Eagles in a must-win situation vs. DeSean, Washington

ByROB MAADDI AP Pro Football Writer via AP logo
Saturday, December 26, 2015
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DeSean Jackson arrives in Philadelphia on Christmas.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Redskins played the spoiler role when they eliminated the Philadelphia Eagles from playoff contention in Week 16 last year.

Their stakes are much higher this time around.

The Redskins (7-7) would complete a worst-to-first journey and capture their first NFC East title since RG3's rookie season with a victory at Philadelphia (6-8) on Saturday night.

The Eagles need to win to stay alive. They would secure their second division title in three years if they beat the Redskins and the Giants (6-8) on Jan. 3.

"They have the same implications in place: They control their own destiny, also. And so it's going to be a dogfight and we know that," Redskins Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams said.

When Robert Griffin III led the Redskins to a 27-24 win over Mark Sanchez and the Eagles on Dec. 20, 2014, it was Washington's fourth and final win. It knocked Philadelphia out of the playoff race, even though the Eagles finished 10-6.

Now, the Eagles would win the division if they could just get to 8-8.

"The playoffs start now and that's the bottom line," Eagles tight end Zach Ertz said. "The next two are huge."

Kirk Cousins rallied the Redskins to a 23-20 win against the Eagles in Week 4 by leading a 90-yard drive capped with a 4-yard TD pass to Pierre Garcon in the final minute.

Cousins was just settling into his starting role at that point after beating out Griffin for the job in the preseason. He's only gotten better since the first meeting. Cousins has 16 TD passes and four TDs rushing in the last eight games. He's the first quarterback in club history with six 300-yard passing games in a single season.

"I feel good about where Kirk is or where his mind is at," coach Jay Gruden said.

In the opposite huddle, Sam Bradford plays his first do-or-die game since his rookie year in St. Louis. The Rams were 7-8 with a chance to win the NFC West in 2010, but lost 16-6 at Seattle in a winner-take-all battle in Week 17.

Bradford has improved since the start of the season as he's become more familiar with Chip Kelly's offense and his new teammates. He had 361 yards passing, but three turnovers in a 40-17 loss to Arizona last week.

"You see a guy that's throwing the ball extremely accurately, and he's doing it better each week," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.

Here's some things to watch for Saturday night:

D-JAX RETURNS: Plenty of attention will be on Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who played his first six NFL seasons in Philadelphia before Kelly released him after he had his best season and went to the Pro Bowl for the third time in 2013. Jackson, who missed seven games with injuries, has gotten in sync with Cousins. He had six catches for 153 yards in a 35-25 win over Buffalo, including a 77-yard TD.

"Inside, I definitely will be going crazy in my mind," Jackson said about playing his former team "but I don't want to make it a bigger game than what it already is."

DEPLETED SECONDARY: The Eagles played most of their last game without starting cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Eric Rowe because of injuries. Rowe is filling in for Nolan Carroll, who went down for the season last month. The Eagles need both guys back to face Jackson, Garcon and the Redskins.

"They've got a lot of weapons, and they've got Kirk Cousins delivering the ball all over the place," Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. "He's a highly accurate thrower, good decision maker. They're hitting on all cylinders right now. It's going to be a hell of a challenge for us to step up and beat them."

ROAD WOES: The Redskins are 1-5 on the road and went more than a year without a road victory before a 24-21 win in Week 14 at Chicago. They'll finish the season at Dallas, which already beat them in Washington.

DEMARCO'S DECLINE: DeMarco Murray, an All-Pro last season when he led the NFL in rushing and was the league's Offensive Player of the Year, is barely part of Philadelphia's rotation of running backs. He had two carries for 3 yards last week.

KICKING GAME: Caleb Sturgis missed a 33-yard field goal and an extra point in Philadelphia's 3-point loss to the Redskins in October. Washington's Dustin Hopkins was perfect on three field goals and two extra points in that game. He's 22 for 25 on field goals and 32 for 32 on extra points.