PHILADELPHIA — It’s rather simple. If the Washington Redskins beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night, they clinch the NFC East title and a ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Making the playoffs gets a bit more complicated with a loss. The Redskins would have to beat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, then hope the New York Giants beat the Eagles.
For players in the Redskins’ locker room, there’s no sense in getting caught up in the tie-breaking scenarios when they can secure the division themselves Saturday night.
“It feels good to play meaningufl games in December late in the season,” veteran defensive back DeAngelo Hall said. “For us to be fighting for the division title right now, it’s amazing because we control our own destiny. If we go out and take care of our business, it’s over, it’s done. It doesn’t matter what anybody else does.”
Clinching the division before Week 17 is something the Redskins have not done since 1999. With injuries to players such as free safety Dashon Goldson, right tackle Morgan Moses and a host of others, being able to rest against the Cowboys would certainly be beneficial.
However, that’s hardly a thought for coach Jay Gruden. Much like he has said all season, the Redskins’ focus is a narrow one and right now it’s centered on the Eagles. Washington has won consecutive games, including its first on the road, but the team’s 1-6 road record this season is a reminder of how challenging it can be to win away from FedEx Field.
So how does the team avoid looking ahead?
“It’s easy — just look at our road record the last two years, you know what I mean,” Gruden said. “We have to understand, one, we’re playing a very good football team at home. They have a very good defensive line, and offensively, they’re starting to find their way a little bit. It’s going to be a great game so it’s going to be very easy for us to stay motivated and understand the importance of each rep — each play — in this football game. These guys understand it. Nobody is looking ahead. We’re all looking at Philadelphia, no doubt. We’ve done a good job of that all year as far as staying focused on the task at hand.”
With that, here’s a look at the logistics and three things to watch on Saturday night.
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m.
Records: Redskins 7-7, Eagles 6-8
Television: NFL Network (Ian Eagle, play-by-play; Trent Green, color; Evan Washburn (sidelines)
Radio: ESPN 980 (Larry Michael, Sonny Jurgensen, Chris Cooley, Doc Walker)
Weather: 50 and cloudy
Lines: Eagles -3, over/under 48.5 per Bovada
Redskins offense: QB Kirk Cousins, RB Alfred Morris, WR Pierre Garcon, WR DeSean Jackson, TE Jordan Reed, TE Alex Smith, LT Trent Williams, LG Spencer Long, C Josh LeRibeus, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses.
Redskins defense: DE Chris Baker, DE Jason Hatcher, OLB Trent Murphy, ILB Will Compton, ILB Mason Foster, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, CB Will Blackmon, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Quinton Dunbar, SS DeAngelo Hall, FS Dashon Goldson.
Eagles offense: QB Sam Bradford, RB Ryan Mathews, WR Riley Cooper, WR Nelson Agholor, WR Jordan Matthews, TE Brent Celek, LT Jason Peters, LG Allen Barbre, C Jason Kelce, RG Matt Tobin, RT Lance Johnson.
Eagles defense: DE Fletcher Cox, NT Bennie Logan, DE Cedric Thornton, OLB Connor Barwin, ILB DeMeco Ryans ILB Mychal Kendricks, OLB Brandon Graham, CB E.J. Biggers, CB Eric Rowe , S Walter Thurmond, S Malcolm Jenkins.
Redskins: Out: ILB Perry Riley (foot) Questionable — FS Dashon Goldson (ribs/knee/shoulder), WR Ryan Grant (abdomen), RB Matt Jones (hip), C Josh LeRibeus (ankle), RT Morgan Moses (right tackle); Probable — DE Jason Hatcher (neck/knee), WR DeSean Jackson (knee/foot), OLB Ryan Kerrigan (toe), ILB Will Compton (neck), DE Kedric Golston (calf), SS Jeron Johnson (hamstring), DE Frank Kearse (finger), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), ILB Keenan Robinson (shoulder), RB Chris Thompson (shoulder).
Eagles: Questionable: WR Seyi Ajirotutu (ankle), DT Bennie Logan (calf), CB Byron Maxwell (shoulder); Probable — QB Sam Bradford (left shoulder), CB Eric Rowe (concussion).
All-time record: The Redskins are 83-73-5 against the Eagles.
Last regular-season meeting: Oct. 4, 2015: 23-20 win at FedEx Field.
Three things to watch:
** DeSean Jackson has already played his former team twice before, but never in a situation like this one with so much on the line. Starting as early as last Sunday after the Redskins beat the Bills, Jackson has made it known he’s not trying to make this game more than it is. It’s a game against the Eagles and a chance to win the division, not the latest chapter in Jackson’s vengeance tour against the team that unceremoniously dumped him.
“It’s just part of history,” Jackson said on Wednesday. “It just happened. As far as my career and where I’m at now, I just look at it as something that happened and I’m happy to be here in Washington and I’m not looking back. It’s in the past and it’s over and done with. I’m blessed to say I have a job and still playing at a high level. Anything else really doesn’t matter.”
The numbers tell a different tale. Last season, Jackson torched the Eagles with nine catches for 243 yards and a touchdown. Jackson missed the matchup earlier this season because he was out with a hamstring injury. Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell is questionable and has not practiced all week and cornerback Nolan Carroll is also on injured reserve, so it could be tough to cover the speedy receiver.
Jackson didn’t participate in practice on Wednesday because of his injuries, but there was never a doubt he’d be unable to play Saturday.
“This is one of the reasons we recruited him to come here and one of the reasons he came here,” Hall said. “To be able to face those guys. There’s no better situation than to face them for it all. I know he’s jacked up and ready to roll.”
** Center Josh LeRibeus and right tackle Morgan Moses both have sprained ankles and how they shape up against the Eagles’ defensive front will be key. LeRibeus’ injury seems less severe than Moses’. Both are listed as questionable, but Gruden on Thursday said that Moses was “going to need the next couple of days,” to get better. The Eagles’ defense ranks near the bottom of the pack statistically, but it’s difficult to keep defensive end Fletcher Cox away from the quarterback. He has 7.5 sacks this season and leads an Eagles defense that has dropped the quarterback 33 times. If Moses is unable to finish Saturday’s game, the Redskins will turn to backup tackle Ty Nsekhe, who filled in for Moses after he left last week’s game against the Bills.
“We feel good about Ty, he’s been here all season,” Gruden said. “He’s been busting his butt and he’ll have to step up if need be.”
** The start of the season wasn’t pretty for Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford, but he’s certainly improved since then. In his last five games, he has completed 66.5 percent of his passes. After throwing 10 interceptions in his first seven games, he has tossed just three since and seven touchdown passes. The Redskins defense’s first priority will be getting to the quarterback, which they did well against Tyrod Taylor and the Bills, but they’ll need more of it on Saturday.
It will also be worth keeping an eye on free safety Dashon Goldson. Goldson, the ironman of the Redskins’ secondary, has played 98 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He’s listed as questionable with a broken rib, as well as knee and shoulder injuries, but Gruden seemed optimistic Goldson will play through it. He’s the defensive captain and his leadership has helped hold together a patchwork secondary, so his presence alone should help. As far as the level of his play, he certainly won’t be 100 percent.