What to watch for in Redskins-Eagles on 'MNF'

Who's interested in winning the NFC East?

The Cowboys appear game after their rousing, scenery-shifting win over the Saints. Now it's up to the Redskins (6-5) and Eagles (5-6) to make their case on Monday Night Football.

Here's what we'll be watching for:

  1. Let's start with the playoff implications surrounding this tussle. Dallas (7-5) sits alone atop the division after authoring the upset of the year over New Orleans on Thursday night. The East might be stocked with questionable play, but a Redskins win this evening would hand Washington possession of the fifth-overall seed in the NFC. An Eagles win, though, would leave both Philly and the 'Skins jammed up at 6-6 and currently on the outside looking in. If you're a Philly loyalist, you'd take that scenario in a blink and pray for what comes next in tall-order road dates against the Cowboys and Rams. While a loss wouldn't eliminate the Eagles -- not mathematically, at least -- they'd be impossible to take seriously. Their largely milquetoast Super Bowl title defense boils down to what happens tonight on ESPN.
  1. We're eons removed from last year's whirlwind offense that set Philly ablaze under Carson Wentz before Nick Foles etched glory against the Patriots on the game's biggest stage. This year's Eagles have been a frustrating watch, but hope arrives in the form of undrafted rookie runner Josh Adams, who put up 84 yards and a touchdown off 22 carries in last week's comeback win over the Giants. His workload marked the most attempts by an Eagles player since the 2016 opener and the most ground yards in a game for Philly all season. The former Notre Dame back also had a 52-yard touchdown erased by penalty, suggesting the Eagles have finally found some life on the ground. Adams is bound to see a big share of the action against a Redskins run defense that has given up outings of 154, 103, 139 and 146 yards over their past four tilts. Adams is questionable with a hip injury, but our very own Mike Garafolo reported the rookie is "on track" to suit up. There's also hope that Darren Sproles will finally emerge after missing 11 games with a nasty hamstring injury.
  1. Eagles beat writer Zach Berman of Philly.com noted that coach Doug Pederson "came to his Saturday press conference with his play sheet in hand. He joked that they were all run plays on the sheet."

Typically clunky head-coach humor, but an acknowledgement by Pederson that balance has been an issue for this attack. He's bristled at the idea that Philly deeply misses the mind and game-day lever-pulls of former play-caller Frank Reich, now ensconced with the Colts, but the Eagles have also dealt with their share of injuries.

Carson Wentz is not the problem, though, pegging nearly 70 percent of his throws for a career-high 282.2 yards per game. Still, the explosive plays haven't come easy, with Wentz ranking 23rd in completions of 20-plus yards and 18th in 40-plus-yard hookups after ranking 16th and ninth, respectively, in 2017. Wentz is still a joy to watch, offering juicy arm strength and a magician's escapability. With the season on the line, expect him to author a handful of signature plays under the lights.

Wentz's trustiest weapon has been reliable pass-catching tight end Zach Ertz, the only player on the roster with more than 50 grabs. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are week-to-week propositions, while the traded-for Golden Tate has put up 19, 48 and 30 yards over his first three tilts in green. It amounts to a tough matchup against a Redskins squad that has shut down tight ends all season. Keep an eye on Washington's D.J. Swearinger, one of the craftiest safeties in the league and a major factor tonight alongside cover man Josh Norman.

  1. The Redskins saw their season take an ugly turn when starting passer Alex Smith was lost for the year with a gruesome broken leg suffered in Week 11. Colt McCoy, in theory, can do most of what Smith can do in this weapons-needy offense, but the backup was rocky in a Thanksgiving loss to Dallas, flinging three costly picks. In a season where offenses are exploding, the Redskins field an attack that channels through their ground game, their tight ends -- and very little else.

Tight end Jordan Reed (questionable with a knee injury) leads the squad with 50 catches while no wideout has more than Josh Doctson's 32 grabs. It's a big help to have versatile, pass-catching running back Chris Thompson back in the mix, especially against one of the league's most banged-up secondaries. The key for Washington is keeping McCoy upright behind an injury-addled line that must do battle with Eagles defensive behemoth Fletcher Cox.

Fans also will get another look at Adrian Peterson, the future Hall of Fame back who started off as a fiery wonder for the Redskins but has leveled off with just 42.8 rushing yards per outing over his last four starts. There's no better place for a late-career star-turn than tonight on the road in a game that could vault Washington right back into the thick of this year's playoff picture.

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