*The Week 15 matchup between the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles was postponed to Tuesday, December 21 due to an influx of COVID-19 cases in the Washington organization.
21. It’s the minimum age to purchase alcohol, gamble and become an Uber driver in the US. It’s the day that the summer and winter solstices fall on each June and December. It’s the unofficial answer to 9 + 10.
It’s also the amount of WFT players that were placed on the COVID-19 list this week alone.
Luckily for Washington, the NFL and NFLPA announced the postponement of three Week 15 games, including Washington–Philadelphia, on Friday afternoon. Instead of playing Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m., the two rivals will play Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. This gives all vaccinated players who’s games got postponed a chance to to play in Tuesday’s contests.
Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Jonathan Allen and Kam Curl were just a few of the names that landed on the WFT’s COVID list this week. Without their top two quarterbacks, Washington was forced to sign Garrett Gilbert, who will likely be the starter for Tuesday’s contest against the Philadelphia Eagles, unless Heinicke or Allen test out. Add in the injuries to Logan Thomas, Terry McLaurin and numerous others, Washington is basically rolling out their practice squad on Tuesday. Maybe Gilbert will put on a shocking, out-of-nowhere awesome performance just like Heinicke did in his first start, but it’s going to take an unheralded amount of perseverance for Washington to get back to .500.
Here are three keys for the WFT to defeat both the Eagles and adversity on Tuesday:
Focus on stopping the run
The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the weirdest teams in the NFL; Jalen Hurts has been inconsistent at best, and they have been unable to stay healthy, just like Washington. The only place they have had some consistency, however, is the run game. As the number one rushing team in football, the Eagles average 160 yards per game on the ground and an absurd 211 over their past three games. The shocking thing, however, was that Week 14 was the first time Philly had a 100-yard rusher this year, which speaks to how balanced their ground game is. Luckily, with their passing game being as lackluster as it is — they rank 30th in the league in passing yards per game — Washington’s defense can key in on stopping the run. Even after losing Montez Sweat and Chase Young, the Football Team’s run defense has allowed just 93.6 yards per game — good for fifth-best in the league.
Positive time of possession
Washington’s season can be visualized simply by looking at time of possession. During the four game win streak, Washington trailed only the Ravens in average time of possession, holding the ball for over 37 minutes per game. To no surprise, in the loss to Dallas, Washington had the ball for a measly 25:31. The correlation is clear: every game Washington has won, they have had a positive T.O.P margin, and nearly every game they have lost, it has been negative. If Washington wants to beat Philly with their depleted roster, holding onto the ball as long as possible is going to be key. The Eagles are averaging 29:12 minutes with the ball each game, meaning their opponent has the ball for over 50% of the game. Running the ball is going to be the only way to accomplish this feat, especially with all of the injuries in the receiving core. Philly allows almost 110 rushing yards per game, meaning Washington can definitely do some damage on the ground. Whichever running back is healthy is going to see a plethora of touches, and as long as they follow our next key — limiting turnovers — Washington is in prime shape to pick up a rivalry win.
Secure the football
All season long, Washington has been ravaged by turnovers, especially fumbles. During their win streak, they were able to keep possession of the ball for the most part, allowing the offense to maintain and capitalize on long drives. Last week against the Cowboys, a fumble from Antonio Gibson proved to be a turning point. After a magnificent touchdown catch from Cam Sims, the defense was able to force the Cowboys to go three and out, giving the ball back to Taylor Heinicke. With a chance to make it a one possession game, Heinicke conservatively checked it down to Gibson, but unfortunately, he coughed up the football, giving Dallas great field possession that eventually led to a Greg Zuerlein 29-yard field goal. Gibson has struggled holding onto the ball this year; his six lost fumbles lead all NFL running backs. In order for Washington to have success against a decent Philadelphia defense, Gibson and the rest of the team need to hold onto the ball and keep the offense on the field.
Washington is going to have to dig deep if they want to pull off an incredible win against the Eagles. It’s the time of year where every loss hurts a little more, especially with Washington in the heat of the NFC Wild Card race. There is a chance some players return from the COVID list before Tuesday, which would give Washington a big confidence boost heading into the rivalry matchup.