The Washington Commanders are coming back to FedExField to take on the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC East rematch. Here are three keys to the team getting an upset, presented by KIA.
1. Sustain drives.
There have been moments where the Commanders' offense has looked like it can have success against any defense. There have also been moments where the unit has failed to accomplish much of anything on the field.
There were plenty of examples of the latter against the Giants. Rather than starting out fast, which is what happened against the Atlanta Falcons, Washington had 46 net yards in the first half to go with just two first downs and zero third-down conversions. None of their drives lasted more than four plays until the third quarter, when a muffed punt led to a six-play possession that ended with a touchdown.
So, while the Giants only had a two-score lead, it felt as if the margin was much larger because of how ineffective the Commanders were on offense.
To state the obvious, that cannot happen against the Eagles, who have started to pick up momentum since looking slightly out of sync to start the season. They will enter the game third in yards per game (389.3), fourth in scoring average (26.6) and third in third-down conversion rate (48.5).
The Commanders were able to match that the last time they played the Eagles. They started fast, had more balance between the run and pass and scored on their first two possessions. They also averaged nearly 11 plays on their five scoring drives and converted 47% of their third downs, which is 17.6 percentage points higher than their average.
As Sam Howell said during his Wednesday press conference, the Commanders have shown they are at least capable of playing better. In order to have a chance against the Eagles, they must show that more consistently.
2. Do a better job against A.J. Brown.
The Eagles have several weapons that can create problems for defenses, but A.J. Brown was the one that gave the Commanders the most fits in Week 4.
It could be argued that Brown's production was one of the main reasons the Eagles managed to come back from a 17-7 deficit to beat the Commanders. He caught nine of his 13 targets for 175 yards and two touchdowns, including the 28-yarder in the fourth quarter that led to the Eagles going up 31-24.
It was a tough lesson for Emmanuel Forbes Jr., who has since been reduced to a limited role so he can learn and see the field from a different perspective. Danny Johnson was the Commanders' primary option to replace Forbes, and while Johnson is not as talented or athletically gifted as Forbes, he is a solid player who knows how to make plays when necessary.
Brown does present some unique problems for the Commanders. He's strong, physical against defensive backs and runs precise routes. He also knows how to get open and maneuver around defenses for explosive plays after the catch. That has been on display all season, as Brown ranks sixth in YAC per receptions with 263 yards.
The Commanders will likely need to mix up their coverage on Brown, perhaps even putting an extra defender on him to limit his production. Either way, finding an answer for the wideout would be an accomplishment for the defense. Brown has averaged 140.2 yards per game since Week 3.
Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders during their second day of prep for the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8.
3. Force Jalen Hurts to make bad decisions.
It's clear by now that Jalen Hurts is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks playing in the NFL today, but recently he's had issues with turning over the ball that the Commanders can exploit on Sunday.
Hurts has thrown eight interceptions so far this season, which is tied with Jimmy Garoppolo and Josh Allen for the most in the league. Just to show how uncharacteristic that is for Hurts, he's one pick away from tying a career-high that he set in 2021.
Some of that is because of the change at offensive coordinator the team went through this offseason, but that is coupled with the fact that Hurts' decision making hasn't been at its best this season. Take the Eagles' loss to the New York Jets as an example. He threw three interceptions in that game, which is tied for the most he's thrown in a single game, the third of which was thrown into double coverage.
Hurts has also been sacked 17 times, and while it doesn't always affect his throws, there are moments where the pressure creates opportunities for the defense. Hurts' second interception against the Jets came after he was pressured in the pocket, forcing him to alter his throwing motion. Considering how the Commanders are tied for fifth with 23 sacks, their defense is at least capable of replicating that pressure.
The Commanders had opportunities to get turnovers against the Eagles in Week 4, but they were unable to capitalize on them, whether by failing to notice a fumble or holding onto the ball for an interception. There will be chances for the defense to do the same in Week 8. They need to pounce on them to help swing momentum in their favor.