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Need to Know: Inconsistent Eagles, Redskins meet with NFC East on the line

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Need to Know: Inconsistent Eagles, Redskins meet with NFC East on the line

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 23, three days before the Washington Redskins travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles

—How good are the Eagles? Are they as bad as they looked against a couple of mediocre teams in the Bucs and the Lions? Or are they as good as the team that beat the Patriots? Sure, they had some good fortune in Foxborough but that’s a tough place to win under any circumstances. Like the Redskins they have been inconsistent from week to week. But unlike Washington, they haven’t alternated good and bad weeks; they have been streaky. That makes them harder to figure out.

—The Philly defense hasn’t been hard to figure out lately. The Eagles have given up over 400 yards of offense in six of their last seven games. They have been gashed on the ground lately, giving up a combined 382 yards to the Bills and Cardinals. It’s probably too much to hope for the Redskins to get their dormant running game going but the opportunity may be there.

—Eagles QB Sam Bradford had an odd day against the Redskins in Week 4. He only completed 54 percent of his passes but he threw three touchdown passes, averaged 9.6 yards per attempt, and posted a 122.6 passer rating. Cornerback Chris Culliver was hurting but he gamely gave it a go that day but he was ineffective. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews had been slumping before last Sunday with an average of just 30 receiving yards per game in his last five. But he broke out of it with eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. Sure, a good chunk of his production came in garbage time, especially a 78-yard TD reception when the Eagles trailed 37-10 in the fourth quarter. But he is still a weapon to watch.

—For a while the Eagles were among the better teams in the NFL in terms of turnover ratio. After nine games they had accumulated a plus-six margin. But in their last five games they have given the ball away 12 times and taken it away just four times. Taking out my handy calculator, that makes them minus-two on the year. The Redskins have been in a bit of a takeaway slump with just one in their last two games after getting six in their two before that. We will see of Washington can get a few takeaways.

—I have no idea what to expect on Saturday. I do think that the Redskins will be ready to play. The win over the Bills was one of the least celebrated in recent memory. The players know that it likely means nothing if they don’t take care of business in Philly. There was much more of a determined atmosphere than a celebratory one. For their part, the Eagles were frustrated after their 23-point loss to the Cardinals. Of course, moods can change over the course of the week and we’ll see how things look when Saturday night rolls around.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 3; Redskins @Cowboys 11; start of NFL playoffs 17

In case you missed it

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.