The Philadelphia Eagles are off to a 3-0 start for the second consecutive season after taking down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. While most Eagles fans are happy they are following the same script as last year’s Super Bowl run, there is one scene they would rather not repeat. Last year, the Washington Commanders came to Lincoln Financial Field as 11.5-point underdogs and handed the Eagles their first loss of the season.
Successful teams will often repeat the mantra that this year has nothing to do with last year. But rest assured, the defending NFC champions won’t be taking the Commanders lightly Sunday. The Eagles opened as 7.5-point favorites and have been bet up to 9.5 at BetMGM.
Ron Rivera deployed a ball control attack to keep Jalen Hurts on the sidelines in last year’s victory. Here is why the Eagles defense is unlikely to allow Washington to win the same way this time around.
Washington Commanders at Philadelphia Eagles (-9.5)
If this game were happening a week earlier, you would have had a much better case for the Commanders covering this number. After carving up the Broncos for 35 points, many warmed up to the idea of Sam Howell making big strides in his first year as a starter. Then, last week put some context behind their 2-0 start. Miami went nuclear by lighting up Denver for 35 in the first half in an eye-popping 70-20 performance. Scraping by Denver, a week after being taken to the brink by Arizona, didn’t age as well as Commanders fans had hoped.
Conversely, the Eagles' defense looked its best Monday night as it held Tampa Bay to 11 points and 174 total yards. Rookie DT Jalen Carter appears to be on a collision course with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He tacked on half a sack and a forced fumble to his already impressive stat profile. Carter is now PFF’s highest-graded defensive rookie through the first three weeks, and he should be in for another big game. The conversation around Carter has quickly shifted from him being a nice complement who can contribute right away to being the anchor of one of the league’s most feared defensive fronts.
It’s hard to imagine Washington having any success running into this defensive front Sunday. Not only do the Eagles grade out as the best rushing defense, the data supports that as well. The Commanders rank 28th in EPA per rush, while the Eagles' defense ranks second and first in EPA success rate and EPA allowed on running plays. Washington is not going to be able to take the air out of the football. So, if the Commanders are keeping this game close, it’s going to be behind Howell. The second-year QB is coming off being sacked nine times and throwing four interceptions in his first real test of the season. Sure, Jalen Hurts and the “Brotherly Shove” will dominate the water-cooler conversation, but the key to the Eagles covering the spread will be their ability to dominate in the trenches. I will be laying the 9.5 points with the home favorite, a role in which the Eagles have covered 10 of their last 12 games dating back to last year.