The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins are both concluding disappointing seasons which will cause questions heading into 2012. While it may be difficult to believe, both teams have a lot of reasons to care about this game – though nearly all of those reasons have to do with evaluating talent for 2012. The Eagles will try for a fourth straight win and a season sweep of their NFC East rivals – not to mention salvaging an 8-8 season record overall (2-5 @ home). Washington is eager to forget their 5-10 season of misery, dragging a 3-4 away record into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
While the calendar will flip to a New Year, it is a sad end to the 2011 season for both franchises. The game will be televised for contractual reasons and most Philadelphia fans are more likely to spend their day at the Mummers Parade or recovering from their New Year’s Eve celebration at Penn’s Landing than the sports complex. There is also a lot of excitement about the upcoming NHL Winter Classic at Citizen’s Bank Park on January 2.
Philadelphia’s beleaguered Eagles (7-8) will miss the playoffs for the third time in 12 seasons despite an infusion of talent that included Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Steve Smith, Ronnie Brown and Cullen Jenkins, prompting fellow newcomer backup QB Vince Young to call the Eagles a “Dream Team.” A quote that will live in infamy…
Instead, the defending NFC East champions and odds-on Super Bowl favorite got off to a 1-4 start (eventually going 4-8) and never recovered until this three-game win streak that nearly kept their division title hopes alive. Too little too late as those hopes ended last week thanks to the New York Football Giants salvaging their own showdown for the NFC East title in a season finale against the Dallas Cowboys (who the Eagles beat twice).
“There are a lot of things I could have done better,” said coach Andy Reid about his team’s poor start. “The bottom line is this team is together now, and they have an opportunity to play a good football team and continue to get better as a unit.” It appears Reid will return for a 14th season (final year of his contract), but it’s unclear whether maligned defensive coordinator Juan Castillo will be retained in his current capacity. Castillo, a former offensive line coach, saw his unit struggle until recent weeks and has been subject to speculation of a variety of rumors (http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/12/27/coaching-carousel-as-reid-turns/).
Washington (5-10), meanwhile, will finish in last place for the fourth straight season. Second-year coach Mike Shanahan has acknowledged that his rebuilding plan for the once-proud franchise needs more time – but how much time might he have left?
“A lot longer than I first anticipated,” Shanahan said. “We had less depth than I thought. We were older at a few different positions. I thought we might keep those players a little longer than we did. We also have seen a lot of player turnover and this process simply takes time.”
The Redskins have endured a season in which RB Tim Hightower, WR Santana Moss, TE Chris Cooley and RT Jammal Brown all missed significant time with injuries. Plus, LT Trent Williams and TE Fred Davis were suspended for the last four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Rex Grossman was benched following his four-interception performance in a 20-13 loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 16. Grossman regained the starting job when Washington lost all three games started by John Beck, but despite missing three games, Grossman remains tied for the league lead with 19 interceptions.
Grossman got some good news when the Eagles placed safety Kurt Coleman on injured reserve this week with a biceps injury (rookie Jaiquawan Jarrett will start his second game opposite sophomore Nate Allen). Coleman picked off Grossman three times in the first matchup. It is also rumors that CB Asante Samuel may not see action in the season finale, meaning Grossman will face the tandem of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromarte in the Eagles defensive backfield. Joselio Hanson would augment them should Samuel remain inactive.
The bigger story for Philadelphia is whether LeSean McCoy will play through an ankle problem suffered in last Saturday’s 20-7 win at Dallas. McCoy leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns (17) and total TDs (20). McCoy is tops in the NFC with a career-high 1,309 rushing yards, 123 shy of Wilbert Montgomery’s club record of 1,512 set in 1979.
McCoy wouldn’t be the only Eagles Pro Bowler trying to gain individual honors. DE Jason Babin has 18 sacks to tie for the second-highest total behind Minnesota’s Jared Allen, who has 18 1/2. The Eagles have a league-high 49 sacks as a team while Washington’s pass rush has also been solid with 39, led by rookie LB Ryan Kerrigan’s 7 1/2 and Brian Orakpo’s seven.
Philadelphia has better average ratings in Total Yards (400-334), Yards Passing (253-235), Yards Rushing (146-99), Team Defense Yards Allowed (321-336), Pass Yards Allowed (210-215), Rush Yards Allowed (111-120) and should have more talent on the field on both sides of the ball. Washington has seen its defense slip to 14th overall after allowing an average of 381.3 yards the last three games. Philadelphia has taken advantage of weaker opponents, reeling off three straight wins over Miami, NY Jets and Dallas (outscoring them 91-36 collectively).
Everybody gather together and raise a glass…
Auld Lang Syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org