- With Philadelphia eliminated from playoff contention, the Eagles have ruled out nine players, including running back Miles Sanders, tight end Dallas Goedert, left tackle Jordan Mailata, and defensive lineman Fletcher Cox
Sunday night brings us a win-and-in situation for the Washington Football Team, who released Dwayne Haskins this week and will turn back to Alex Smith. Smith missed the past two games with a calf injury, but was close to playing in Week 16 before a late-week setback. He got first-team reps in practice this week and is expected to be ready to go, and he’ll be backed up by Taylor Heinicke, who provided a bit of a spark for Washington’s offense after taking over for Haskins last week.
That should help a Washington offense that has stumbled a bit of late after a solid stretch through November and into early December. Washington isn’t certain to have back either of its two biggest playmakers, as both Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson are questionable and didn’t practice this week. Still, the strength of this team is its defense, which ranks as a top-three unit in the NFL both at PFF and Football Outsiders.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are eliminated from postseason contention as of last week. Because they were still in the running in the lowly NFC East, they were utilizing several banged up players, but now quickly shift into prioritizing draft position. At 4-10-1, they are currently in line for the sixth overall pick, and there are seven teams within a half-game of their record, meaning a loss could move them as high as the third pick if some other bad teams won, while a win could drop them all the way back to 10th.
It’s under that backdrop that Philadelphia has ruled out several key players for Week 17, including its starting left tackle Jordan Mailata, second-highest-graded defensive player (per PFF) Fletcher Cox, running back Miles Sanders, and tight end Dallas Goedert.
The Eagles appear to be in full tank mode, and they are in a unique position where they seemingly stayed competitive through Week 16 but now have plenty in terms of draft capital riding on a Week 17 loss. To be blunt, that puts them in a better position to outright tank, as there haven’t been whispers or media reports that look bad on the surface over an extended period of time.
It’s obviously inaccurate to suggest that players or arguably even coaches will outright try to lose, but the reality of this situation is what it is, and the Eagles’ actions in deactivating several players that have been playing through various ailments tells you what you need to know. My expectation is that preparation this week wasn’t particularly sharp, any player with an in-game injury will be ruled out for the rest of the game quicker than they otherwise would have been, and the Eagles simply won’t look their best, which frankly hasn’t been that great all year to begin with.
Washington’s offensive injuries aside, Alex Smith is a conservative quarterback who limits mistakes and tends to keep his team in games. Their defense is stout, and should perform well against an Eagles team missing several key offensive pieces, and their offense should be able to do enough against a defense starting several backups. You have to like Washington at -3.5 here.
NFL Expert Picks
Washington -3.5 @ -105
NFL Free Picks
2020 is in the books and we're starting 2021 with the final week of the NFL regular season, as the playoff places and playoff order are finally locked up. Every game is on Sunday this week with Sunday Night Football being the NFC East clash between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles. On Sunday we have a number on win-and-in games, where a victory would see playoff football. Nearly every game has something riding on it, be it playoff seeding, or players playing for their futures. It's a big week.
Our talented stable of handicappers, led by Ben Gretch, Davis Mattek, Alex Kirshner, Richard Johnson, Ben Rolfe and more brings complete written and video NFL analysis to our users week after week. Make sure you check the site daily for picks from them all.