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Game Preview: Eagles at Redskins

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Game Preview: Eagles at Redskins

What: Eagles (3-6) vs. Redskins (3-6)

Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Fox WTTG-5

Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live: Comcast SportsNet noon and 4. 

Mike Shanahan called the Redskins’ last game a ‘must-win.’

In reality, though, this week’s contest against the Eagles is far more important to his team’s faint playoff hopes.

At 3-6, the Redskins still have a puncher’s chance of rallying down the stretch and making the postseason for the first time since 2007. But such a scenario likely would require  "winning out," as nose tackle Barry Cofield put it. Or, at the very least, winning six of the season’s final seven games.

Either way, that run must begin at home against a Eagles’ team that hasn’t won a game since September and will have a rookie backup quarterback, Nick Foles, making his first career start in the place of Michael Vick (concussion).

Historically, the Redskins have failed to beat rookie signal callers. In fact, they’ve lost eight straight games, a drought stretching back Vince Young in 2006. (Their last win against a rookie was over Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Rams in 2005, according to STATS Inc.)

From an Xs and Os standpoint, the key to preventing ninth consecutive letdown figures to be effectively disguising alignments and confusing the 23-year-old. But Cofield chose to keep it simple when asked about the challenges of facing a young quarterback for the first time.

“Complacency is probably the No. 1 issue,” the recently-elected defensive captain said. “You go against a guy who you think is going to be at a lower level. Then you go out and not play your best ball, and they look like a Pro Bowler.”  

Foles “can make all the throws,” according to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, and he’ll be facing the NFL’s third worst pass defense. He'll also have plenty of weapons at his disposal, including standout wide receivers DeSean Jackson (16.3 yards per catch) and Jeremy Maclin (team-high four touchdowns) as well as tight end Brent Celek (8 receptions of 20 or more yards). And don't forget running back LeSean McCoy, who ranks 11th in the league with 705 yards and has the third most runs over 20 yards (7). Given the Redskins’ susceptibility to big plays, keeping McCoy from breaking off large chunks of yardage will be critical.

It’s probably too much to ask the Redskins’ reeling defense to shut down both the run and pass. But if they can contain one, they should have a chance. 

On the other side of the ball, quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris must get the Redskins’ previously potent offense going again. The team averaged more than 26 points per game through the season’s first seven games, but has tallied a meager 12 and 13, respectively, in the past two.

Whether it’s a lack of complementary playmakers, opposing defenses catching up to Shanahan’s innovative offense, penalties and other mental miscues, or some combination of the three, they’re going to need more than a single touchdown to beat the Eagles and breathe life back into their staggering season.

“The rest of the NFL definitely helped us out by having teams in our division lose,” Griffin said. “I don’t think [the playoffs are] an unrealistic goal. But for us, the biggest thing is you don’t look into the future because you have to take care of what’s in front of you.”

Here are three other areas the team at csnwashington.com will be monitoring:

1-Will wide receiver Pierre Garçon play? He’s missed four straight games with a plantar plate tear in his right foot, but he’s practiced this week like a player who wants to suit up.

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan also hinted that the team is okay with their No. 1 wide receiver playing at less than 100-percent, saying, “We would definitely rather have him out there than not have him at all. We think he can help regardless of what [percent] he is.”

2-How about safety Brandon Meriweather? He reported soreness in his twice-sprained left knee earlier this week and has been limited in practice. But the veteran has been working with the first team and, barring a setback, is expected to make his season debut.

“He can do a lot of different things,” Haslett said. “He’s an ex-corner, so he can cover. He’s got good rush ability. There’s a lot things you can take advantage of – if he’s healthy.”

3-The Redskins’ margin for error on any give Sunday is slim enough without self-inflicted wounds. Against the Steelers, receivers dropped 10 passes. Against the Panthers, they were whistled for a season-high 13 penalties. Entering the Philadelphia game, the Redskins are tied with the Cowboys for most penalties per game (8.3), according to www.teamrankings.com. 

Will having last week off result in a physically fresher, mentally sharper Redskins’ team? Is this is a bad time to mention they’re 0-4 coming off the bye since 2007?

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Dustin Hopkins isn't 100-percent so the Redskins reportedly worked out five kickers

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Dustin Hopkins isn't 100-percent so the Redskins reportedly worked out five kickers

Lost in the fact that Tress Way is having a stellar season is that his fellow specialist, Dustin Hopkins, is getting it done, too.

The Redskins' kicker has made 17 of 19 field goals so far in 2018, giving him an 89.5-percent conversion rate on kicks. Against Carolina, he nailed a career-long 56-yarder, plus he's 17-for-17 on extra points.

But on Tuesday, a report came out saying that Hopkins is "a bit banged up." As of now, the Redskins don't know if they'll have Hopkins or not this weekend vs. the Texans, which is why they worked out five kickers five days before the Houston matchup, per Field Yates.

Among the group of free agents was former 'Skin Kai Forbath, who made 32-of-38 three-pointers for the Vikings in 2017. He was with the Burgundy and Gold from 2012-2014 and also briefly in 2015. 

Washington also reportedly tried out two maligned kickers in Roberto Aguayo and Blair Walsh. 

The Bucs drafted Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft but he flamed out in Tampa and was gone after a single year and poor 2017 preseason. Walsh, meanwhile, hasn't been the same since missing a 27-yard game winning playoff attempt versus Seattle while he was with Minnesota.  

Rounding out the group was Sam Ficken and Jon Brown.

The Redskins have been very reliant on both Hopkins and Way this season, seeing as their offense has had its issues. They've needed Hopkins to cash in on field goals to avoid wasting points and Way to help win the field position battle each week.

For some franchises, losing a kicker for a week or two wouldn't be much of a problem. And while Washington could very well be OK without Hopkins, they'd rather not have to bring in a new foot for any amount of time.

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NFC East Update: The division race is shaping up very well for the Redskins

NFC East Update: The division race is shaping up very well for the Redskins

The Redskins helped themselves in the NFC East division race with a big Week 10 win over the Buccaneers, and then the Cowboys helped their rival out again with a big win in Philadelphia.

With seven games remaining and the NFL calendar starting to get serious about playoff situation and scenarios, the 6-3 Redskins are in the driver's seat in the division. 

"I think the good thing being 6-3, being in first place is we control what we have to control. We don’t have to look at the other teams, we just have to focus on what we do and if we do our job, we don’t have to worry about anything," head coach Jay Gruden said Monday. 

And he's right. The Redskins have built a cushion in the division, and if they keep winning at a .667 clip, nobody can catch them.

Here's the NFC East update:

  1. Washington Redskins (6-3, 2-0) - This team isn't winning pretty, and they certainly don't make many highlight plays on offense, but the Washington formula for victories is working. At +11, the Redskins are 3rd in the NFL in turnover margin and they own a defense that doesn't give up many points. Fans can debate if the offense is too limited, but for now running the ball and playing strong defense is piling up wins. Washington hasn't been 6-3 since 2008. Another large test looms on Sunday when Houston comes to FedEx Field, riding a six-game win streak. Up next: Nov. 18th vs Texans,1 p.m.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (4-5, 2-1) - Things have been a roller coaster in Big D. Two weeks ago it looked like the Cowboys season might spiral out of control after a blowout loss at home to the Titans. Speculation began to mount about the future for head coach Jason Garrett. A week later, after a major win in Philly on Sunday Night Football, Cowboys fans are back focused on the playoffs, not firing their coach. Dallas has built an impressive young defense, though the offensive struggles remain. Similar to the Redskins, Dallas has one of the worst pass games in the NFL but relies on running the football. Up next:  Nov. 18th @ Atlanta, 1 p.m. 
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5, 1-1) - At no point this season have the Eagles looked like the same 2017 juggernaut that won the city's first-ever Super Bowl. Much of that was chalked up to injury, particularly Carson Wentz working back from a knee injury last year, and new parts on defense. The Eagles had a Week 8 bye, made a trade to acquire WR Golden Tate, and were facing the slumping Cowboys in Week 9. All signs pointed to a big Eagles win and the Philly machine getting back on track for the second-half of the 2018 season. Only it didn't happen. The Eagles haven't won two games in a row yet this season, and road games against the Saints and the Rams are still on deck. Up next: Nov. 18th @ New Orleans, 4:25 p.m.
  4. New York Giants (2-7, 0-3) - The Giants doubled their season win total with a road win in San Francisco over the 49ers. It was a good victory, but hardly impressive. The Niners are equally bad and currently starting their 3rd-string QB. Still, Odell Beckham remains optimistic for his New York squad and thinks the team could go on a undefeated streak to close out the season. It's not realistic considering the offensive line and Eli Manning's play at quarterback, but it's a nice theory. The Giants are 0-4 at home and 0-3 in the division. Up Next: Nov. 18th vs Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

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