The Washington Football Team head to Philadelphia knowing that a win over the Eagles will secure a playoff spot while a loss ends their season. Ben Steele expects a defensive battle...
"Fortunately for Washington they are facing a Philadelphia Eagles defence who seem to be incapable of stopping the pass, allowing nearly 350 yards and 3 touchdowns a game to opposing quarterbacks over the final four weeks of the season, including season highs for Taysom Hill, Kyler Murray and Andy Dalton."
Injury hit Washington will rely on Thomas
The final week of the NFL season sees all 32 teams play a divisional rival, with the NFC East offering up the most intrigue. The winner of the 6pm game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants will be watching Sunday Night Football hoping that Philadelphia can do them a favour by winning against the division leading Washington Football Team.
Washington Head Coach Ron Rivera, in his first year with the team, will be desperate for Alex Smith to be fit, as the veteran is the standout candidate in an incredibly messy quarterback situation in Washington. Dwayne Haskins started last week's loss to the Carolina Panthers despite a number of off-field issues and his poor performance saw him replaced by Taylor Heinickie, who has made just one start in his professional career.
Washington have since released Haskins and with star receiver Terry McLaurin and starting running back Antonio Gibson joining Smith on the injury list the offensive options available to Rivera's side look very limited.
Fortunately for Washington they are facing a Philadelphia Eagles defence who seem to be incapable of stopping the pass, allowing nearly 350 yards and 3 touchdowns a game to opposing quarterbacks over the final four weeks of the season, including season highs for Taysom Hill, Kyler Murray and Andy Dalton. Tight end Logan Thomas, one of the few offensive weapons for Washington to come in to the game fully fit, should fancy his chances of success regardless of who starts at quarterback.
The inexperienced Heinickie will undoubtedly look for Thomas as a safety option who should find success, while the veteran Smith has shown throughout his career that he prefers a short passing game, which would also benefit the 6 ft 7' Virginian. Thomas leads the team in receiving touchdowns and at 9/5 he is well worth a look to add to his total and end the regular season with at least six touchdowns.
Young leads red hot defence
Despite their offensive struggles the Washington Football Team have developed in to a team with a strong defensive identity over the year. Before the season even started Chase Young was favourite to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and as we go in to the final week he is, quite rightly, heavy favourite. The defensive end has manhandled opposing lineman on his way to 12 tackles for loss, six and a half sacks, four forced fumbles one of which he returned for a touchdown as he has proven to be the perfect addition to an already talented group.
Young joined two more first round picks Montez Sweat (2019) and Ryan Kerrigan (2011) to form a trio that account for 20 of the team's 44 sacks this season. The constant threat provided by the group also allows Rivera and his defensive co-ordinator Jack Del Rio to get creative in their coverage scheme, which has combined to make Washington a top five defence in multiple key categories.
While they have been excellent all year, the defence have really stepped it up a notch in the final third of the season. Following a 41-16 Thanksgiving Day demolition of the Dallas Cowboys, the defence provided the blueprint on how to beat the previously undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and then scored twice in a 23-15 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Adding a scoring threat to their already well established ability to shutdown opposing offences makes Washington favourites to win and while they may struggle in the playoffs, I'm backing them to win on Sunday as the defence hold Philadelphia Under 21 points..
Hurts will score in 2021 audition
The Philadelphia Eagles are the only NFC East team who come in to the final week of the season without a chance of making the playoffs but in the form of rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts they have a man who could at least pose a threat to the party.
Much like Washington, the Eagles have had struggles at quarterback in 2020 but since Hurts took over the starting job from Carson Wentz in Week 14 their offence has run more smoothly. The threat of the 22-year-old's ability as a runner has opened up the game for running back Miles Sanders and in all three games they have started together both men have rushed for at least 55 yards. Hurts has coupled his running ability with an ability to drive the ball downfield through the air, topping the 300 yard mark against both Dallas and Arizona.
Unfortunately for Eagles fans Hurts hasn't solved all of Philadelphia's offensive problems. Under Wentz's leadership the Eagles struggled to move the ball consistently leading to them being one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, while the Hurts led Eagles have certainly been more consistent they do still struggle to put the ball in the endzone. Head Coach Doug Pederson is considered somewhat of an offensive genius but his team have failed to score more than 30 points all season, as Hurts' propensity for turnovers (five in three games) has stifled them despite the increase in yardage. While they may struggle to consistently score points on Sunday night, I'm backing Hurts to run for a touchdown at least once in the game as he secures the starting role in Philly for the 2021 season.
Ben Steele NFL P/L:
Staked: 56 points
Returned: 59.9 points
P/L: +3.9 points