Meetings between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins are usually highly anticipated and contentious.
The first matchup featuring Michael Vick starting opposite Robert Griffin III could be even greater, but it will have to wait.
With Vick out due to a concussion, embattled Eagles coach Andy Reid will turn to rookie Nick Foles in an effort to end the longest losing streak of his tenure against Griffin and the rested Redskins on Sunday.
Philadelphia (3-6) and Washington (3-6) have a rivalry that dates back to 1934, with the Redskins holding the all-time advantage at 79-70-5.
This meeting was expected to add to the lore of the rivalry, as it was supposed to mark the first time Vick and Griffin started opposite each other in a matchup of two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL.
Instead, only the Redskins will have their regular starter under center.
Vick is struggling with a concussion suffered on a pair of bruising hits in last week's 38-23 loss to Dallas as the Eagles' losing streak reached five games - the longest in 14 seasons under Reid.
That will force Foles to make his first NFL start. The third-round pick out of Arizona completed 22 of 32 passes for 219 yards with one touchdown and one interception in relief last week.
"I'm ready," Foles said. "I'm excited to just play again. Like I said before, my prayers are with Mike, I just want Mike to be healthy. But it's my time to go out there and just play and do everything I can for this team and help in any way possible.
"I'm going to do my job right now until he gets healthy."
Foles may be the Eagles' quarterback of the future, but Reid - under pressure from owner Jeffrey Lurie since the start of the season - may not be a part of it. Philadelphia is underachieving again, and on the verge of its first six-game slide in a single season since concluding 1994 by dropping seven in a row.
Barring a staggering turnaround, the Eagles are headed for a second straight season out of the playoffs, which would also be a first under Reid.
Griffin and the Redskins may be in a similar situation during a three-game losing streak, but they aren't dealing with lofty expectations.
They're also refreshed coming off a bye following a 21-13 home loss to Carolina in Week 9, a game coach Mike Shanahan deemed "must-win" before suggesting the playoffs were out of reach.
An NFC East-heavy schedule is partly why that message has changed. After hosting the Eagles, the Redskins visit second-place Dallas on Thanksgiving before welcoming the division-leading New York Giants to FedEx Field on Dec. 3.
"The way the chips are falling in our division, we still can control our own destiny," defensive end Stephen Bowen said. "If we win these next three, we're right back on top of the division. It's crazy that these games are happening like this, but it's giving us the opportunity."
Improvement from Griffin may be key to getting back in the division hunt. The top pick in last April's draft has completed 53.4 percent of his passes for 392 yards with one TD over the last two games, while gaining 61 yards on 17 carries.
Griffin had averaged 66.9 rushing yards with six TDs in his first seven games. Still, he has a 93.9 passer rating, tops among rookies and good for ninth overall in the league.
Washington's defense remains one of the worst in the NFL, surrendering an average of 397.9 yards - 301.7 through the air, although it may get a boost with safety Brandon Meriweather expected to make his season debut after recovering from a knee injury.
Those numbers still may bode well for the Eagles, who are averaging 223.0 passing yards in seven games since getting a season-high 357 in a Week 2 win over Baltimore.
Jeremy Maclin is encouraged with what he's seen out of Foles so far. The receiver hauled in a season-high eight passes for 93 yards last week, including a 44-yard touchdown from the rookie. He topped 100 yards each time while the Eagles won both meetings with Washington last season.
"He can throw the ball in places, put the ball in certain places, not most guys can do in this league," Maclin said. "When he got into the preseason, the poise that he showed, it's not what most rookie quarterbacks show.
"I was impressed with that."
Griffin should have an extra weapon with receiver Pierre Garcon slated to return after a troublesome toe injury.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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