and completed just under 64 percent of his passes against the Eagles with 12 touchdown passes to just three interceptions. He's been sacked just five times against the Eagles.

An improved Eagles defensive front cannot allow Cousins to get in a rhythm. Four of the last five meetings between the Eagles-'Skins have been decided by seven points or fewer. Washington has won the last five, but in this latest knockdown drag-out brawl, the Eagles flip the script.

Eagles 27, Redskins 26

Ray Didinger
The Redskins seem to have the Eagles' number. They won the last five meetings, the last four with Cousins at quarterback. Cousins picked the Eagles apart (65 percent completions, nine TDs, two interceptions) because they weren't able to pressure him. Give Cousins time in the pocket, let him throw in rhythm, he is very effective. Knock him around, he will make mistakes.

That's the key to beating the Redskins. They don't run the ball very much — or very well — so it is all about Cousins and the receivers. This will be a good test for the Eagles and their new pass rush with Tim Jernigan at tackle and Barnett and Chris Long on the edge. Will they finally be able to win the battle against Washington's stout offensive line? I think they will and that will be the difference.

Eagles 28, Redskins 24

Andrew Kulp
I'm not a big believer in Cousins. Take Jackson out of the equation, and watch Cousins regress. Malcolm Jenkins generally does a good job limiting Jordan Reed, too. Washington's offense simply doesn't scare me.

As long as Lane Johnson can prevent Ryan Kerrigan from running amok in the Eagles' backfield, I foresee big games from Zach Ertz and Smith while Jeffery is keeping Josh Norman occupied. Wentz looks like a different quarterback with all these weapons.

Eagles 20, Redskins 10

Corey Seidman
The Redskins look slightly worse on paper than they did in 2015 or '16. It's Week 1 of a new season, so there isn't much more than paper to go on. 

I think Jeffery makes his presence felt with a few impressive 1-on-1 catches against Norman, Ertz goes for 90 yards and a TD, and Pryor has an inauspicious Redskins debut. 

Eagles 27, Redskins 17

Andy Schwartz
As Corey pointed out in his fantasy outlook, Washington's front-seven isn't what it was last season. It still features Kerrigan, but he'll be facing Johnson, not Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who started for a suspended Johnson the last time the Eagles played at FedEx Field. 

Wentz will have more time to throw, and he'll have better guys to throw to. Ronald Darby will contain Pryor, and barring a miraculous return by John Riggins, the Eagles' D should handle the run.

Eagles 24, Redskins 20

Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants


Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants

The Eagles will have a new quarterback this weekend, but they might not be able to protect him as well as they hope. 

Starting left guard Stefen Wisniewski will officially be listed as questionable for Sunday's game because of an ankle injury. 

Wiz had to leave the Rams game in the first half and did not return. He missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday. 

"We'll see where he's at today," head coach Doug Pederson said on Friday. 

After Wisniewski came out of the Rams game, he was replaced by Chance Warmack, who was then replaced by Isaac Seumalo. 

It sounds like Warmack will have the first chance to play this weekend if Wisniewski can't go. 

"We've worked Chance at that position this week," Pederson said. "Isaac has obviously gotten some reps really at all the positions but that would be the most logical."

Seumalo actually began the season as the team's starting left guard after he won the position in the offseason. From there, Warmack got the first crack at replacing him when he was benched, but Warmack couldn't keep the job, eventually giving way to a rotation before Wisniewski simply took over. The line has been much better since Wiz took over the starting job in Week 3. 

Alshon Jeffery and Steven Means, who both missed Thursday's practice with illnesses, will be back on the practice field on Friday. Both should be fine for this weekend's game. 

The Eagles will practice outside in 28-degree weather on Friday as they prepare for Sunday's outdoor game at MetLife Stadium. 

No word on the condition of the recycling can Jason Kelce kicked inside the bubble after getting cleated on Thursday. At least the outdoor practice will give it another day of rest. 

Lucky for Nick Foles, his go-to guy is back

USA Today Images

Lucky for Nick Foles, his go-to guy is back

Nick Foles won't see many familiar faces when he makes his first start for the Eagles in over three years, but at least one of his go-to receivers is still around.

Foles hasn't been in the lineup for a week, and the Eagles quarterback is already getting reinforcements. Zach Ertz cleared the concussion protocol on Wednesday and is expected to play against the Giants on Sunday, adding a valuable weapon to the offense, and reuniting a dynamic duo in the process.

"I feel good, ready to go," Ertz said Wednesday following his first practice back. "Tough week last week obviously not being able to play, but it was the right decision at the time and I'm excited for this week."

Ertz was a rookie when Foles took over as the starting quarterback in 2013, posting a modest 36 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns. Yet Ertz really only began to flourish once the job belonged to Foles permanently.

The fifth-year tight end — perhaps on his way to his first Pro Bowl this season — even caught his first NFL touchdown from Foles.

"That was a long time ago, against the Raiders when he was fricking throwing everyone touchdowns," Ertz said this week. "We had a lot of good games together."

Their connection was almost instantaneous. At the time, Brent Celek was still the starter at tight end and getting the bulk of the snaps. Ertz still managed to catch five touchdowns in the Eagles' remaining nine games, including one against in the Saints in the playoffs. Ertz had five or more receptions three times during that span.

"That's my first year in the league, his second year in the league," Ertz said. "He was playing at an unbelievable level. He's still the same quarterback, and we're excited to have him."

Their rapport continued into 2014. Ertz had 25 receptions for 358 yards with two touchdowns when Foles was lost for the season with a broken collarbone.

Ertz acknowledged a quarterback change at this stage of the season can be difficult. Clearly, It's not uncharted territory, either. Even when Foles finally nailed down the job in '13, it was already Week 9, after weeks of going back and forth with Michael Vick.

It took time for the Eagles to make the right decision under center, but they eventually got it right, and it wound up being a historic season. Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a game against the Raiders, and made NFL history at the end of the season with a 27-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The transition from Carson Wentz to Foles may not go that smoothly, but Ertz has reason to feel confident everything will be fine.

"It's definitely not the easiest thing switching quarterbacks, but there's a lot of familiarity with Nick," Ertz said. "The coaches understand what Nick does well. (Eagles coach Doug Pederson) has been with him for a long time.

"With Nick, he throws such an easy ball to catch that there's not a real adjustment period in terms of catching the ball. Some quarterbacks throw a tough ball to catch, but Nick's ball is really easy to catch and it makes it easy for receivers."

Foles already survived his first relief appearance, and that was without Ertz. With the tight end and security blanket inactive against the Rams, Foles was able to lead the Eagles on two scoring drives that ended with field goals, including the game-winner.

Again, that was sans Ertz. Imagine what Foles might be able to do with one of the Eagles' top receivers.

Ertz has 57 receptions for 663 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He was on pace for 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns earlier in the campaign but missed a game for the concussion, and another with a hamstring.

Maybe Ertz can still get there over the final three weeks with Foles at the helm. He certainly isn't afraid to push the ball down the field anyway.

"He loves the slinging the ball," Ertz said. "That's what he's been doing his whole career.

"He's a great quarterback. We're excited to have him. I don't think there's anybody else in this situation that we would rather have."

Either way, Foles-to-Ertz is going to feel like a blast from the past. Maybe that connection can help keep the Eagles rolling in December and through the playoffs.