Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles:What's the Game Plan for Washington?

Marcel DavisCorrespondent IDecember 25, 2015

Will Washington sweep the season series with the Eagles?
Will Washington sweep the season series with the Eagles?Mark Tenally/Associated Press

Alone atop the NFC East, the Washington Redskins will travel to play the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16 with an opportunity to secure their second division title in four years.

Washington has overcome a season's worth of obstacles to reach this point. But if it's to finish its journey from worst to first, one more hurdle has to be cleared. 

While their nine-game road losing streak is now a thing of the past, the fact remains 2012 was the last time the Redskins had more than one road win in season. Oh, and let's not forget the team's struggles in prime time.

Washington is 0-2 under the national lights in 2015 and 2-7 since 2013.

If it's any consolation, though, the team's last win under these circumstances came against the Eagles. Eliminating Philly from postseason contention, the Redskins won, 27-24, on Saturday night in Week 16 last season.

Will history repeat itself?

Let's find out. Here's the Week 16 game plan for Washington.

 

Offensive Game Plan

Given his recent play, Cousins has much to celebrate.
Given his recent play, Cousins has much to celebrate.Mark Tenally/Associated Press

Entering what equates to a playoff game, Kirk Cousins is one of the NFL's hottest quarterbacks. He has thrown 13 touchdowns to three interceptions in his past seven games.

In his ascent from local punching bag to folk hero, the porous state of the defenses opposing him has played a major factor in Cousins' success, and the success of Washington's entire offense, for that matter.

The team has averaged 31.5 points per game in its four wins during this stretch, with the Buffalo Bills' No. 17 scoring defense coming in as the top opposing defense. For his part, Cousins has topped 300 yards passing in each of these contests and has been responsible for 13 total touchdowns. 

Given the Eagles' recent run of defense, the Redskins can remain optimistic their success will continue another week.

Philly has allowed 40-plus points in three of its past five games. This is a feat only one NFL team—the New Orleans Saints—has accomplished all season. Further encouraging for Washington are the Eagles' problems stopping the run.

On average, they surrender 134.1 rushing yards per game, 30th in the NFL.

Reviewing the Redskins' season at large, such deficiencies from their opponents have translated into success on the ground for their up-and-down rushing attack.

The team has surpassed the 100-yard barrier six times. Excluding Buffalo's 15th-ranked rush defense, each of its opponents in those games sports a run defense in the bottom third of the league.

The status of rookie running back Matt Jones is up in the air because of a hip injury. But considering he accounted for just 11 of the team's 127 rushing yards in Week 4, his absence alone won't preclude Washington from extending its recent success—100 rushing yards per game the past four weeks—on the ground following its midseason swoon.

With a full complement of weapons in the passing game, the only concern for the Redskins is the offensive line. Already tapping into their depth following injuries to guard Shawn Lauvao and center Kory Lichtensteiger, they could be without the services of both tackle Morgan Moses and center Josh LeRibeus.

Both exited Week 15's bout with ankle injuries. Speaking to ESPN's John Keim, head coach Jay Gruden expressed particular concern over Moses' playing status.

He's going to need the next couple days," Gruden said. "I think he'll be good enough to dress, but we'll see how he does come Saturday night."

While it's not dominant, the pass rush of the Eagles has 33 sacks and is capable of exploiting this matchup should Ty Nsekhe and Brian de la Puente be forced into action.

To combat these injuries up front, Washington would be wise to utilize either tight end Alex Smith or tackle Tom Compton opposite tight end Jordan Reed in a blocking capacity to aid the reserves in pass protection.

 

Defensive Game Plan

To keep Philly's offense at bay, the Redskins have to get after Bradford.
To keep Philly's offense at bay, the Redskins have to get after Bradford.Mark Tenally/Associated Press

Washington is 11th in the NFL in passing yards against—240 yards per game—and opposing completion percentage—61.7. Making these feats even more impressive is the fact they've been done with smoke and mirrors.

Injuries and inexperience have reigned supreme on the back end with cornerbacks such as Chris Culliver, Quinton Dunbar and DeAngelo Hall shuffling in and out the lineup.

But as the front seven has struggled to produce consistently, the job of carrying the defense has taken a toll on the secondary. Cracks in the form of big plays surrendered reveal this truth.

The 'Skins have allowed 11 completions of 40-plus yards and 48 completions of 20-plus yards, 22nd and 21st in the league, respectively.

Looking back to the first matchup between these teams, this flaw surfaced once Sam Bradford was provided time to throw. Philadelphia being shut out in the first half was no coincidence, as Bradford was sacked three times and routinely harassed.

With Washington's pass rush failing to muster any more sacks until the Eagles' final drive, though, Bradford was able to salvage his second half and finish the game averaging a season-high 9.6 yards per attempt on the back of four completions of 30-plus yards.

Seeing how Philly has ratcheted up its aerial attack in recent weeks—79 pass attempts since Week 14—the Redskins pass rush will determine the success of the defense with the Eagles rushing attack only a dwindling threat.

 

Key Players and Matchups

WR DeSean Jackson vs. Philadelphia Secondary

Having missed the first meeting, Jackson will look to stick it to his former employer in Week 16.
Having missed the first meeting, Jackson will look to stick it to his former employer in Week 16.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Further removed from the hamstring injury that cost him six games, DeSean Jackson is rounding into top form. He had a season-high 153 yards on six receptions in Week 15 against the Bills.

Jackson is nursing a knee injury. But as evidenced by his 77-yard reception last week, he remains a threat to score whenever he touches the ball, especially against the Eagles.

He averaged 121.5 yards per game and registered a reception of 50-plus yards in both outings against his former team in 2014. Then there's the improvement Cousins has shown since his return.

Cousins has completed nine of 14 passes with four touchdowns targeting Jackson 20-plus yards downfield this season, according to ESPN.com. Targeting all other Redskins on such throws, he's just 8-of-37 with zero touchdowns and three interceptions.

So the bottom line is, regardless if he's opposed by injured corner Byron Maxwell—who's had his struggles when healthy—or rookie corner Eric Rowe, Jackson is poised to again exact revenge against head coach Chip Kelly's Eagles.

 

Washington Secondary vs. TE Zach Ertz

Washington has to ensure Ertz doesn't duplicate the performance he had last year against it.
Washington has to ensure Ertz doesn't duplicate the performance he had last year against it.Michael Perez/Associated Press/Associated Press

Pegged to be Zach Ertz's breakout year, 2015 has instead been a disappointment. He has just two touchdowns on the year and has surpassed 70 yards receiving only twice. 

Wouldn't you know it, though, he's tallied these numbers in December. The past two weeks he's posted season highs in both receptions with eight and receiving yards with 98.

Knowing the best day of Ertz's pro career—115 yards on 15 receptions in 2014—came at its expense, Washington has to make it a priority to force Bradford to look elsewhere in the passing game.

 

Prediction

It's not jumping the gun in saying everything is at stake for the Redskins in this contest. The playoffs ride on the team's ability to accomplish a rare feat: winning on the road.

Even with its victory over the Chicago Bears, Washington still only has two road wins under Gruden. In reviewing its losses, though, you can't ignore the quality of the teams it faced.

Of the team's 12 road losses, nine came against teams sporting a record of .500 or better. Fast forward to the present, and you'll find the Eagles don't meet this distinction. And for good reason. 

Philly is 15th in total offense and 29th in total defense. On the turnover front, the team is the NFL's No. 3 team in giveaways with 27.

Chalk it all up and what you have is a recipe for defeat. A third consecutive one to the Redskins, at that.

Now, Washington faithful, how do you like that?

Final Score: Redskins 27, Eagles 19

 

Unless stated otherwise, all injury statuses courtesy of CBSSports.com.