The Washington Redskins came within an eyelash of securing a playoff berth last season before a pair of brutal losses at home to teams with little on the line left Kirk Cousins and company with plenty of questions for the offseason. Signed to his second franchise tag in as many years, Cousins looks to put the Redskins back on track Sunday when they open their season against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field.
Cousins (franchise-record 4,917 passing yards in 2016) extended Washington’s winning streak to five games over Philadelphia after tossing a pair of touchdowns in both victories last season, with one each going to DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in a 27-22 triumph on Dec. 11. The Redskins saw Jackson sign with Tampa Bay and Garcon shuffle to San Francisco in free agency while former offensive coordinator Sean McVay is now the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, although 1,000-yard wide receiver Terrelle Pryor joined the club from Cleveland. While Washington entertained postseason aspirations last season, Philadelphia finished in the NFC East cellar for the first time since 2012 as quarterback Carson Wentz went from the toast of eastern Pennsylvania to a rookie enduring growing pains. The Eagles gave Wentz some offseason firepower with the additions of former Pro Bowl selection Alshon Jeffery (Chicago), fellow free-agent wide receiver Torrey Smith (San Francisco) and running back LeGarrette Blount, who had a league-high 18 rushing touchdowns last season with New England.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Eagles -1. O/U: 47.5
ABOUT THE EAGLES (2016: 7-9, 4th place in NFC West): Wentz set a franchise record with 379 completions last season, a total which ranked as the most by a rookie in NFL history. The 24-year-old endured significant troubles in two games versus Washington last year as he was sacked nine times. Veteran running back Darren Sproles reeled in 52 receptions in 2016 to notch his eighth consecutive season with 40-plus catches, although he had just three for 17 yards in two meetings with the Redskins.
ABOUT THE REDSKINS (2016: 8-7-1, 3rd place in NFC East): Cousins also has versatile - and oft-injured - tight end Jordan Reed as well as speedy slot receiver Jamison Crowder (career-high 67 receptions) as aerial weapons. Second-year back Rob Kelley is expected to lead a young backfield that includes Chris Thompson and rookie Samaje Perine. While Washington boasted the league’s third-ranked offense last year (403.4 yards per game), the defense was often quick to yield field position by surrendering 377.9 yards per contest. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan registered a double-digit sack total for the second time in his career with 11 in 2016, with 3.5 coming against Philadelphia.
1. Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz recorded a career-high 78 receptions, which ranked fifth among tight ends last season.
2. Washington’s Josh Norman, who is expected to shadow Jeffery, tied fellow CB Brashaud Breeland for the team lead with three interceptions in 2016.
3. Philadelphia’s Jordan Hicks led all linebackers in the NFL with five interceptions last season.
PREDICTION: Redskins 20, Eagles 16