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Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles: Big NFC East clash could be close

Carson Wentz and the Eagles are flying
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The Eagles are looking like a genuine contender through the early weeks of the NFL season, but the Redskins could make this a very tough fixture says Mark Kirwan...

"Overcoming a tough Carolina team in Charlotte last week underlined their credentials as a possible champion. They're 2-0 in division games, having beaten the Giants and this week's opponents, the Redskins, already this year, and a victory in this game would leave them well-placed for the postseason and could spur thoughts of home-field advantage come January."

Washington @ Philadelphia
Tuesday October 24, 01:30am
Live on Sky Sports Action


The Philadelphia Eagles are soaring. They lead a challenging NFC East by two games, and look like serious contenders in a conference blown wide open by Aaron Rodgers' injury.

Their sophomore quarterback is leading their ascension. Carson Wentz has become a thrilling player to watch, swerving defensive linemen and navigating the pocket like a veteran, and leading the Eagles to the heights of a 5-1 start. The draft capital expended on him in 2016 begins to look cheap with each week that passes, and Browns fans couldn't be blamed for wondering what might have been.


New arrivals spark Eagles' renaissance

He has been greatly helped this season by the Eagles off-season moves. Former Chicago Bear Alshon Jeffrey and deep threat Torrey Smith joined a sparse Eagles receiving corps this summer. Jordan Matthews departed for Buffalo, allowing Nelson Agholor to move to slot, a position where he looks far more comfortable than as the field-stretching outside target he was supposed to be when drafted.

These moves, added to Zach Ertz's sturdy production, and a bulked-up running game in the form of ex-Patriot LeGarrette Blount, have allowed the Eagles to capitalise on Wentz's poise and control under pressure.

Overcoming a tough Carolina team in Charlotte last week underlined their credentials as a possible champion. They're 2-0 in division games, having beaten the Giants and this week's opponents, the Redskins, already this year, and a victory in this game would leave them well-placed for the postseason and could spur thoughts of home-field advantage come January.

It is on the defensive side of the ball that questions arise. They are stacked along the line, but injuries in the secondary have made them susceptible in the passing game. Through six weeks they've given up the most completions in the league. Ronald Darby is the biggest loss, his ankle injury in Week 1 looks like keeping him out this week again. Linebacker Jordan Hicks's absence has also been felt in pass coverage, where he placed first in the league at his position in Pro Football Focus's 2016 rankings. He should return this week, though questions about his durability and immediate impact linger.

Washington's defence have injury issues of their own. They'll be without one of the league's leading cornerbacks following Josh Norman's rib injury. Their other starting corner, Bashaud Breeland, is also hurt, but is expected to play, and they've lost their first-round pick from the draft, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, this week following surgery on his foot.


Good results through tough run gives Redskins hope

Despite these injuries, the Redskins come into this game with some cause for optimism. They have played the Eagles, Raiders, Chiefs and Rams this season, a tough run to open the season, and sit on 3-2 through six weeks. In their two losses, to the Chiefs and Eagles, they have played their opponents very close each time, the final scores in both those games look more convincing than they were thanks to late game turnovers when Washington were pushing for a win.

It's also worth bearing in mind their loss to Philly came in the opening week of the season. Under Jay Gruden the 'Skins are 0-4 in season openers. Fortunately for Gruden, they tend to get better as the season progresses. The emergence of Chris Thompson as a receiving threat from the backfield since Week 1 is evidence of this improvement, as is the developing rapport between QB Kirk Cousins and free agent signing Terrelle Pryor. Jamison Crowder and Ryan Grant are also threats, and, while the repeated absences of Jordan Reed are disappointing if not surprising, veteran Vernon Davis provides reasonable cover at tight end.


The Picks

Washington have the potential to exploit any secondary issues, and the opportunity could be there this week. It's also important that they try to win this, given Philly's two game lead in the division and their tiebreaker advantage following that opening week result. Considering how close they've been playing good teams, and that they are due to catch a break or two late in games, the Redskins +4.5 points at [1.95] is the preferred play this week.

The play on the Total Points line of 48.5 is over, as both these offences are capable of scoring and the quarterbacks on both sides should be able to exploit weaknesses in the secondary. Washington gave up 24 points to the CJ Beathard-led 49ers last week, so the Eagles ought to be able to match that, and Washington will need to keep pace.

For those who like a First Touchdown Scorer punt, Torrey Smith around [20.0] for the Eagles should test Redskins' depleted backs with his speed, just cross your fingers he holds on to the ball once he's beaten the coverage, while Vernon Davis at [25.0] or more is good value if Jordan Reed does not suit up.


Recommended Bets
Back Washington Redskins +4.5 to win on the Match Points Spread @ [1.95] or better
Back Over 48.5 on the Total Points market @ 1.86 or better
Back Torrey Smith for First Touchdown Scorer @ [20.0] or better
Back Vernon Davis for First Touchdown Scorer @ [25.0] or better

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