NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Irreversible
by Dennis Ranahan

The defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles look to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive tonight when they host their NFC East Division rival Washington Redskins.

The Redskins need a victory tonight to stay even with the Dallas Cowboys for first place in the division.

So, who has the edge?

First of all, the Eagles are favored by six points in this matchup, a line seemingly more tied to the Eagles success from last year than their current team. If the Eagles had not won the Super Bowl last year, they wouldn’t be carrying the load of bloated point spreads based on this season performances. There is nothing special about the 2018 Eagles, they come into action tonight with just one more win than the last place New York Giants and having allowed 23 more points than they have scored through their first 11 games.

What went wrong for the defending champs?

First of all, winning the Super Bowl last year was a monumental task, an accomplishment attained by only three other teams in National Football League history. That is, winning a Super Bowl the year after having a losing record. The other three teams that did that, the 1981 San Francisco 49ers, 1999 St. Louis Rams, and 2001 New England Patriots, all struggled the following season.

Like the Eagles, the 49ers, Rams and Patriots, also won their first ever franchise Super Bowl when they bounced from a losing record to a Super Bowl win. Only the Rams, in 2000, advanced to the playoffs the year after their initial Super Bowl triumph and they lost their only postseason game as a Wild Card.

The good news for Philadelphia fans, if they allow themselves to be patient, is that while this year promised to be a down season, all three of the teams that endured the year after winning their first Super Bowl troubles leaped back to the top in seasons to come. The 1981 49ers did miss the playoffs in 1982, but they advanced to the NFC Championship Game the following year and their second Super Bowl triumph in 1984. That 1981 campaign launched two decades of prominence for San Francisco.

The St. Louis Rams didn’t win a playoff game in 2000, but they did return to the Super Bowl the following season with an offense affectionately known as the “Greatest show on turf.”

As for the Patriots, yes, they missed the postseason in 2002, but have won their division all but one year since and have a collection of Super Bowl trophies that requires renting extra storage space.

The Eagles would seem to own an edge over their visitors tonight while the Redskins look to recover from the loss of starting quarterback Alex Smith. The one-time first pick in the draft, selected by the 49ers in 2005, Smith had the Redskins in first place when he was lost for the season to a broken leg during a narrow two-point loss to the Houston Texans two weeks ago. In his place, Washington has turned to journeyman backup Colt McCoy.

A team will routinely get a motivational boost in their first game played after their starting quarterback goes down. If that was to be, one might have expected Washington to have played the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving as well as they could under the direction of McCoy. But, they lost that game to Dallas, both straight-up and against the point spread.

Does that mean tonight is trouble for Washington?

Not necessarily. Teams that win that first game without their starting quarterback are also likely to lose their second game with a backup starting. That is because the motivational edge gained from their first game without their starter that results in a win, will then be replaced by confidence they can win with their backup and they get caught both without their starter or motivation.

In the Redskins case, McCoy’s first start in Dallas carried with it a couple unique factors against Washington. First, McCoy only had a few days to get ready as the new starter given the Redskins were on the road on a short work week following Smith’s injury. Second, the Redskins came into that game leading Dallas in the NFC East standings, shifting the major motivation to the home team on Thanksgiving.

Now, Washington has had ten days to work McCoy into the Redskins offense. Tonight, they need this game to catch Dallas in the standings, while Philadelphia is simply trying to reverse the irreversible.

The Redskins do get a motivational boost with McCoy at quarterback, the win that follows was just delayed a week.

Qoxhi Picks: Washington Redskins (+6) oer Philadelphia Eagles