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Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins.

Redskins Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles will open the 2017 on the road against their divisional rival: The Washington Redskins.

The Redskins have bested the Eagles in their previous five games. If they defeat the Eagles on Sunday, it would be the longest drought against a divisional rival in seventeen years (1999-2001 against the Giants.) Part of that reason is Redskins signal-caller Kirk Cousins, who in his last four meetings against the Eagles tossed nine touchdowns and two interceptions.

There is optimism that the Eagles can win this game. The receiving core and secondary (both major weaknesses in the past two seasons) appear much more revamped, and the team as a whole is improved over last year’s squad.

When the Eagles Offense Takes the Field

The Eagles offense will be lead by Carson Wentz, who becomes the first Eagles quarterback to start consecutive season openers since Michael Vick did it from 2012-2013. He won’t be knocking rust off like Sam Bradford did in 2015, nor will he be exposed like Nick Foles in 2014. Wentz has made strides in improving his mechanics and has better cohesion with his receivers after working with them since April.

I expect Doug Pederson to deploy his new weapons early and deep. Unlike last year, the Eagles have receivers suited to catch deep passes. Besides Josh Norman, the Redskins don’t have quality corners. With Norman covering Alshon Jeffrey, I expect Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, and Zach Ertz, who is a thorn in the Redskins’ side (41 catches in 8 games against Washington), to see plenty of targets down the field.

The Redskins front seven is weaker compared to last season. Chris Baker, who always had big games against the Eagles, left to join the Buccaneers and Trent Murphy is out for the season due to several torn knee ligaments. Washington will rely on rookie Jonathan Allen to have a big game shutting down the Eagles rushing attack.

Speaking of which, it is difficult to preview the Eagles run game because they plan on using four running backs against the Redskins. While LeGarrette Blount will receive the lion-share of the carries, little is known as to how they will use Wendell Smallwood/Corey Clement/Darren Sproles. An ideal template for this “Running-Back-By-Committee” would be Blount’s former team the New England Patriots, which rotated Blount, Dion Lewis, and James White into games with great results.

Despite this, I give the advantage to the Eagles, as they enter this game healthier on Offense compared to the Redskins’ Defense, which has injuries and uncertainty (Su’a Cravens, who was expected to start for Washington, flirted with retirement and will miss this game.

When the Eagles Defense Takes the Field

The Redskins Offense has undergone major changes in the receiving core. Gone are DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, and now Jamison Crowder and newly-arrived Terrelle Pryor will operate as the top two receivers to Kirk Cousins. This change in chemistry could play to the Eagles benefit, as Garcon and Jackson terrorized hapless Philly corners for the past three years.

However, the Eagles will be starting two new corners in Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby. While Darby and Mills are better than McKelvin and Carroll, that’s not saying much.

What remains the same is that both teams are very strong at the line of scrimmage, however the Eagles made an upgrade acquiring Tim Jernigan, who fits Jim Schwartz’s wide-nine scheme better than Bennie Logan. Countering this, the Redskins will be starting a rookie center, Wyoming’s Chase Roullier. Roullier will have to contend not only with Jernigan, but All-Pro Fletcher Cox. Kirk Cousins will be hounded up-the-middle all game.

Despite this playing into the Eagles’ hands, I give the Redskins the advantage, because Kirk Cousins owns the Eagles. Until proven otherwise, I feel he is going to produce. Jordan Reed is healthy and will give the Eagles problems, and if Pryor or Crowder fail to produce, they will lean on him and Vernon Davis

Final Prediction

I feel the Eagles will snap their five-game skid against the Redskins this Sunday. They are entering this game with confidence and the new pieces should give them an edge on offense. The Redskins were an above-average team last year that has been devastated by departures and injuries. This will be a close game, as most divisional games tend to be, but the Eagles will pull it out.

Eagles 28 Redskins 24

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