Eagles and Redskins headline first Monday

Posted: September 9, 2013 in NFL
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Line1_PROOF

(Graphic design: Paragon Creative Services, Las Vegas)

By W.G. Ramirez

There are a couple of anticipated debuts for the first game of tonight’s Monday Night Football doubleheader, and that’s the one I’ll feature this week for my inaugural NFL Monday Night Primer.

Chip Kelly makes NFL coaching debut for the Philadelphia Eagles, while Robert Griffin III makes his season debut and first appearance eight months after major knee surgery. It’s hard to believe Michael Vick will be in this game and he’s not the most-talked about quarterback of the contest, but such is the case as there’s been so much hype surrounding Griffin.

After all, the last time RGIII played he reinjured his right knee twice and became a mere shell of his record-breaking self. And because he stayed in that game until his knee gave out for good in a home playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks last January, much has been made as to why he was in the game and coach Mike Shanahan has caught fire for it.

Dr. James Andrews reconstructed two ligaments in Griffin’s right knee, and eight months to the day he limped off the field, Griffin will start on national television in Week 1 of the regular season against the Eagles. His rehab became public, and ESPN even made a documentary out of it.

Thus, tonight, Griffin returns quicker than standard medical science would suggest, and he’ll lead an offense that ranked fifth overall last season – first in the rushing department and 20th in passing.

On the other side of the ball, there’s the hurry-up offensive approach of the Eagles under Kelly, who went 46-7 at Oregon over the last four years. Though Kelly and 11 assistants will be coaching an NFL game for the first time, I’m really not worried about what he’s capable of and think we’re going to see an explosive team Vick will enjoy.

The Eagles ran an NFL-high 74.2 plays per game during preseason, and I have to wonder how that’s going to affect a Redskins stop unit that ranked 30th among the 32 teams in pass defense last season. And excuse me RGIII, but Vick – the only player in NFL history with 20,000 yards passing and 5,000 yards rushing – believes he has plenty left in the tank, and will be out to prove that tonight.

Vick had the best game of his career on a Monday night at Washington in 2010, throwing for 4 touchdowns and rushing for an additional two while producing a 150.7 rating.

KEY SHOWDOWN: Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy vs. Washington Rush Defense

McCoy, the only running back in the NFC with 3,200 yards rushing and 1,200 yards receiving the past three seasons, seems to be a great fit for Kelly because of his speed, agility and vision, not to mention to accompany Vick in the backfield. Unlike the previous regime, which didn’t depend on a rushing game as much, McCoy will be thrust into Kelly’s system and we’re going to see tonight why he is one of the best backs in the league. McCoy is a viable weapon for the Eagles whether he is carrying the ball, or running into the flat as a receiver. Point blank, the Redskins are going to struggle with McCoy tonight.

Though it was the preseason, and you never know what to expect until Week 1, I have to say the Redskins’ rushing defense was a bit suspect in exhibition play, and looked vulnerable against big-play offenses – exactly what I expect from Kelly’s unit. Washington’s rushing D ranked fifth in the league last season, but that was part of a stop unit that ranked 28th overall. And the only reason the rush defense looked solid was because most teams rarely ran against the ‘Skins, knowing they could throw the ball and find success.

Huge matchup here, as the keys to this game may not be with RGIII or Vick, but with how well Washington’s stop unit contains McCoy.

BY THE NUMBERS: Philadelphia at Washington (-3′, 53)

In this series, the favorite has covered the point spread in five straight meetings, but the road team is on a 10-3 run in this rivalry clash.

The Eagles come into this game mired in ATS losing streaks of 1-5 in NFC East play, 2-10 against the NFC, 0-6 in September and 3-13 overall. On one positive note, the Green Birds have covered 12 of their last 17 trips to the nation’s capital.

On the other hand, Washington is in on spread streaks of 4-0 in the opening week of the season, 12-2 in intradivision games, 5-1 in intraconference play, 4-1 at home and 7-1 overall.

Dating back to the 2012 campaign, the Redskins have won seven straight regular-season games and five in a row against NFC East opponents.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is 15-4 all-time in Week 1.

ON DECK: Philadelphia will play its home-opener next week, while the ‘Skins hit the road.

Philadelphia opened a 6.5 favorite against the visiting San Diego Chargers, while Washington is catching 6 in Green Bay against the Packers.

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