For the first time all season, the NFL is putting forth some Saturday games. After offering perhaps the least appealing Thursday night game ever, the league is showcasing a pair of games with some actual playoff implications. Granted, both games looked a lot more appealing before the season started, but each should provide some solid Saturday night entertainment for pigskin fans everywhere.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-5) at Washington Redskins (3-11) (4:30/3:30c, NFL Network)
Line: Eagles by 7. O/U: 51.
The early game looks pretty one-sided on paper. The Redskins are still one of the most dysfunctional teams in the league, having lost six straight. Nine of their eleven losses have come by double digits, and while they possess some major offensive weapons, they have struggled overall this season.
Meanwhile the Eagles need to win this game. They’ve lost their last two games, to the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys, both at home. As a result, the Eagles went from in the hunt for the NFC’s top spot, to needing a win to stay in the playoff hunt. A loss today, combined with any Cowboy win in the final two weeks would result in the Eagles missing the postseason. They have scored nearly 30 points a game for the season, but have put up just 41 total the past two weeks. That’s not bad, but it’s subpar for this high-flying offense.
In the end, I see this being a closer game than it appears on paper. The Redskins always play the Eagles tough, and were up double digits earlier this season in Philadelphia, before succumbing 37-34 in that Week 3 matchup. I do not see this game being that close, but it will be a good one. Prediction: Eagles 28, Redskins 17.
San Diego Chargers (8-6) at San Francisco 49ers (7-7) (8:25/7:25c, CBS and NFL Network)
In the primetime matchup, we have a game that looked a lot more appealing at the start of the season. The Chargers were one of last season’s biggest surprises, upsetting the Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs, before nearly defeating the AFC Champion Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round. Meanwhile, the 49ers had been to three straight NFC Championships, narrowly losing to eventual Super Bowl champions in early 2012 and 2014, and nearly winning Super Bowl 47 in 2013.
Now, the Chargers have lost two straight home games, and while each loss came against the AFC’s top two teams, the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, the result has them going from holding a wild card playoff spot, to being on the outside looking in. They still have Philip Rivers at quarterback, but the running game has been ravaged by injuries, and the team’s lone notable receiver, Keenan Allen, is out. Antonio gates may have played well as a tight end, but the Chargers are facing the league’s third best pass defense.
Granted, the 49ers have lost three straight, and have been eliminated from the playoffs, but they still have something to play for. This is likely the final home game for 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who is basically guaranteed to leave this offseason. They have some notable offensive pieces, but have put up just 23 points during the recent losing skid. Against the hapless Oakland Raiders, they allowed more points than that (24). Colin Kaepernick has regressed heavily, while their two best defensive players, linebackers Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman, have either not played this season, or are out for the rest of it.
As the line proclaims, this game is a pick ’em. Neither team has been reliable this season, but I have a hunch the 49ers will win. I do not know why, it’s just a hunch. Prediction: Chargers 17, 49ers 20.