NFL Preview - Philadelphia (9-5) at Washington (3-11)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Eagles no longer control their own destiny and squandered those chances with back-to-back convincing defeats.
The Eagles will try to keep their fading playoff hopes alive when they visit the Washington Redskins Saturday at FedEx Field.
Philadelphia was in a euphoric state after dismantling rival Dallas on Thanksgiving, but came back down to Earth with a 24-14 loss to Seattle the next week. To make matters worse, the Cowboys entered south Philly Sunday night and left town with a 38-27 victory and sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant torched Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher for 114 yards and three touchdowns on six receptions.
"I had a terrible game. That's what happened today," Fletcher said.
Eagles other defensive back Cary Williams was whistled for a few penalties in the loss, Philadelphia's third in the last five games.
The start of the game set the tone for the Cowboys, who recovered the opening kickoff deep in Philadelphia territory after Josh Huff let the ball bounce, almost as if he was fielding a punt. DeMarco Murray later scored on a one-yard run to open the scoring and Dallas eventually led 21-0.
Philadelphia would scored the next 24 points for a three-point lead, but the Cowboys persevered with back-to-back scores from Murray and Bryant.
Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez completed 17-of-28 passes for 252 yards and two interceptions. Sanchez, who shouldered blame for the loss, has nine INTs this season to 10 touchdown passes and is looking forward.
"We've just got to bounce back," Sanchez said Sunday night. "Get this taste out of our mouth as soon as possible, as in tonight, and get in there, get in the film room, shake it off and move on. Because I know we have so much talent on this team, and it would be a real shame if we didn't maximize it and get these next couple of wins. But it starts with next week.
"I need to clean up some mistakes and attack this thing like I do every week. That's with a positive attitude, learning from the previous week, learning from this game and being ready to play."
The Eagles will close the regular season on the road against the New York Giants on Dec. 28 and can miss out on a chance to win the NFC East with a loss Saturday and a Dallas win Sunday versus Indianapolis.
Washington is last in the NFC East with a dismal 3-11 record and is mired in a six-game losing streak. In Sunday's 24-13 road loss to the Giants, Robert Griffin III took over for Colt McCoy (neck) and completed 18-of-27 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
McCoy left early against the Giants after aggravating a neck injury and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Now the starting job is back in the hands of Griffin, who is supposedly the future and face of the franchise.
"We've got two games left and we've got to make sure that as a team we go out there ready to play," Griffin said. "These guys in there are the best in the world, so we have to go out there and show it. So I pray that the team is ready to go."
Griffin said the Eagles have an aggressive defense, but is ready for the challenge. Griffin did not play in the first meeting with the Eagles, a 37-34 setback at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 3. Kirk Cousins, who is now the backup, threw for 427 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Pierre Garcon caught 11 passes for 138 yards and a score, while former Eagle DeSean Jackson recorded 117 yards and a score on five catches, including an 81-yard TD reception in the third quarter. Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin ended with 154 yards and a TD on eight catches. Maclin, who owns 10 TDs this season, has four 100-yard games in the last five against the 'Skins.
The Redskins struggled against Giants rookie wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and could be in for another frustrating game versus Maclin.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who is out with a broken clavicle, completed 27 of his 41 pass attempts for 325 yards and three scores with no INTs back in Week 3. Now it's up to Sanchez to get Philly back on track. He won his only start against the Redskins back on Dec. 4, 2011 with the New York Jets.
The Redskins lost both meetings with the Eagles last season, but lead the all- time series, 81-74-6. Washington has lost three in a row and six of the past eight meetings between the rivals.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Eagles have been able to slow down two of the top running backs in the league the last few weeks. Murray and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch had seen better days against the Eagles, who now have to worry about both Alfred Morris and Griffin.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly knows how good RG3 is.
"If you sleep on that guy, trust me, you'll be sitting here after the game going, 'Boy, he ran for 100 yards against you, how'd that happen?'" Kelly said Wednesday. "That kid's athletic as heck, and he can run really, really well. We have to understand where he is on every single play."
Philadelphia struggled against the elusive Russell Wilson in the loss to the Seahawks and could be in for a long afternoon if it misses assignments and tackles poorly.
"We've got to be really sharp on our contain when we rush the quarterback, because he's a different element than we've seen except for Russell Wilson," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said.
Jenkins also acknowledged Griffin's arm strength and ability to set his feet and throw after moving out of harm's way. Griffin has explosive receivers in Garcon, Jackson and tight end Jordan Reed. Morris can catch passes as well and needs 52 rushing yards for a third straight 1,000-yard season.
The Eagles won't have Trent Cole Saturday and possibly for the remainder of the season because of a broken hand suffered Sunday night. Brandon Graham will make the start in Cole's place at outside linebacker
"I'm just excited for any opportunity that I get," Graham said. "I'm definitely going to make the best of this opportunity, these last two games, and hopefully we can sneak into these playoffs."
Rookie Marcus Smith could see extended playing time, too. He's played in eight games and has just one tackle to show for it.
"I'm working hard and I have to be ready," Smith said. "The best way to learn is to get out on the field and do it."
Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin leads the team and the NFC with 14 1/2 sacks and has recorded four in the past four games. Fellow linebacker Mychal Kendricks leads the team with 67 tackles (51 solo).
Washington has a talented pass rusher in Ryan Kerrigan, who has 12 1/2 sacks this season. Kerrigan has posted four sacks in the last five games against Philadelphia. Linebacker Keenan Robinson leads the 'Skins with 99 tackles (64 solo).
The Redskins are one of three teams with only five interceptions this season. Kansas City is at the bottom with only four INTs. Robinson has one of those picks.
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy didn't have a healthy line to play behind in the first meeting with the Redskins and recorded 22 yards on 19 carries. He has just two 100-yard games in his last six and posted 64 yards on 16 carries Sunday night.
"The situation we're in now, we need wins, and they're a team trying to finish the season out. I've been there. I know that type of role," McCoy said. "You want to play hard, but you've probably got your flights already scheduled, where you're going. We're fighting for something."
Tackle Jason Peters was ejected in the first game for defending Foles, who was blindsided by Redskins defensive lineman Chris Baker on a turnover.
"We're going down there to win ... Point blank," Peters said. "Whatever we've got to do to win, that's what we're going down to do."
Philadelphia will keep its playoff hopes alive and can only hope the Colts upend the Cowboys in Big D. It's a lot to ask, but extremely possible.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Eagles 37, Redskins 23
12/18 15:11:52 ET