Quarterback Donovan McNabb’s first chance to redeem himself since coach Mike Shanahan benched him two weeks ago comes against his former team in a critical NFC East matchup. McNabb faces a difficult fight, though. His hamstrings still are sore, he can’t practice at full speed, and the offensive line has struggled for weeks.
Philadelphia can bury Washington in the divisional race by building on last week’s victory over Indianapolis. The Redskins broke quarterback Michael Vick’s ribs in their first meeting, a 17-12 Washington win in Week 4, but he played well last week in his return.
Keys for the Redskins
• McNabb must play better in order to quell the talk about his standing with the head coach and offensive coordinator (Kyle Shanahan). The staff’s decision to bench McNabb against Detroit with the outcome in doubt two weeks ago raised significant questions about McNabb’s ability to lead the Redskins to the playoffs. He needs to be accurate and efficient to quiet the doubters.
• The Redskins must somehow coax an effective running game from their battered backfield. They could be without Clinton Portis (groin) and Ryan Torain (hamstring), leaving undrafted rookie Keiland Williams in line to start. Washington successfully ran at the edges of Philadelphia’s defense in their first meeting, and it helped take pressure off of McNabb. Without that to lean on, McNabb would be pressured all game.
Keys for the Eagles
• Philadelphia’s receivers must find a way to stretch the field. In their first meeting, the Redskins were able to slow down DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin by jamming them at the line of scrimmage. Expect the Eagles to use motion and creative sets to help get their receivers running freely down the field.
• Washington’s offense has struggled to score in recent weeks because its offensive linemen are losing individual battles. Philadelphia’s front four must capitalize on some of the strength and mobility issues that Redskins’ linemen have struggled with. If they do, the Eagles will suffocate Washington’s offense by stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.
This matchup has the feel of two teams headed in different directions. The Eagles have Vick and Jackson back healthy and appear poised for a second-half surge. Washington, meanwhile, has cohesion issues and can’t score consistently. Eagles 24-14.