Mike Shanahan dedicated a few hours during his bye week Sunday to preview the NFL's greatest calamity. Shanahan watched the Philadelphia Eagles' fourth straight loss, a five-turnover defeat against Buffalo, from his home. The Eagles, dubbed a "Dream Team" in July by reserve quarterback Vince Young after a spending spree loaded their roster with stars, are a now living a nightmare.
The defeat intensifies Philadelphia's desperation entering Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Neither Shanahan nor any of his players, though, believes the Eagles are as pitiful as their 1-4 record.
"They've got some superstar talent," the coach said. "I know we're going to get their best shot."
The Redskins on Monday returned from their five-day bye week break with caution. From their perch atop the NFC East, they see a dangerous Philadelphia team that, for several reasons, has not produced a win total commensurate with its talent.
A victory would put Washington 3 1/2 games ahead of the Eagles in the division standings and all but bury them. That is not the Redskins' focus this week, though. Instead, respect is the consensus.
"I don't care what their record is," cornerback Josh Wilson said, "I'm going in prepared for the Dream Team."
Most Redskins players remember the version of the Eagles that routed them 59-28 on Monday Night Football last November. Quarterback Michael Vick accounted for six touchdowns. It probably isn't a stretch to say it was one of the greatest individual performances of a generation.
"That was a catastrophe," tight end Fred Davis said. "We got destroyed that game."
And so the Redskins will gather as a team Wednesday to watch film of the 2011 Eagles, and they'll see an offense composed of Vick, running back LeSean McCoy and super fast receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin - all players who scored in last November's blowout.
The memories of that embarrassment will resurface, masking thoughts of Philadelphia's 1-4 record.
"They've got the same weapons," linebacker Brian Orakpo said. "We're not going to take them for granted."
So why are the Eagles floundering if they have the same playmakers from last year's division championship team?
To Shanahan, the reason is obvious.
"Anytime you've got a good football team and you lose some close games, it usually comes down to turnovers," he said. "That's what's happened the last four games-they've lost the turnover battle."
The Eagles have an NFL-worst minus-10 takeaway ratio. They have lost four in a row by an average of 6.25 points, and they averaged 3.5 turnovers in each of those games.
A key for the Redskins, then, is to pressure Vick into more mistakes.
"We knew Vick threw four picks [against Buffalo], so that's huge right there," Orakpo said. "So what we're going to try to do is take advantage of the turnovers as well, try and get hands on the ball, hopefully get to him and try to create some forced fumbles."
Otherwise, the Eagles remain an explosive offensive team. Their defense has struggled tackling, but the offense can move the ball with the league's best.
They're ranked first in rushing and third in yards per play (6.67). If they could just sustain drives without turning the ball over, perhaps the Dream Team moniker wouldn't be such a fantasy.
And it's why the Redskins are wary of it becoming reality Sunday.
"You go out there and put an injured [animal] in a fight, they're going to fight for their life," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "At some point we know that tide is going to turn. We just hope that doesn't turn against us."
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