1. How effective will Santana Moss be? Moss is now expected to play and looked pretty good running routes in practice earlier this week. He's improved each day, so there's little reason to believe that he can be effective. Will he be 100 percent? Nobody is in November. The thing I wonder about is on runs after the catch. Moss makes a lot of cuts, so how will the hammy hold up? I'm guessing he'll get through OK.
2. Has the swagger returned? To a degree. As we told you last week, the locker room has always maintained an air of confidence as well as an upbeat demeanor. But there's also no doubt that players had a sense of relief and renewed hope after the Dallas win. However, swagger needs more than just one win to fully return. A win Sunday and the players know they're on a roll. Right now, they hope they're about to enter one. There's a difference.
3. Did last week's win turn Washington around? Not yet. The Redskins were fortunate to win and maybe Dallas should have won. But here's the thing: Dallas didn't; Washington did. However, what we're still not sold on is the defense. Also, Mark Brunell posted good numbers, but also had too many passes in position to be intercepted. The Cowboys mostly had their way against this unit. If the Redskins' defense can't play better, it'll be a disappointing second half to the season. The offense is still seeking consistency.
4. Is this the week for turnovers? Sure, why not. At some point the Redskins will force a couple turnovers in a game, hard as that is to believe. But here's the thing: Philly leads the NFL with 27 dropped passes. That means balls could be up in the air, bouncing off the hands of Eagle wideouts. One or two could land in the arms of a Redskins defender. The Redskins' front has to create more pressure, forcing mistakes. Alas, they haven't done that. The coaches make all sorts of excuses as to why -- max protection, quick passes, etc. -- but other teams face the same schemes and get to the QB. It would help.
5. How dangerous are the Eagles? Very. They've lost three straight and are 4-4, but could easily be 6-2. They're also at home, which makes them even tougher to beat. Philly played Washington well with a banged-up lineup in 2005. They have an explosive quarterback and a running back who is a major threat. But the defense is inconsistent, and has been for a couple years. So they're dangerous, but they're also rather mediocre. Which makes them like most teams. The Eagles are not what they were two years ago.
6. Who should the Redskins' offense target? The Eagles' linebackers. Jeremiah Trotter is excellent against the run and has terrific downhill instincts; he's an effective blitzer. But he doesn't blitz all the time. And, as we well remember, he'll bite hard on misdirection and he's bad in coverage. Hmmm. Yes, that will be exploited. Also, the Eagle outside linebackers are weak so look for them to be targets. Also, the Redskins should be able to run wide with success this week.
should fear the Redskins' offense? The potential for a pass rush. End Trent Cole and tackle
Darwin Walker both are capable of applying pressure. But here's the thing: they
haven't done so lately because of Jevon Kearse's absence. So the Eagles will
blitz to get the quarterback. How well Washington picks up the blitz will
determine its success.
8. What about the Redskins' defense? There are a couple fears: Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Donte Stallworth. McNabb's ability to get outside the pocket and make plays should fear every Redskins fan. Tony Romo made too many big plays by doing this last week, partly because this secondary is not good enough to stop guys for three or four seconds let alone five. Westbrook is dangerous mainly in a spread set; that's where using Sean Taylor as an occasional linebacker in a dime set has helped in the past. It could be Adam Archuleta's role this week. And Stallworth has deep speed. Troy Vincent has not solved the coverage problems deep, at least not yet. He's a terrific leader, but had TO held onto the ball ... then again, he didn't. By the way, Vincent should be pumped up returning to his former home.
9. Who will have a big game? We like Chris Cooley. Al Saunders calls him one of the most improved players because of his route-running. Cooley is being asked to run more routes downfield this season. He's terrific running after the catch. Considering the Eagles LBs are not strong in coverage, look for Cooley to be an even bigger option this week. Our guess? He'll have his best game to date.
10. Will the Redskins win? The more I talk the more I like them. But I'm not sold on a turnaround yet because certain problems still exist. This league is filled with parity so home teams can overcome certain woes. On the road, those problems must be tamed. I'm fearful of McNabb's ability to make plays. However, I'm also confident the Redskins' offense will be able to move the ball. But my overriding thought is this: Philly, while not a great team, is too good to lose four straight. And the Eagles are at home. That should be the difference. Eagles 24, Redskins 21.