Tonight is an opportunity for the Eagles to begin putting last week's painful loss in Oakland behind them. To add insult to injury, the New York Jets visited the Raiders yesterday and left contrails all over the field on the way to a 38-0 whipping- a game so easy that the Jets QB snacked on a hot dog during the game. The lopsided game helped to reinforce that the previous week was more about the Eagles futility and less about the Raiders resurgence.
Besides using the memory of last week's game as motivation to play to their potential going forward, the best thing the team can do is chalk up the big upset loss as a poor performance that sometimes happens to good teams and get back on track with a strong showing in Washington tonight. Similar to the Raiders, the Redskins have had a less than satisfying season thus far, so much so that the front office made the decision to give Coach Jim Zorn's play calling responsibilities to a consultant.
Sherman Lewis, the consultant, will relay plays from the press box to another Sherman (Smith) on the sideline, while Coach Zorn gets to observe. It is not clear whether this is to enhance Zorn's enjoyment of the game, help him learn how it is done or allow him to send in two tight ends for a quarterback sneak, but it would seem to make for a dysfunctional situation. Additionally, starting quarterback Jason Campbell was benched at half-time last week, but will be back under center, at least for awhile. There is no word on who makes that call. To the Eagles credit, players have reminded themselves to not be duped into thinking that the game will be easy.
The reality is that the Eagles have struggled against the Redskins in recent years, including a pair of losses last season. The latter had looked to be a big blow as the Eagles gave up controlling their playoff destiny in Week 16, and ultimately needed an unlikely combination of events to get into the playoffs. So, regardless of who is calling plays for them, the Redskins will probably present a stiff challenge this evening.
Andy Reid hopes to get his offense untracked tonight after failing to score a touchdown against the Raiders. Last week's main culprits were poor protection for McNabb and a highly unbalanced offensive approach. Considering that the Redskins have a strong defensive line that will keep pressure on McNabb, fortunately, Jason Peters and guard Todd Herremans should be back in the line-up after returning from injuries. Handing the ball off more to Brian Westbrook, and perhaps LeSean McCoy would also help to keep the heat off and potentially open up the passing game.
Look for McNabb to regain his rhythm and spread the ball around to DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Jeremy Maclin and his two running backs. Westbrook should get more carries than he has gotten since returning from injury, but the Eagles will still stay with a heavy dose of passing.
On the defensive side of the ball, Sean McDermott will likely use a great deal of stunting and blitzing, recognizing that the Redskins offensive play calling consultant may need to shake off the cobwebs. Conversely, the Redskins will have a clear element of surprise tonight, so it will be important for the Eagles defense to not get locked into what they saw in film study leading up to the game. Campbell will either have a chip on his shoulder and be determined to prove his place as the starter, or he will be looking over his shoulder and indecisive. The Eagles will quickly put that to the test with pressure early on.
This will be a tough NFC East battle. The fact that the Eagles have the better team, along with the extra motivation from last week's embarrassing loss and the Cardinals victory over the Giants last night, should allow them to emerge victorious. Securing a win tonight is particularly important with the Giants and Cowboys coming into town over the next two weeks.