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Posted at 03:33 PM ET, 10/14/2011

Redskins-Eagles: Five storylines to follow

The Washington Redskins on Sunday get back to work after a Week 5 bye, and look to maintain first place in the NFC East when they host the struggling Eagles, and also hope to avoid anything close to the 59-28 embarrassment that Philadelphia handed them following last season’s bye.

The Eagles and Redskins meet for the 153rd time in the history of the franchises, and Washington owns a 79-67-5 advantage.

Washington and Philadelphia split last year’s games with each road team winning. This is the first meeting of the season for the divisional foes. Philadelphia enters as two-point favorites, despite having lost four straight.

Here are five storylines to follow in this game:

1. Philadelphia’s desperation

It’s said there’s nothing more dangerous than a desperate team, and the Philadelphia Eagles certainly are that as they battle to keep their season alive. No team has ever started the year with a 1-5 record and gone on to win their division. The Eagles know they must turn things around now, and held a players-only meeting this week. Can they snap the losing streak this week?

2. Running back battle

Tim Hightower (shoulder) insists that he feels better and says he’s highly motivated to come out and have a big day. Meantime, Ryan Torain is coming off a monster game against the Rams. Mike Shanahan hasn’t tipped his hand regarding who will start for him on Sunday. The Redskins should be able to have a big game on the ground. The Eagles rank 30th in the league against the run.

3. Big plays

The Eagles boast great speed both on the edges in receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and at quarterback, where Michael Vick has torched the Redskins in the past. Philadelphia can score quickly, needing more than eight plays on only one of their 13 touchdown drives this season. Washington has to find a way to eliminate those big plays. A lot of this will depend upon free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe to help in downfield coverage.

4. Ball security

Turnovers have done in the Eagles, who this season have given away the ball 15 times, which leads the league. Michael Vick has accounted for 14 of them, fumbling seven times and throwing seven interceptions — although a couple of those passes were tipped and not his fault. Meantime, Rex Grossman has thrown five interceptions and has fumbled twice. The Redskins’ defense has been able to bail them out after turnovers or other offensive struggles, but can they continue to do so? The team that wins the turnover battle should win the game.

5. Tight end production

Sunday could be a big day for Washington’s tight ends because the Redskins’ receivers could be blanketed by Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel. The Eagles’ linebackers have struggled this year, as have their safeties, so that could leave Fred Davis and Chris Cooley open underneath. Cooley was limited in practice this week but says he isn’t concerned and that he believes he can contribute with big plays if given the opportunity. Davis started off hot the first two weeks, but Washington went to him less the next two. Is this the week he gets involved again?

By  |  03:33 PM ET, 10/14/2011

 
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