The last time the Eagles and Redskins played was week two of the regular season and the result for Philadelphia was an uninspired 20-12 loss on Monday Night Football. With a record of 3-5 on the season, the Eagles will try to avenge the early season loss against Washington and get their season back on track. Here is a look at five key match ups that could go a long way in deciding the outcome of the game:
Philadelphia's run defense vs. Clinton Portis
The Eagles have played well against the run all season. The week before Adrian Peterson set the single game rushing record with 296 yards against San Diego, the Eagles held him to a mere 70 yards on the ground. Philadelphia is ranked third in the NFC against the run, allowing an average of 92.9 yards rushing per game, and is tied for the second fewest touchdowns allowed, letting up only 4 on the ground.
The defense will have to be at its best to slow down the explosive Portis. The former Miami Hurricane ranks second in the NFC behind only Peterson in rushing yards with 629, and also have 6 touchdowns. Portis had his best game of the season last week against the Jets, rushing 36 times for 196 yards and a touchdown. Last time he faced the Eagles, Portis played a significant role in the game rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Brian Westbrook vs. London Fletcher
Getty Images/Chris McGrath
Westbrook will have to be at his best against a stout Washington defense that is ranked tenth in the NFL and
has allowed a total of 310.6 yards per game. Philadelphia's running back had a solid game on the ground last week in a loss to Dallas, rushing for 65 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, but he showed how much of a dual threat he is by catching 14 passes for 90 yards also. Westbrook has the second most yards from scrimmage in the NFL with 1036, trailing only the sensational rookie Peterson. Against the Redskins in week two, Westbrook had 96 rushing yards on 17 carries and 8 receptions for 66 yards.
Washington will rely on its veteran middle linebacker and tackling machine Fletcher to try to slow down Westbrook and control the tempo of the game. In his tenth year in the league, Fletcher leads his team and is third in the NFL in tackles with 75, and also has two interceptions. Since 2000, Fletcher has had at least 130 tackles six times. When the Eagles and Redskins met at the Linc earlier this year, Fletcher finished the game with six tackles.
Donovan McNabb vs. Sean Taylor
After receiving a lot of the blame for the Eagles loss to Dallas last week because of a few poor decisions, McNabb will look to bounce back against the Redskins, who have the 18th pass defense in the league and have allowed nine touchdowns through the air. Against the Cowboys, McNabb fumbled on the first offensive play of the game and also threw two interceptions in the 38-17 route. So far on the season, McNabb has thrown more than one touchdown in only one game and has looked inconsistent, but Philadelphia's passing game has averaged 236.4 yards through the air and ranks sixth in the NFC. In the 20-12 loss to the Redskins earlier this year, McNabb played a sub-par game and threw for 240 yards and no touchdowns. His longest completion of the game went for only 19 yards.
McNabb will have to keep an eye on the secondary and look out for Washington's pro bowl safety Taylor, as the fourth-year pro has a knack for making big plays and big hits. This season, Taylor has 38 total tackles and a forced fumble, and leads the NFL in interceptions with five. Against the Eagles in week two, Taylor had five tackles and one pass deflected in the game. He also made the loss more painful for the Eagles by delivering a monster hit on Reggie Brown when the receiver was trying to catch a pass.
Brian Dawkins vs. Chris Cooley
The Eagle's emotional leader returned to the field against Dallas last week in his first action since leaving the game against Washington in week two with a neck stinger. Dawkins played sparingly last week and his status is still listed as probable as he recovers, but the Eagles need his intensity and leadership to win games. Although he looked slightly tentative at times in his first game back, the Eagles will look to their all-pro safety to make plays and cover receivers. Dawkins had two tackles in his return to action against the Cowboys.
One assignment that could be especially difficult for Dawkins will be covering Jason Campbell's favorite target, Chris Cooley. Cooley has 277 yards receiving and is tied with Antwaan Randle El for the team lead in receptions with 27. Five of his catches went for touchdowns and Cooley is tied with Jason Witten for the most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in the NFC. Last time he saw the Eagles, Cooley caught two passes for 25 yards and had a touchdown.
Philadelphia's offensive line vs. Andre Carter
While the offensive line has been a strength for the Eagles in recent years, the unit has struggled as of late. McNabb was taken down three times last week, as DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis played hard off the edge. The first sack of the day came on the first play of the game and resulted in a fumble and a Dallas touchdown on their ensuing drive. This season McNabb has been sacked 28 times, which is more than any other quarterback in the NFL besides Jon Kitna. Against Washington in week two, the Eagles let up three sacks.
Tackles Jon Runyan and William Thomas will both have to face the speed rushing Carter throughout the game. At 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds, Carter is smaller than most of Philadelphia's linemen and will look to use his quickness to get into the backfield. On the season, Carter has 30 tackles, 6 sacks, and two forced fumbles. When the two teams last played, Carter had a quiet game and was held to three tackles and failed to record a sack.
Andrew Pluta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.