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Receiving yards for Cowboys’ Amari Cooper during Sunday’s 29-23 win over Eagles

Eagles-Redskins: Opportunity knocks

Posted by Eric Fisher On December 1

The Eagles can’t afford to waste opportunities. They almost missed an opportunity last week against the Giants, but rallied from a 13-point deficit to pull out a 25-22 victory.

The Eagles (5-6) have another opportunity Monday (8:15 p.m.) when the Redskins visit Lincoln Financial Field. The Redskins (6-5) have lost two straight games and appear vulnerable..

But the Eagles aren’t the Super Bowl juggernaut who would have run over this Redskins team last season. With the exception of their first victory over the Giants, the Eagles haven’t won by more than six points this season. They also have injury problems on defense, with linebackers and defensive backs particularly hit hard.

The Eagles haven’t won two straight games all season, but they’ll need to do that to remain in contention for the NFC East title. With only five games left in the regular season, the Eagles can’t afford to waste this opportunity.

Here are 10 questions to consider prior to and during Monday’s game.

Why is this game important?

The Eagles (5-6) can’t move into a tie for first place in the NFC East with a victory, as would have been in the case if the Cowboys (7-5) hadn’t upset the Saints on Thursday, but they would remain within range of the NFC East title with a win over the Redskins. Looking at Monday’s game from another perspective, a loss Monday would drop the Eagles two games behind both the Cowboys and the Redskins (7-5), meaning the Eagles would have to rally from two games behind two different teams with just four games to go in order to win the NFC East. The Cowboys and Redskins would also be obstacles to overcome in the Eagles’ slim chances for a wild card berth.

What’s happened to the Redskins?

The Redskins have lost three of their past four games, causing them to fall out of first place in the NFC East (the Cowboys have played one more game). The Redskins lost quarterback Alex Smith to a season-ending broken leg, but that’s not the entire story. The Redskins lost both starting guards to season-ending injuries and left tackle Trent Williams has been sidelined by a thumb injury.

Who is the Redskins’ starting quarterback?

With Alex Smith lost for the season, the Redskins have handed the reins to Colt McCoy. He has completed 30 of 50 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns, but he also has thrown three interceptions. McCoy takes more risks than the “safety first” Smith. The Eagles, with only five interceptions all season, have a legitimate chance to add to that total on Monday. On the other hand, the Eagles have had difficulty with mobile quarterbacks, and McCoy certainly fits that description.

Who would take over if Colt McCoy were injured?

The Redskins’ backup quarterback is former Eagle Mark Sanchez, who was signed after Smith broke his leg. Can you imagine the frenzy at Lincoln Financial Field if Sanchez were to enter the game Monday night?

Are the Eagles back on track after defeating the Giants?

No. Two of the Eagles’ five victories have come against the last-place Giants. Furthermore, Sunday’s victory, which required the Eagles to come back from a 16-3 deficit, wasn’t overly impressive. Jake Elliott’s game-winning field goal came with 22 seconds remaining. It took poor coaching by the Giants, who made Saquon Barkley disappear during the second half, and a missed tripping call on the Eagles on the final play of the game, to secure the victory.

Why aren’t the Eagles better during the first quarter?

Carson Wentz is asked this question after virtually every game. He hasn’t had any answers. The Eagles have only scored 21 points during the first quarter this season. Perhaps a better run-pass balance would allow the Eagles to control the ball more during the first quarter. If their defense is on the field most of the first quarter, it’s difficult to score.

What is the Eagles’ biggest advantage?

The Eagles’ biggest advantage should be the matchup between their defensive line and the Redskins’ offensive line. With both starting guards lost for the season, the Redskins should be vulnerable to a strong pass rush. The problem is that the Eagles haven’t generated consistent pressure this season. They generated pressure during the second half of last Sunday’s win over the Giants, and they need to continue that pressure Monday against colt McCoy and the Redskins. It won’t help if defensive end Michael Bennett, who missed practice on Thursday and Friday due to a foot injury, can’t play or has limited effectiveness.

What is the Eagles’ biggest weakness?

The Eagles’ biggest weakness is their injury-riddled defense. Not only is the econdary riddled with injuries – cornerback Sidney Jones is expected to return from a hamstring injury, but cornerbacks Jalen Mills (foot) and Avonte Maddox (knee, ankle) remain sidelined – but the linebacker corps is hurting. Jordan Hicks (calf) hasn’t returned to practice (through Friday) and Nigel Bradham, who had surgery Monday after breaking his thumb against the Giants, is expected to play with a cast on his hand. That will make tackling veteran running back Adrian Peterson even more difficult.

Will the return of Darren Sproles make a difference?

If Sproles returns Monday, as he expects, the question is whether he will make much of a difference. Sproles hasn’t played since the season opener because of a hamstring injury, although Sproles suggested this week that the injury was more severe. Will head coach Doug Pederson eas him back into the lineup or will Sproles play a regular role and return punts and kickoffs?

Will Doug Pederson stick with the running game?

Rookie Josh Adams carried 22 times for 84 yards Sunday against the Giants. The surprising statistic is the 22 carries. Will head coach Doug Pederson stick with the running game this week, which seemed to take some of the pressure off of quarterback Carson Wentz against the Giants, or will he return to his customary pass-heavy attack?

Prediction: Haven’t won consecutive games this seasonThe Redskins seem to be ripe for the picking. With a backup quarterback and depleted offensive line, the Redskins have lost their past two games. The key is for the defense to contain running back Adrian Peterson and to generate a pass rush, which will protect their undermanned secondary. It’s troubling that the Eagles haven’t won consecutive games this season. I say they will do that for the first time this season – barely. Eagles 24, Redskins 23

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