The Eagles must beat Washington on the Redskins’ home field on Sunday, and the Minnesota Vikings must lose to the Chicago Bears the same day.
The Eagles (8-7) stayed alive by beating the Houston Texans 32-30 on Jake Elliott’s 35-yard field goal on the game’s final play last weekend.
The temptation for players and coaches is to do some scoreboard watching during the game, but the Eagles are trying to focus on what they can control.
“The biggest thing is we have to take care of business,” said Philadelphia defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. “We have a game to play and obviously somebody might say what’s happening, but at the end of the day we have to win. We have to win this game right here in order to get into the postseason and that’s what’s really most important to this locker room right now.”
The Eagles have won two in a row and four of their past five games to stay in contention.
Quarterback Nick Foles will get his fifth start of the season on Sunday, and he has been as effective recently as he was last season when he led Philadelphia to a Super Bowl victory.
In last week’s win, Foles threw for a franchise-record 471 yards, but he was not the Eagles’ quarterback when they beat the Redskins 28-13 on Dec. 3 in Philadelphia.
Carson Wentz was at quarterback that day, but he has since been sidelined with a back problem.
Things have not been going well for the Redskins (7-8). They have lost five of their last six games, including a 25-16 defeat against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Injuries have ravaged the team, and this week safety D.J. Swearinger was waived for repeatedly criticizing the coaching staff in public.
“The discussions were private,” Washington head coach Jay Gruden said. “I had multiple discussions with him in previous instances. At the end of the day, we thought as an organization it was best for us to part ways. Obviously, he wasn’t happy. He voiced his displeasure many, many times. At the end of the day, we thought it was best for him to let him go and best for us moving forward.”
Injuries to quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colt McCoy led the Redskins to sign Josh Johnson, who has started the past two games and will start again against the Eagles.
Johnson spent all day Christmas studying film at Redskins Park.
“I was here. I was here all day,” Johnson said. “I’ve been with my family all year so we’re good. They’re good.”
In the loss to Tennessee, Johnson was 13 of 23 for 153 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Clearly, momentum and motivation are on the Eagles’ side.
“It’s a division game, one of those games that’s never easy,” said Cox. “This is a team we see every year twice a year, so they know us and we know them. It’ll be about who wants it more, which team shows up on Sunday. Obviously we’re on a roll, but we have to be good again on the road.”
“I think we’re hitting our stride right now and hopefully we can get into (the playoffs),” said Philadelphia defensive end Brandon Graham. “I feel great. There’s a lot of stuff going (for the Eagles to get into the playoffs), but I want to give ourselves a chance and that’s win the game. The Vikings have a big chance against the Bears, but I like our chances as long we take care of business.”
The Redskins’ ground game is fueled by 33-year-old running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 119 yards in the loss to Tennessee and has 1,042 rushing yards for the season.
Undrafted rookie running back Josh Adams has become the Eagles’ lead running back this past month, but his fumble with 5:30 to play last week and Philadelphia holding a 29-16 lead nearly cost his team a win.
“Any time, as a young runner, No. 1, you know when you’re in your four-minute type offense, we always talk about two hands on the ball and what ended up happening is his left hand came off the ball and 41 (Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham) for them was able to get a hand on it, and great play by them,” said Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. “Great learning experience for Josh, obviously.”