3TFO: Redskins @ Eagles, Week 16
Back in September many thought this game would feature an Eagles team about to make a playoff run and a Redskins team that was preparing for a long offseason. Well, those roles are reversed and it is the Eagles that are looking to play the role of spoiler in this NFC East battle. Last time these teams met, back in week 11, Washington beat the Eagles with ease, 31-6. In that game Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin III broke Philadelphia’s heart numerous times, with long third-down conversions and even longer touchdown passes. Washington hasn’t stopped winning since that game and their streak is now at five, if they can keep that streak going for two more weeks they will be NFC East champions and host a playoff game. More good news for Washington is that Griffin has practiced all week and should make his return to the starting lineup. Is this the letdown game, or will the good times keep rolling for the Redskins?
It has been a brutal season in Philadelphia, and with widespread speculation that head coach Andy Reid will be let go after the season, this figures to be his last home game as coach of the Eagles. Since turning to mostly younger players the Eagles have shown some signs of life and energy, but the mistakes and turnovers continue. Do the Eagles have enough pride and desire to send Reid out a winner? Or do the Redskins just have too much talent, and perhaps even destiny on their side? Here are three key matchups that will help determine the outcome.
Robert Griffin III vs. Eagles Defensive Ends
Usually when you are talking about quarterbacks and defensive ends the topic is pass rush and disrupting the rhythm of a pass play, but not this time. The key to Philadelphia containing the Washington offense is slowing down the read option and not letting Griffin run around the ends. On 35 of his 55 designed running plays, Griffin has carried around the end, usually because a defensive end has lost contain or failed to set an edge. On those carries he averages an impressive 7.9 yards per carry. Making things even tougher for defensive ends is that Griffin uses play action on 38.2% of his drop-backs, which is the most in the NFL. It is hard to make a play when you don’t know where the ball is going and have to stay disciplined to not lose contain.
The duo handed the task of containing Griffin this week is Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. Cole was the best in the league in Pass Rush Productivity last season and has fallen to 12th this season, which is still above average, just not the dominant season expected. However, when it comes to stopping the run Cole has actually improved. He has raised his Run Stop Percentage from 8.9 to 9.1, which is second-best in the NFL among qualifying 4-3 defensive ends. He will need to be stout against Griffin and the Redskins’ running attack. On the other end, Brandon Graham has been a real bright spot for the Eagles since they released Jason Babin. In just 150 running play snaps, Graham has been credited with 15 stops and has made an even bigger difference in the passing game. Among 4-3 defensive ends that have participated in at least 25% of their team’s snaps, Graham is the most productive pass rusher in the league. He has 40 total pressures and seven sacks in 166 pass rushing opportunities. He may have to harness his attacking mentality slightly in this game or Griffin can make him pay.
Nick Foles vs. Redskins Secondary
Since being named the starter for the Eagles it has been the up and down journey, as you would expect from a rookie quarterback, for Nick Foles. He had his best game two weeks ago against the Buccaneers, who have one of the worst pass defenses in the league. This creates optimism for Foles this week when he faces the 30th-ranked pass defense. However, the last time these teams played it was Foles who started and it was his lowest graded game thus far. A key for Foles is getting the ball out quickly, when throwing in 2.5 seconds or less he completes 68% of his passes, opposed to 48.9% when holding the ball more than 2.54 seconds. Foles will be trying to pick on a Washington set of cornerbacks that have had a tough season. Both starting corners rank low in yards per coverage snap, a stat displaying how many yards a defender allows per snap he is in coverage. DeAngelo Hall allows the second-most yards per coverage snap at 1.70, and Josh Wilson is 11th on that same list at 1.47. It will be important for Hall and Wilson to provide tight coverage and not allow Foles to gain confidence early in the game.
Alfred Morris vs. DeMeco Ryans
Two of the more pleasant surprises for their respective teams have been Alfred Morris and DeMeco Ryans. Morris enters week 16 ranked fourth in our Elusive Rating for running backs and has generated 3.01 yards after contact. He has caused 47 missed tackles on running plays, which is also fourth-highest in the league. The emergence of Morris has really eased the burden on Griffin and the entire Redskins offense. Eagles’ middle linebacker, DeMeco Ryans has the task of stopping Morris this week. With the outside linebackers and defensive ends focused on containing the outside runs, the onus will be on Ryans to stop many of the interior running plays. Ryans has been one of the few Eagles who have lived up to expectations, ranking eighth among inside linebackers in Run Stop Percentage. Ryans has been credited with 43 stops on running plays, and has only two missed tackles on running plays, so this will be a strength versus strength battle.
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