What matters: This is the game that decides whether the Eagles can salvage a respectable season or simply fall apart and end the Andy Reid era in ugly fashion. The Eagles still talk bravely of competing for a playoff spot, but even if that isn't realistic these guys can show some pride and professionalism and beat a team they should beat, despite what the odds-makers say. The Eagle have lost five in a row, and with their bye week thrown into the middle of the losing streak this team has gone seven weeks – almost two months – without winning a game. Pretty soon, they're going to forget what that feels like and how it's accomplished. This game can't save the Eagles' season, but it can make them feel a little bit better about themselves and give them a springboard to a strong, albeit meaningless, finish.
Who matters: It's obviously rookie quarterback Nick Foles, for a couple of reasons. He's making his first NFL start and if he plays well the Eagles have a good shot to win the game. But if he makes some bad turnovers or some other rookie mistake or simply loses his composure then the Eagles have no chance. But this is more than just one game. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Reid and QB Michael Vick will be gone after this season and the Eagles need to find out whether Foles can be their QB of the future. And if Foles plays well, the future might start now.
Key matchup: Defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole vs. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Eagles' two best pass-rushers don't have to necessarily sack RG III, but they do have to contain him. The Redskins don't have the best or fastest wide receivers in the NFL and the Eagles should be able to cover them -- unless Griffin breaks free of the pocket and gives them more time to get open. Those kinds of breakdowns in containment are a defensive back's worst nightmare. And, of course, Griffin can take off and run if he gets out of the pocket, and considering the way the Eagles' DBs have tackled this season that could be big trouble. Griffin has the arm to hurt a defense from the pocket, but he's much more dangerous outside of it and it's up to Babin and Cole and the other DEs to make sure that doesn't happen.
Injuries of note: Vick (concussion), WRs Jason Avant (hamstring) and Mardy Gilyard (hamstring) and RB Chris Polk(toe) are out. … WR Jeremy Maclin was limited early in the week in practice with a back strain. … RG Danny Watkinsreturns to the lineup after missing three games with an ankle sprain.
Connections: Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was a Redskins defensive back in the late 1980s and early ‘90s and was a member of their Super Bowl XXII champions. … Redskins special teams coach Danny Smith was an Eagles assistant under coach Ray Rhodes from 1995-98.
Inside stuff: The Eagles will want to protect Foles, who makes his first NFL start on Sunday. That means we might finally see RB LeSean McCoy get his hands on the ball more. And that should set up play-action passing game against the Redskins' weak secondary -- Washington is ranked 30th in the NFL in pass defense. That play action is important because it gives Foles a chance to throw some higher-percentage passes and get some confidence and rhythm.
Stats you should know: Eagles WR DeSean Jackson doesn't always catch a lot of passes vs. the Redskins, but he usually does a lot of damage. In eight career cames against Washington, Jackson has 19 catches for 381 yards -- an average of 20.1 yards per reception -- and four touchdowns, almost all of them long ones (57, 35, 88 and 62 yards). In his last three games vs. the ‘Skins, Jackson has nine receptions and has averaged 25.5 yards per catch. On Sunday he goes against the NFL's 30th-ranked pass defense.
Looking ahead: The Eagles' schedule finally gets a little easier, as they take on Carolina, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, teams that right now have a combined record of 15-21.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Philadelphia Eagles from blogger Kevin Noonan, follow@CBSEagles.
Meetings between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins are usually highly anticipated and contentious.
The first matchup featuring Michael Vick starting opposite Robert Griffin III could be even greater, but it will have to wait.
With Vick out due to a concussion, embattled Eagles coach Andy Reid will turn to rookie Nick Foles in an effort to end the longest losing streak of his tenure against Griffin and the rested Redskins on Sunday.
Philadelphia (3-6) and Washington (3-6) have a rivalry that dates back to 1934, with the Redskins holding the all-time advantage at 79-70-5.
This meeting was expected to add to the lore of the rivalry, as it was supposed to mark the first time Vick and Griffin started opposite each other in a matchup of two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL.
Instead, only the Redskins will have their regular starter under center.
Vick is struggling with a concussion suffered on a pair of bruising hits in last week's 38-23 loss to Dallas as the Eagles' losing streak reached five games -- the longest in 14 seasons under Reid.
That will force Foles to make his first NFL start. The third-round pick out of Arizona completed 22 of 32 passes for 219 yards with one touchdown and one interception in relief last week.
"I'm ready," Foles said. "I'm excited to just play again. Like I said before, my prayers are with Mike, I just want Mike to be healthy. But it's my time to go out there and just play and do everything I can for this team and help in any way possible.
"I'm going to do my job right now until he gets healthy."
Foles may be the Eagles' quarterback of the future, but Reid -- under pressure from owner Jeffrey Lurie since the start of the season -- may not be a part of it. Philadelphia is underachieving again, and on the verge of its first six-game slide in a single season since concluding 1994 by dropping seven in a row.
Barring a staggering turnaround, the Eagles are headed for a second straight season out of the playoffs, which would also be a first under Reid.
Griffin and the Redskins may be in a similar situation during a three-game losing streak, but they aren't dealing with lofty expectations.
They're also refreshed coming off a bye following a 21-13 home loss to Carolina in Week 9, a game coach Mike Shanahan deemed "must-win" before suggesting the playoffs were out of reach.
An NFC East-heavy schedule is partly why that message has changed. After hosting the Eagles, the Redskins visit second-place Dallas on Thanksgiving before welcoming the division-leading New York Giants to FedEx Field on Dec. 3.
"The way the chips are falling in our division, we still can control our own destiny," defensive end Stephen Bowen said. "If we win these next three, we're right back on top of the division. It's crazy that these games are happening like this, but it's giving us the opportunity."
Improvement from Griffin may be key to getting back in the division hunt. The top pick in last April's draft has completed 53.4 percent of his passes for 392 yards with one TD over the last two games, while gaining 61 yards on 17 carries.
Griffin had averaged 66.9 rushing yards with six TDs in his first seven games. Still, he has a 93.9 passer rating, tops among rookies and good for ninth overall in the league.
Washington's defense remains one of the worst in the NFL, surrendering an average of 397.9 yards -- 301.7 through the air, although it may get a boost with safety Brandon Meriweather expected to make his season debut after recovering from a knee injury.
Those numbers still may bode well for the Eagles, who are averaging 223.0 passing yards in seven games since getting a season-high 357 in a Week 2 win over Baltimore.
Jeremy Maclin is encouraged with what he's seen out of Foles so far. The receiver hauled in a season-high eight passes for 93 yards last week, including a 44-yard touchdown from the rookie. He topped 100 yards each time while the Eagles won both meetings with Washington last season.
"He can throw the ball in places, put the ball in certain places, not most guys can do in this league," Maclin said. "When he got into the preseason, the poise that he showed, it's not what most rookie quarterbacks show.
"I was impressed with that."
Griffin should have an extra weapon with receiver Pierre Garcon slated to return after a troublesome toe injury.