The Washington Football Team takes on the Philadelphia Eagles in a Week 1 matchup which will set the expectations for the season for both teams. Philadelphia is the overwhelming favorites amongst analysts, despite the Eagles suffering a myriad of injuries, specifically along the offensive line. With the way these teams stack up, the game could be closer than most expect.
While I believe Philadelphia to be the superior team this season, Washington’s strengths match-up favorably with the Eagles’ current weaknesses. That, coupled with the fact that neither team had a preseason to warm-up to prepare for the regular season, leads me to believe it may be a perfect storm for Washington to pull off an upset.
In this preview, we will take a look at; the expectations for each team, the match-ups Washington must take advantage of, and some players expected to stand out. Finally, we’ll give a score prediction from each of our Washington analysts here at PFN.
Week 1: Washington vs Philadelphia
Recent News: Philadelphia
Lane Johnson and Miles Sanders are listed as day-to-day, Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson “won’t commit to Lane being ready Week 1.” Sanders is expected to have a “limited workload.”
Jason Peters was announced as the team’s left tackle. Therefore, expect Matt Pryor to start at right guard if Johnson plays. However, if Johnson is out, expect Pryor to go to right tackle, with Nate Herbig filling in at RG.
Eagles first-round wide receiver Jalen Reagor was expected to miss Week 1 but participated in practice in full pads on Wednesday and Thursday.
Recent News: Washington
Dwayne Haskins was officially named QB1, as well as named a team captain.
JD McKissic appeared on the depth chart as the starting running back, though the expectation is that rookie Antonio Gibson is still set to receive the majority of carries.
Kendall Fuller is still limited in practice, his status for Week 1 remains in question.
Jonathan Allen and Gibson were both full go in Wednesday’s practice, and both are expected to play Sunday.
Philadelphia’s game plan
Going into the game as the consensus favorite, expect Philadelphia to attack Washington’s pass coverage early and often. For the first time in quite some time, the Eagles can’t confidently depend on their line to out muscle their opponents. This alters what the team will want to do offensively. However, the Eagles enter this game with a clear offensive advantage, so it may just be a case of the battle in the trenches leveling the playing field.
The Eagles’ ability to put points on the board far exceeds that of Washington. With true franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz surrounded by a great young running back in Sanders, the best tight-end duo in football, and a talented receiving unit, expect them to move the ball through the air with some success. If the Eagles can score 24 or more points, I find it difficult to see Washington matching the tempo.
On defense, Philadelphia will be hoping that the big off-season acquisition of Darius Slay provides an immediate return. Washington WR Terry McLaurin torched the Eagles last season for a stat line of 10-255-2 in two games. McLaurin also had his way against Slay when Washington played Detroit last year. Will the match-up be different this time around?
If Philadelphia is to win a defensive battle, they must affect Haskins and force off rhythm throws. The Eagles defensive line is still one of the more disruptive units in football and they will be against a very inexperienced Washington unit, particularly on the left side. However, a game that comes down to defensive impact and pass rush does not favor the Eagles in this match-up.
Washington’s game plan
The Eagles defense has dealt with a lot of turnover lately. They’ve moved on from most of their starting secondary from last season, but added players like Slay and Javon Hargrave to boost the overall talent of their unit. However, the biggest weakness of their defense still remains the overall talent of their linebackers.
Look for Washington to attempt to take advantage of that weakness with an offense that will heavily feature the running backs in the passing game. Expect Gibson and McKissic to be a match-up nightmare for Philadelphia’s linebackers. I also believe we’ll see another strong game for McLaurin, the 2019 rookie sensation. Torching the Eagles is what he did best last year.
On defense, there’s one thing Washington must do consistently if they want to win this game: get in the backfield. Against both the rush and the pass, Washington’s best match-up on Sunday is their dominant defensive line against the very injured Eagles offensive line. If Washington can force Sanders to have a poor game on the ground, and get after Wentz then they have a real shot at pulling off an upset. If Johnson isn’t playing Sunday, we could see Washington register double-digit sacks against Philadelphia.
Players to watch
Philadelphia: Miles Sanders, Dallas Goedert, Rodney McLeod
Washington: JD McKissic, Logan Thomas, Ronald Darby
Overview and score predictions
In my eyes, this game will go one of two ways. Either both teams struggle to defend the pass and we see a strong game from both quarterbacks in a high scoring game, or the talent on the defensive line is too much and they take over a low scoring game. In the first scenario, I think Philadelphia wins competently. Washington just does not possess the firepower or experience to compete in a shoot-out.
On the other hand, in a low scoring affair, I do believe there’s a significant chance Washington shocks the world. A dominant effort from their defensive line could lead them to a low scoring victory. Earlier I set the magic number at 24. If Washington can prevent Philadelphia from scoring 24 points I believe they can win in Week 1 and start the season on a positive. Though without a preseason, it’s still more likely we see some sloppy football early and Philadelphia leaves the DMV with their first win of the season.
Matt Valdovinos: Philadelphia 28-23 Washington
Ian Cummings: Philadelphia 30-24 Washington
Oliver Hodgkinson: Philadelphia 23-20 Washington