Redskins-Eagles: Five storylines to follow

London Fletcher and the Redskins’ defense aim to take advantage of an Eagles’ offense that leads the NFL in turnovers.
(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins go for the sweep of the Philadelphia Eagles  on Sunday while also looking to extend their win streak to six games. With a victory, the Redskins will maintain their lead in the race for first place in the NFC East.

Washington hasn’t won six consecutive games since 2007 2005, when they reeled off five straight victories to close out the regular season and then posted a win in the NFC wild-card round.

The host Eagles enter this game at 4-10, having lost nine of their past 10 games. The Redskins enter as six-point favorites.

Here are five storylines to follow in Washington’s Week 16 matchup:

1. Griffin’s return: Two weeks after spraining the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee and after being held out of Washington’s victory over Cleveland this past Sunday, Robert Griffin III is expected to be back in the saddle as the Redskins take on the Eagles. He has practiced fully all of this week and hasn’t experienced any setbacks. Griffin said he doesn’t expect any limitations Sunday. Meantime, his coaches say he’s not yet 100 percent, but that they are confident he can play at a high level and lead them to victory in yet another must-win game.

2. Offensive line health: Washington’s coaches and players credit much of their offensive success both in the run and pass games to the continuity they have enjoyed along the offensive line, going 14 weeks without any changes in the starting lineup. But two starters had to leave last week’s game because of injuries. Starting center Will Montgomery also has made it through the practice week without any setbacks to the MCL sprain suffered Sunday at Cleveland. The Redskins have other players that can fill in at center, but Montgomery does an exceptional job of reading defensive fronts and calling out protections for his linemates. Having him back on the field is a big plus. Meantime, right tackle Tyler Polumbus is still recovering from a concussion. The Redskins hope he can gain clearance to play, but he didn’t practice at all Thursday. Without Polumbus, who had started all 14 games prior to this week, Washington would have to turn to either Maurice Hurt or rookie Tom Compton, both of which have never played an NFL game at tackle.

3. Defensive backing: The Redskins’ defense last week maintained it’s strong post-bye-week form, and once again forced multiple turnovers and held a foe in check in the second half. In three consecutive second halves, Washington’s defense has limited opponents to a combined 17 points. A similar showing is important this week as the Redskins face an Eagles team that despite their poor record has talent on offense. Washington must keep Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy in check and force rookie quarterback Nick Foles to throw the ball, and then they must get to Foles often and force him into mistakes.

4. Turnover battle: On offense the Redskins have done a good job of maintaining ball security this season. Meantime, the defense ranks among the league leaders in takeaways. Washington has forced 26 turnovers and has turned over the ball just 13 times, which is tied for fewest in the NFL. Meantime, the Eagles have been terrible on both fronts, turning over the ball a league-high 34 times, and mustering just 12 takeaways (league low). Opportunities should present themselves for the Redskins’ defense. The offense must take advantage.

5. Playoff picture: With a win, and losses by the Bears, Giants and Vikings, the Redskins would clinch a playoff berth – their first since 2007. But a loss by Washington nearly snuffs out their chances of winning the NFC East for the first time since 1999, and also puts the Redskins’ playoff chances in doubt. The Cowboys, like the Redskins and Giants,- own an 8-6 record, and look to remain in the hunt. Dallas hosts New Orleans. The Redskins can’t afford a misstep this week, especially with the Cowboys coming to town for the regular season finale next week. 

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