Three To Focus On: Redskins @ Eagles, Week 17

| December 30, 2011

In the final game of the regular season, the 7-8 Philadelphia Eagles host their NFC East rivals the 5-10 Washington Redskins. Both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs, so neither has reason to hold back any starters.

The Eagles are coming off a dominant 20-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys (minus Tony Romo, knocked out early with a hand injury), while the Redskins, despite completing a season sweep of the New York Giants two week prior, are coming off of an embarrassing 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Redskins will be looking to go 6-10 for the second straight season, while the Eagles will be looking for a non-losing record and a solid 5-1 divisional record.

The first game between these two took place in Week 6 and changed the Redskins’ season–they were 3-1 and that point but suffered a 20-13 loss to the 1-4 Eagles. Rex Grossman turned the ball over four times and was benched for the next three games for replacement QB John Beck, who led the team to losses in all three. By the time the Redskins realized that a flawed Grossman was the better option, it was too late for their postseason hopes.

 

Rex Grossman vs. Eagles Secondary

Perhaps the biggest key to this contest will be how many times Grossman gives the ball to the Eagles’ secondary; he threw four picks to them in the Week 6 game, and could’ve had at least one more that Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie dropped. Three of those interceptions went to Kurt Coleman (-6.9 overall grade), whose performance this season suggests his career-day was a fluke; he’s had just one other pick and has given up 396 yards through the air, fifth-worst among safeties. Grossman’s other pick went to FS Nate Allen (+0.5), who, after being exploited by the Patriots in Week 12, has stepped up. In the past three games, he’s been thrown at eight times, defending three of passes and allowing one catch for no yards.

It doesn’t appear injured Asante Samuel will play this week, which bodes well for Grossman since Samuel is by far Philadelphia’s highest-graded coverage player (+9.6 coverage) while the man replacing him, Cromartie, is the worst-graded (-6.9). Expect Grossman to test Cromartie more than Nnamdi Asomugha (-0.7), who has played better in the second half of the season, grading green for coverage in four of the last seven games. Grossman knows how dangerous Asomugha is–he ended Chris Cooley’s season in that first game when he saw Grossman staring down his tight end on a short pass and blew him up (5:32 first Q).

 

Redskins O-Line vs. Eagles D-Line

Not surprisingly, the Eagles front four boasts our second-highest overall rated 4-3 DE in Trent Cole (+35.1) and 10th-highest in Jason Babin (+24.0), as well as our 12th-best overall 4-3 DT in Cullen Jenkins (+14.1). It certainly wasn’t this group’s fault they’re missing out on the postseason for the first time since 2007. Even without Cole in the lineup, the D-Line was able to register two sacks, three QB hits and a further 15 pressures in Week 6.

The Redskins’ patchwork offensive line is different than it was back in Week 6, with rookies Willie Smith (-8.2 overall) and Maurice Hurt (-11.0) not playing in that first game and now making up the left side of their line, with the latter, despite struggling, having a great game last week in both pass protection and run blocking (+3.8). On the other side, RG Chris Chester gave up his first sack of the year last week, while Jammal Brown, struggled in the first contest (-3.1), but had the best performance we’ve seen from him last week (+3.4). He’ll need a similar effort against Babin (18 sacks) this week.

 

Eagles O-Line vs. Redskins Front Seven

Despite early-season struggles, the Philadelphia offensive line turned out to be a strength with LT Jason Peters (+24.4) as our highest-rated tackle and returning to the Pro Bowl, while LG Evan Mathis (+31.2) is our highest-rated guard, and RT Todd Herremans (+4.7) also proving solid, including a perfect pass-protection performance subbing at LT in the Week 6 contest. It’s a tragedy that Mathis didn’t make the Pro Bowl; watch two plays from that first game in which he dominates Brian Orakpo (1:02 first Q) and Stephen Bowen (8:36 second Q).

They will be facing a defensive front that excels in rushing the passer but has struggled against the run, especially last week (241 rushing yards given up), with Orakpo (+20.0) just beating out the ageless London Fletcher (+18.2) as this unit’s best player. Specific matchups to watch: Orakpo vs. Peters which didn’t occur in Week 6 due to Peters’ injury, NT Barry Cofield vs. rookie C Jason Kelce with the former Giant beating the rookie for a QB hit and a pressure the first time around, and rookie Ryan Kerrigan vs. Herremans. This matchup will go a long way in determining which NFC East team wins on New Years Day.

 

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