PHILADELPHIA (CBS)- After plenty of talk and an unusual offseason, the 2020 NFL season kicks off, for most teams, on Sunday. For the defending NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles, that means a trip down I-95 to face the Washington Football Team at FedEx Field.
Last year’s Week 1 matchup provided fans with tantalizing visions of an explosive offense as Carson Wentz connected with DeSean Jackson on a pair of 50-plus yard touchdowns in a 32-27 come from behind victory.
But, just a week later, Jackson went down with an injury that would keep him out the rest of the year. Piled on top of injuries to multiple other key players across the team, Doug Pederson’s crew was able to eke out a 9-7 record and another playoff appearance.
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Washington’s fortunes weren’t much better as they started the season 1-9, with the lone win coming against the lowly Dolphins, before finishing 3-13.
However, there’s a new regime in town with head coach Ron Rivera taking over. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins enters his second year as a pro. And, the team beefed up its defense by using the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft on defensive end Chase Young. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin was a nightmare for the Eagles secondary last season (10 catches for 255 yards and 2 TDs in two games) and will provide the first test of newly acquired corner Darius Slay.
For the Eagles, the biggest question looks to be how they will handle Washington’s front seven. The Eagles offensive line has already suffered season-ending injuries to right guard Brandon Brooks and left tackle Andre Dillard. They will likely be starting the same group that finished the season with Jason Peters at left tackle, Isaac Seumalo at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, Matt Pryor at right guard and Lane Johnson at right tackle. How that group holds up against the front of Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat will be key.
If they can do so, a healthy DeSean Jackson will have room to work against the secondary. The offense is also likely to benefit from a larger role for running back Miles Sanders, who established himself as the go-to back down the stretch in 2019. Sanders is dealing with a hamstring injury and head coach Doug Pederson has said that he may keep the back’s workload a little lighter because of it.
There’s also the opportunity for Greg Ward, now the team’s full-time slot receiver, to continue his rapport with Wentz that was developed in the four game winning streak to end 2019. All told, the Eagles still look on paper to be the better team, something that CBS Dallas sports anchor Bill Jones says has him picking the Eagles to win this Sunday. But, he says, with his luck picking games, that means it could be an upset.
“You would think that the Eagles have the upper hand against Washington, based on the talent that they have at their disposal and just what they’ve done in the past and where they are as franchises right now. Ron Rivera the new coach with Washington. The Eagles coming off winning the division last year,” said Jones. “Of course they always have high hopes in Philadelphia with Doug Pederson as their head coach. Carson Wentz now going into his fifth season as the quarterback there. Dwayne Haskins has been named the starter in Washington. I give the edge to the Eagles in a pretty clear advantage, which probably means it’s the first upset of the first weekend, Washington beats Philadelphia, because I’m picking Philly to win.”
For what it’s worth, the oddsmakers agree with Jones pegging the Eagles as a bit below a touchdown favorite at -5.5. The Eagles and Washington kick off Sunday, September 13 at 1 p.m. EST.