The Eagles will play at Washington on Sunday. Here are the game predictions from our Eagles beat writers for Week 3.
There’s an obvious Carson Wentz-Jalen Hurts angle heading into this NFC East tilt, but the two former teammates obviously won’t face each other on the field. So the real focus should be more on how each quarterback and his offense fares against the opposing defense and vice versa. And for the third week in a row, on paper, the Eagles should have the edge on both sides of the ball.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the six-point road favorites are guaranteed to win. As impressive as Nick Sirianni’s squad looked against the Vikings, and on offense in both their games so far, there have been issues that could balloon into problems under the wrong circumstances. Wentz has the ability to wreck a defense, especially with talented receivers like Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and rookie Jahan Dotson. Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner is very much Norv’s son, a disciple of Air Coryell, and will attack the quarter zones that Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon likes to call with vertical routes.
Wentz will need time in the pocket to throw downfield. He’s willing to hold the ball as long as it takes, sometimes to his own detriment. He’s off to a solid start with his third team in as many years, but he still struggles with pocket awareness the longer he takes to pass. If Gannon can take away his first reads, there’s a strong chance that Wentz’s Superman complex is stoked, especially with all the emotions he’s likely to have facing his former team.
» READ MORE: Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, Commanders’ Carson Wentz proclaim ‘mutual respect’
Hurts wants to win as much, and maybe he has a little extra skin in the game with Wentz in the other uniform, but it’s unlikely the seemingly unflappable quarterback allows outside narratives to affect his preparation or performance. The Commanders’ front four could certainly make his day hectic. Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne all have the ability to win and create pressure, even against the Eagles’ sturdy offensive line.
Washington coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will try to find some way to contain Hurts’ mobility. But last week showed, more than anything, that he is developing into a quarterback who can burn you with his arm. And with AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and Quez Watkins at his disposal, it’s almost pick your poison if the Commanders decide to roll coverage towards one receiver.
If the Eagles are as much of the real deal as they appeared to be on Monday night, they could roll against a Commanders team that squeaked by the Jaguars and lost to the Lions. A few concerns have been penalties and some occasional sloppiness in execution. But those issues only speak to the great potential the Eagles may have, especially on offense. They should be able to score in Landover. And as far as including Wentz, I have a feeling the moment may end up being too big for him.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Commanders 23
The Eagles will have a talent advantage in each of the next couple of games, but advantages on paper don’t always matter on Sundays.
This matchup has a couple of factors that could lead to volatility. Wentz’s first time playing against the Eagles since he requested a trade in 2021 is certain to evoke some emotion from the Commanders quarterback. It would be naive to suggest this game doesn’t have some additional meaning for Wentz. It’s just a matter of how that affects his play. NFC East games are also prone to chaos, which Wentz specializes in.
Wentz could channel his additional energy into a strong performance. It’s also possible the circumstances cause him to press, and when he presses, things can get ugly.
Enter the Eagles defense. Gannon’s philosophy of limiting big plays and forcing extended drives in hopes of the opposing offense making a mistake seems well-suited for Wentz’s playing style. Eagles fans know all too well that Wentz often likes to push the envelope and will sometimes ignore checkdowns in pursuit of the big play. That risk-agnostic approach could play into the Eagles’ favor and lead to a couple of turnovers for the group.
If the defense is going to string together back-to-back impressive outings, it will require a potent rush that forces Wentz into those mistakes, though. The secondary will have to maintain its level of play as well. A week after clamping Justin Jefferson, Darius Slay and the Eagles’ secondary have another tough matchup ahead with McLaurin, Samuel, and the rookie wideout Dotson. It’s a talented group that’s been productive in the early going. The Commanders’ passing offense is likely their only hope in this game.
Offensively, there’s reason to believe the Eagles could have another strong outing. Washington has some talent on its defensive front, but the group ranks 28th in defense-adjusted value above average and is 31st against the run, according to Football Outsiders.
Jaguars receiver Christian Kirk had six catches for 117 yards against Washington in Week 1 operating mostly out of the slot. Last week, Amon-Ra St. Brown had nine catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns mostly from the slot as well. This Sunday, Smith and Brown could see plenty of production operating from the inside.
Containing the edge rusher Sweat and the defensive tackle rotation featuring Payne and Allen will be a challenge, but one the Eagles’ offensive front should be suited for. Even if Hurts comes back down to earth, which is bound to happen, the Eagles should be able to move the ball against this group.
Prediction: Eagles 31, Commanders 21
As shown over the first two weeks of the season, the Eagles possess a dynamic passing game. Hurts seems to have improved his mechanics, and thanks to the addition of Brown, Hurts has found comfort with throwing across the middle parts of the field. Opposing defenses will find ways to adjust as games and reps stack, but Hurts is a big reason why the Eagles are one of only three remaining undefeated teams in the NFC. If Hurts can continue to take steps and show improvements in his game, the Eagles could be legitimate contenders.
» READ MORE: Jalen Hurts owns the third-shortest odds to win NFL MVP after a stellar start to the season
On paper, the Eagles are by and large the much better squad compared to the Commanders. It’ll be up to Sirianni, Gannon, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, and special teams coordinator Michael Clay to get their players ready for game day. Clay is mentioned here specifically considering the blocked field goal blunder the team experienced Monday. Those mistakes usually come back to bite you, but thankfully for the Eagles, punter Arryn Siposs saved a touchdown on the play; a few moments later, cornerback Avonte Maddox created his own turnover by picking off Kirk Cousins.
With Wentz under center, there will be additional turnovers for the taking. If Gannon dials up pressures and blitzes at the right times, there’s a chance the secondary will feast on Wentz’s rushed throws. Through two games, Wentz has already thrown three interceptions. The Eagles had three interceptions alone off Cousins.
The Commanders boast a formable defensive front, but they’ll be matched up against one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. If Hurts takes care of the ball, that should be enough to lead the team to 3-0.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Commanders 17
Inquirer Eagles beat reporters EJ Smith and Josh Tolentino preview the team’s Week 3 game against the Washington Commanders and Carson Wentz. Watch at Inquirer.com/EaglesGameday