It’s hard to say a game in early December is a must-win for a team just half a game out of first place but Monday’s matchup with the Eagles in Philadelphia is very important for a Washington team that has lost three of its last four including two in a row. The Eagles, at 5-6, need a win too, as one more loss could mean the end of their playoff hopes, as well.
The Redskins biggest hope might come in the fact Philadelphia’s secondary has been decimated with injuries, though signs are pointing toward the Eagles having a more complete defensive backfield than they did in their victory over the Giants last week. Either way, Washington has to get it’s offense started if it is going to make a playoff run.
Get Adrian Peterson going
Peterson carried the Redskins offense for much of the start of the season, but he hasn’t had a big game since the offensive line fell apart with season-ending injuries to both starting guards and Trent Williams’s injured thumb. And Washington’s offense isn’t the same without him breaking out for more than 90 yards.
The Redskins finally have stability on the line and have had a full week to game-plan around quarterback Colt McCoy. They hope that the probable returns of running back Chris Thompson and receiver Jamison Crowder will loosen the defense and free Peterson.
Get to Carson Wentz
Wentz can be deadly with time to throw the ball. Pro Football Focus lists his adjusted completion percentage at 82.3 percent when he is not under pressure. Washington’s defensive front has been a strength this year, but it hasn’t consistently generated the pass rush many expected.
The Redskins did get to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott on Thanksgiving, and they will have to do the same again against Wentz and the Eagles. Should running back Darren Sproles return from a season-long hamstring injury, the Eagles can be as dangerous as they have been all year on offense. The Redskins must make Wentz uncomfortable.
Set Colt McCoy free
The Redskins quarterback has played with a somewhat limited offense giving dire circumstances the last two weeks. He came in as an emergency replacement for the injured Alex Smith two weeks ago and only had three days to prepare for the Cowboys. Finally, Washington has been able to design a game plan for him.
A week of working with the first team offense should help McCoy on Monday night, as well. The returns of Thompson and Crowder could give him weapons the team hasn’t had since the start of the season. McCoy talked this week about throwing more “50-50 balls” giving his receivers chances to make plays. Success at this will go a long way toward at last opening the team’s offense.
Win the turnover battle
A big part of the Redskins run to 6-3 and first place in the NFC East came from hardly ever turning the ball over while forcing other teams into mistakes. In their last two losses, they’ve had five interceptions. That will not win many football games, especially considering the offense’s scoring limitations.
While McCoy wants to give his receivers chances to get to more risky passes, he has to be careful. If the Redskins give the ball away on offense and don’t get at least two turnovers as a defense, they probably won’t win Monday.
Keep the Eagles from running
Last week, the Cowboys became the first team to have a 100-yard rusher against Washington this season. The Redskins defensive front has done a good job of limiting opponents from opening their running game, rending them one-dimensional. The Eagles have not been a great running team this season and desperately need Sproles back.
By stopping Philadelphia’s running game, Washington’s front can take pressure off its young secondary, allowing it to make plays.