Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Full Washington Game Preview
A pair of firsts the past two weeks has the Washington Redskins in new territory. The team won on the road and posted back-to-back wins for the first time in 2015.
As a direct result, the Redskins can clinch the NFC East with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16.
But will they?
Let's find out. Here is the Week 16 preview for Washington.
Time: Saturday, Dec. 26; 8:25 p.m. ET
Location: Lincoln Financial Field; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
TV: NFL Network
Week 15 Results and Recap
NFC East Standings
Washington Redskins (7-7)
New York Giants (6-8)
Dallas Cowboys (4-10)
Behind their 35-25 victory over the Buffalo Bills, the Redskins were the lone NFC East member to register a win in Week 15. And consequently, after weeks of sharing the limelight, the team is now alone atop the division.
Reviewing the week that was, Washington has to first thank Kirk Cousins and its defense for this outcome.
Cousins continued his home dominance and was responsible for five touchdowns. The bottom line—452 total yards allowed—takes the shine off the performance of the Skins defense. But in holding Buffalo to zero first-half points, it staked the team to a double-digit lead it would never concede.
Next up, Washington will look to surpass last season's win total on the road and extend its winning streak to three games over the Eagles.
News and Notes
Big Money Could Await Cousins in Free Agency
By all accounts, Cousins has exceeded expectations with his play in 2015.
He now holds the franchise record (six) for 300-yard games in a season and is second in rushing touchdowns (five) from a quarterback.
In totality, he has 3,625 yards passing and 27 total touchdowns. A departure from previous years, he's dialed down his turnovers. Cousins has a 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2015. This follows a three-year stretch to begin his career where he threw 19 interceptions to 18 touchdowns.
Then there's his record-setting performance at home. As CSN Mid-Atlantic's Rich Tandler noted, at 74.7 percent, no quarterback in league history with a minimum of 100 pass attempts has been more accurate than Cousins at home.
The league leader in completion percentage (69.7 percent), Cousins has positioned himself to receive a lucrative raise in 2016. ESPN.com's Mike Sando, for one, projects the 2016 free agent to garner offers on the high end of $15 million annually.
Washington may find such a raise hard to stomach considering his small sample size.
But taking into account the high cost of the franchise tag—projected to approach $20 million, according to CBS Sports' Joel Corry—and a shallow pool of starting quarterback candidates league-wide, Cousins will hold all the leverage at the negotiating table.
Trent Williams Earns Pro Bowl Invite
In a season where injury and inconsistent play have reigned supreme up front, Trent Williams has been a steadying force.
Appearing in 13 of 14 games, Williams has allowed one sack, three quarterback hits and 14 pressures in 2015, according to Pro Football Focus (h/t CSN Mid-Atlantic's Tarik El-Bashir).
As a result of his play, Williams will be the team's lone representative at the Pro Bowl—his fourth consecutive invite.
Jordan Reed, posting career numbers, is a notable omission on the team. Even with Reed being sidelined for two games, he's second in the league for tight ends in receptions (74) and third in touchdowns (nine).
OT Morgan Moses
Ravaged by injuries to the offensive line all season, the Redskins' depth took another hit following the injury to Morgan Moses in Week 15.
Moses' day ended one play into the second half because of an ankle injury suffered before intermission. In the event Moses is out of commission, Ty Nsekhe would replace him if he were unable to go.
This is the same Nsekhe, if you recall, who started in place of Williams against the New York Jets, and the Jets sacked Cousins only once in 43 pass attempts.
C Josh LeRibeus
A guard by trade, Josh LeRibeus has filled in at center in the absence of Kory Lichtensteiger. But he also finished the Bills game on the sideline with an ankle injury.
With snaps and line assignments still a struggle for LeRibeus, the team could make out well with true center Brian de la Puente in his place.
RB Matt Jones
Following a meager showing against the Bills, the Skins listed Matt Jones as questionable on the injury report with a hip contusion.
His production doesn't warrant it, but knowing Chris Thompson has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, Jones' injury is cause for concern.
With Alfred Morris strictly used in the running game, any absence from Jones would force the team to turn to Pierre Thomas on passing downs.
Two games into his Washington career, Thomas filling such an important role wouldn't be ideal for the team's offense.
Washington Pass Rush vs. Eagles Offensive Line
The performance of the Redskins pass rush back in Week 4 was eerily similar to the one it posted last week against the Bills.
Behind a dominant rush, Washington held the Eagles scoreless in the first half. But once the Skins afforded the quarterback time to pass in the second half, it was bombs away.
Notorious for throwing underneath, Sam Bradford actually averaged a season-high 9.6 yards an attempt in the first meeting on the back of four completions of 30-plus yards.
With Philly scoring touchdowns on just 50 percent of its red-zone trips—26th in the league, according to TeamRankings.com—the success of its offense hinges on its ability to score via the big play. This puts the onus on the Skins pass-rushers to force Bradford to get the ball out quickly.
Redskins Running Game vs. Philadelphia Front Seven
Review its season at large, and you'll find the success of Washington's rushing attack can directly be attributed to its opponents' struggles stopping the run.
The team has surpassed the 100-yard barrier six times. Excluding Buffalo's 15th-ranked rush defense, each of its opponents here sports a run defense in the bottom third of the league.
With the Eagles fielding the NFL's No. 30 defense against the run, the Redskins will have an opportunity to extend their recent success—100 rushing yards per game the past four weeks—on the ground following their midseason swoon.
Washington X-factor: QB Kirk Cousins
Cousins has silenced his doubters with his play of late. Over the past seven games, he has 13 passing touchdowns to three interceptions.
Even so, questions about his ability to perform on the road remain. Washington ended a nine-game road losing streak the last time it played away from FedEx Field. But for Cousins, one streak remained intact.
With his interception in Chicago, Cousins' interception streak on the road is now at 12 games—which constitutes every road contest he's played in the NFL.
As troubling as this statistic is, the team has reason to be optimistic given his last outing in Philadelphia.
Starting in place of an injured Robert Griffin III in 2014, Cousins threw for a career-high 427 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-34 defeat. In the loss, a fourth-quarter interception from Cousins led to the Eagles connecting on what would be the game-winning field goal.
But having held Chip Kelly's offense to 22 points per game the past two meetings, Washington would be more than satisfied receiving an encore performance from Cousins, even with an interception.
Prediction: Redskins 27, Eagles 19
While three years apart, the Redskins are again in position to win the NFC East on the strength of a quarterback they selected in the 2012 NFL draft.
Just this time, it's the one they selected in the fourth round.
Staying within himself, Cousins has shied away from forcing throws in hopes of hitting a home run. As a result, he's seen an uptick in his completion percentage and reduced the frequency he turns the ball over.
A byproduct of this transition is an absence of big plays.
Washington is 24th in the NFL in receptions of 20-plus yards. This is because such a strategy relies on the playmakers around Cousins to net big gains after the catch. And to date, per SportingCharts, the team is averaging just 5.0 yards after the catch per reception.
This figures to change against the Eagles. On average, their defense is surrendering over 123 yards per game after the catch.
Combine this with its inability to stop the run, and the pressure is on Philly's offense to carry the team to victory. With its 35-point outing against the New England Patriots skewed by touchdowns on defense and special teams, the offense's recent performance makes such a scenario unlikely.
Opponents have held the Eagles under 20 points in four of their past six contests. With the Redskins holding opponents to 19.7 points per game the past four weeks, you can expect these struggles to continue.
Secure your tickets now, Washington fans. Your team is going to the playoffs!