Mike Vick joins the growing list of concussed quarterbacks this week, which means it's time for Nick Foles to start his first NFL game. Across from him he'll see another rookie QB in RG3. Both teams are already looking ahead to next year, but let's take a closer look at why the Eagles are in much worse shape heading into Sunday's game.
Last week Cantor had the look-ahead line on this game as Redskins -1.5. That was a reasonable enough spread, but after what we saw on Sunday it's no surprise they re-opened at -3.5 (odds from SBRforum). I'm not going to make as big of a deal over the Vick-to-Foles move as others, but I do downgrade the Eagles a bit more because of it. He's simply not coming into a good (or safe) situation right now. I can't imagine enough money coming in on Philly to move this to -3 and if I had to guess, I'd say this line is going to move in favor of Washington as the week unfolds.
Washington Redskins 2013?
Mike Shanahan made a bonehead mistake before their bye when he said they were playing for next season. Regardless of the accuracy of this mindset, it's not something you come out and say after Week 9 of the NFL season. I don't think it will have any kind of impact on this game, but it's just another symbol of how dysfunctional this organization continues to be.
So why is Shanahan building for next year? They have some clear deficiencies this season and at the very top of the list is their horrendous pass defense. They aren't quite the worst in the league, but they are creeping closer with every sadsack performance. The mess on the back end is compounded by the fact that they've already lost Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo this year. What was supposed to be the strength of this team has become a flat-out liability.
The Skins lack a consistent pass rush (only 14 sacks), can't get off the field on 3rd down, and don't keep many teams out of the end zone either.
Things don't get much better on offense either. Alfred Morris is a pleasant suprise and RG3 is a lethal threat at QB, but beyond those guys what is there to hang your hat on? Pierre Garcon hasn't been able to play much and Fred Davis has joined him on the injury list. Without any reliable pass-catchers, the Redskins don't convert many third down conversions. They also shoot themselves in the foot more than any other team with offensive penalties.
So how can I possibly get behind them as a favorite in Week 11?
The Eagles are Toast
The national media have jumped all over the Eagles over recent weeks, but hints of their demise have been on display all season long. They barely escaped with wins over the Browns, Ravens, and Giants earlier this year. In those games the pass protection was piss-poor and Vick was a turnover machine. Some people (myself included) thought that they would eventually right the ship and go on a run, because there is too much talent on this roster not to.
Yet, I knew this team was doomed when they fired Juan Castillo. I made the Falcons my best bet of the week when they faced off three weeks ago because Todd Bowles wasn't about to turn around this defense. In fact, he's made it worse. This was followed up with the loss of Todd Herremans on the offensive line. Losing Peters and Kelce is one thing, but losing Herremans officially doomed this offense.
Now Vick is out with a concussion and they hand the keys over to Nick Foles. I like this kid and think he has a future in this league, but he is in danger of becoming a human pinata on Sunday. Andy Reid will undoubtedly turn to the short-passing game and rely much more on McCoy out of the backfield. He used the same game plan in previous seasons when AJ Feeley and Jeff Garcia came off the bench. Both of those QB's went on to become local folk heros, but this Eagles team is missing a key ingredient - a defense. Without a top flight defense, don't expect another late season run from Andy Reid's troops.
Mike Vick was ranked among the bottom third in QB efficiency when he went out with a concussion, so it's not like there should be a huge adjustment in the point spread for Foles. Instead, the big advantages I see come from a cringe-worthy O-line, a mess of a defense, and a dispirited team. I actually think the Eagles offense has a chance to be a bit better without Vick, but I can't see them matching RG3's production over the course of four quarters. Foles also doesn't have the elusiveness needed to withstand the kind of pounding headed his way. Philly lead the league in unblocked sacks this season, which is not a category you want to be first in.
Fade the Eagles until further notice.
NFL Pick: WSH -3.5.