The NFL’s Saturday slate returns with both the Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers hoping to stay in the postseason picture. Other than the postseason, NFL games haven’t taken place on a Saturday during the regular season since Week 16 back in 2011, when 13 games were held on Christmas Eve and only one took place that Sunday, Christmas Day.
The playoff implications of both games could be far reaching. After their loss to NFC East rival Dallas last week, the Eagles missed an opportunity to wrap up the division and a spot in the postseason. Now they’ll have to upend another East rival in the Washington Redskins in order to stay in the crowded NFC race.
In Philadelphia’s case, winning out is it’s best option since many of the playoff tiebreakers aren’t in its favor. The Eagles (9-5) already suffered losses to Seattle and Arizona, and they’re 5-5 conference record is the worst among teams vying for the wild card.
San Diego (8-6) takes on a San Francisco 49ers squad that has already been erased from the playoff picture, but the Chargers need to keep pace with Pittsburgh and Baltimore for one of the AFC’s wild card berths. Denver already clinched its fourth straight AFC West title, so the Chargers only chance of making the postseason is the wild card route.
They’ll need a victory against San Francisco, and losses from both Kansas City and Baltimore in order to move up the playoff standings. San Diego owns the head-to-head tiebreak over Baltimore after their 34-33 victory in Week 13.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
Quarterback Nick Foles participated in practice since breaking his collar bone back in Week 9, but he hasn’t been cleared for contact, according to NJ.com, and the Eagles will likely go with Mark Sanchez under center against the Redskins 18th-ranked secondary.
Sanchez has gone 3-3 this season, tossing 10 interceptions to nine picks, and his two interceptions against Dallas last week were partially to blame for the 38-27 loss.
But the more startling and worrisome factor for the Eagles is the running game. Top back LeSean McCoy’s totaled 114 yards and no touchdowns off 33 carries in the last two games. He’s also caught one pass in the last three, and top pass-catching back Darren Sproles has been ineffective as well, with seven carries for five yards and one touchdown and two catches.
That duo faces a Washington defense that is quite good at stopping the run, letting up 101 yards per game, the seventh-best in the league.
Philadelphia’s defense must also deal with Redskins running back Alfred Morris, who’s on pace to rush for 1,000 yards for the third straight season. Not to mention former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, who would certainly like to burn his former team.
Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III continues to feud with head coach Jay Gruden, but Griffin has torched the Eagles every time he’s played them. In four career games, Griffin has a 2-2 record while completing 62.6 percent of his pass attempts for 991 yards and 10 touchdowns.
When the two squads last met in Week 3, Griffin didn’t play, but Washington torched Philadelphia for 511 total yards in a narrow 37-34 loss.
Start Time: 4:30 P.M. ET
TV Channel: NFL Network
Betting Odds: Philadelphia -9
Over/Under: 50.5 points
Prediction: Philadelphia over Washington, 31-24
San Diego Chargers at San Francisco 49ers
The Chargers have dropped two straight, though they played the AFC’s No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in New England and Denver, respectively. However, turning their fortunes around and vying for the wild card will be difficult against a 49ers defense ranked third overall in the league.
To make matters worse, quarterback Philip Rivers is coping with chest and back injuries, but he did practice Thursday, according to U-T San Diego. San Diego head coach Mike McCoy was also quoted by the paper saying Rivers will play against San Francisco.
But he’ll once again miss top running back Ryan Matthews to an ankle injury, and No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen is also out with a broken collarbone and ankle injuries he suffered against the Broncos in Week 15. Allen leads the team with 77 receptions for 783 yards and four touchdowns.
The 49ers have lost three straight, two of which were to Seattle, and their 1-4 division record will keep them out of the postseason for the first time under head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Much of the talk around the 49ers surrounds Harbaugh’s expected departure from the team, but also the decline of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. During San Francisco’s losing streak, Kaepnerick’s tossed one touchdown to four interceptions.
San Francisco will likely have starting running back Frank Gore in the mix. The veteran sustained a concussion against Seattle in Week 15, but he was listed as a limited participant in practice Thursday.
Gore’s the all-time leading rusher in 49ers history, but he’s on pace for his worst season in four years. He’s gained 804 yards and scored three touchdowns, and he’s averaging a career-worst 3.9 yards per carry.
Start Time: 8:25 P.M. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Betting Odds: San Francisco -1
Over/Under: 41 points
Prediction: San Diego over San Francisco, 24-14