The Eagles (8-7) are on the road to face Washington (6-9) on Sunday afternoon.
If the Eagles win and some other things go their way, they could clinch a playoff spot before the final week of the season. But they need to win first.
Here are five key matchups to watch:
Terry McLaurin vs. Darius Slay
This is going to make the list every time these two teams play. Slay is a Pro Bowler this season and is having one of the best years of his long career. But McLaurin is a really tough test. In the last matchup between these two teams, Slay covered McLaurin for most of the afternoon and this is another travel situation. A couple weeks ago, McLaurin was targeted 3 times with Slay on him; he had 2 catches for 51 yards, including a 46-yarder. Slay had tight coverage on that 46-yarder but couldn’t make a play.
In this game, McLaurin will have a better quarterback, whether it’s Taylor Heinicke or Kyle Allen. And McLaurin is a threat either way. The Eagles will need their Pro Bowl corner to slow him down.
Taylor Heinicke vs. Jonathan Gannon
The WFT was forced to start Garrett Gilbert on that Tuesday Night Game because Heinicke and Allen were both on the COVID list. So Washington should automatically be a little more competitive in this game.
Here’s a look at Heinicke’s stats this season:
Heinicke (6-7): 64.8%, 3,052 yards, 20 TDs, 14 INTs
But then there’s this:
Not exactly sure what that means. But over the last few weeks, the Eagles have been very good about preparing for their upcoming opponents’ offense and not necessarily the QB. Sure, things change depending on QB, but the Eagles have to be ready for them both in this game. Gannon has had an exceptional plan in recent weeks as the Eagles have faced some below average quarterbacks. Another good plan on Sunday could help the Eagles clinch a playoff berth.
Brandon Scherff vs. Fletcher Cox
Washington was also missing one of its best players in the last meeting; Scherff was on the COVID list. With him back in the mix, it ought to set up a fun long-standing matchup between Cox, who gets most of his interior snaps on the left side of the Eagles’ defensive line. These two Pro Bowlers have been battling for years and it’s always fun to watch.
The only possible wrinkle in this matchup is the fact that the Eagles have been dealing with a COVID outbreak at the defensive end position. So it’s very possible that Cox will need to play more snaps on the edge.
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Eagles interior OL vs. Washington interior DL
When Washington’s defensive tackles aren’t punching each other on the sideline, they’ve very good. This is a group with Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle. And in this game, they’ll be facing an interior that includes Nate Herbig and rookie Landon Dickerson, who missed the last game between these two teams.
Allen is the Pro Bowler in this group but it’s deep and the Eagles have to be ready for it. This could really be the most important matchup on Sunday. Not only in pass protection, but the Eagles need to be able to run the ball too, which brings us to the next one:
Eagles run game vs. Washington run defense
Entering the last matchup between these two teams, Washington had the No. 5 ranked rushing defense in the NFL. And then the Eagles went off for 238 yards against them. Even though Washington was smoked through the air by Dallas last week for 389 yards, they gave up just 108 on the ground.
So Washington enters this game with the No. 8 rushing defense in the NFL and the Eagles have rushed for 130+ yards in nine straight games. On Sunday, they won’t have Miles Sanders, who is out with a broken hand, but it’ll be interesting to see if they still run the ball right at Washington. Nick Sirianni didn’t run as much as you’d expect in the first half last week, but he certainly did two weeks ago. This has become a run-first offense and they’re going to need to get another big game on Sunday.