Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles
Site: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
If you look at each of the Seahawks final four games, you may think this week’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles may be the toughest. It very well may be. The Seahawks start the final quarter of the regular season on Sunday when they face off against the Eagles in a rare east coast late-afternoon game. The Seahawks are 8-4 after a convincing win over the San Francisco 49ers last Thursday. Seattle is currently second in the NFC West and is one game behind the Arizona Cardinals for the division lead. The Eagles are currently leading the NFC East at 9-3 and are coming off a big win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Philadelphia leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 7-6. Their last meeting came in 2011 when Seattle defeated the Vince Young-led Eagles 31-14. The Seahawks have played two games against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field and beat them both times by a combined score of 70-24. This week the Seahawks will face a style of offense that they have not even come close to seeing by any other team in the NFL. This is what I will be looking for this week.
The Seahawks have not scored more than 20 points in a victory in four weeks when they put up 38 on the New York Giants. Even though our defense has been playing dominant football the past couple of weeks the Seahawks offense needs to finish their drives this week. Settling for field goals may not be good enough to combat the point barrage the Eagles have put on other opponents. This week I will be focused on what the Seahawks offense does on third down opportunities particularly within field goal range. It is these plays that will determine if the Seahawks put 3 points on the board or 7 points on the board. Even though Seattle will be facing the 12th best run defense in the league, it is my opinion that on third down the Seahawks should stick with giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch or Robert Turbin. The Seahawks running game could ultimately dictate the outcome of this game. If we can take advantage of our opportunities, run the clock to allow our defense to rest, and exchange field goals for touchdowns, we will be very difficult to beat.
Never before have I put the word stamina and the Seahawks defense together in the same sentence. However this week the stamina and speed of our defense is crucial to being able to stop the Philadelphia offense. On average the Eagles run a play every 22.9 seconds, by far the fastest rate of any team in the league. If Philadelphia has success in moving the ball and putting points on the board it will be extremely difficult for our defense to stay rested later on in the game. It is crucial for the defense to set their tone early on. The formula to success is nothing new, stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback. The Seahawks defensive line will have my attention this week more than any other group. If Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett can get to Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez and simply hurry him the chances of us having opportunities to force turnovers are huge. Tony McDaniel, Kevin Williams, and Jordan Hill will have their hands full with an Eagles offensive line that has helped plow the way for the 6th best running game in the league. The Seahawks have allowed 64 rushing yards in each of their last two games. I estimate that a successful day on Sunday will see the Seahawks allowing between 80-90 combined rushing yards.
When you see the weapons that head coach Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles have on offense it is no wonder why they are sitting on top of their division with a 9-3 record. They have an explosive backfield featuring running backs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles and the 5th best passing game in the league including wide receivers Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, and rookie Jordan Matthews. However since the collarbone injury to starting quarterback Nick Foles, the Eagles have had to rely on backup quarterback Mark Sanchez to lead this team for the rest of the season. In Sanchez’s 4 starts since the injury to Foles, the Eagles have gone 3-1 with Sanchez throwing for 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. In those 3 wins the Philadelphia defense and special teams have done a tremendous job in forcing turnovers and even scoring points. In those victories the Eagles forced 11 turnovers, recorded one interception return for a touchdown, and added a 108-yard kickoff return touchdown. In a nutshell, the Eagles have put Sanchez in a position to not have to do a whole lot on his own to win games. The possibility of him having to do more work than normal to win this game makes Mark Sanchez my X-Factor player to watch for Philadelphia. This week more than any other week I believe that Sanchez will have to do considerably more through the air to win this game and thus far he has not proven enough for me to believe that he is a completely different Mark Sanchez than the one that butt-fumbled his way out of New York. It would not surprise me to see Sanchez manage the game similarly to how Alex Smith played the Seahawks last month to prevent turnovers. If Sanchez looks rattled early on, regardless of Seattle’s success rushing the passer, the Seahawks will be in a great position to take control of this game.
Random Thoughts: The Seahawks cannot wear wolf grey for the rest of the season since NFL rules only allow teams to wear their “alternate” jerseys twice per season. The Seahawks will wear white jerseys in Philadelphia this week. Pant color TBD however personally I hope we wear white pants… The Eagles will wear their midnight green jerseys with white pants… This game is FOX’s “America’s Game of the Week.” Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call with Erin Andrews reporting from the sidelines… Bill Vinovich is the referee this week. Vinovich also officiated the Seahawks week 3 win over the Denver Broncos… I think Philadelphia is the only city I would not go see the Seahawks play in. I have heard bad things about their fans in general, but then again the same could have been said about Raiders fans and I had a wonderful experience going to a game in Oakland wearing Seahawks stuff (even though it wasn’t a Seahawks game)… I love the 1:25pm start for a game being played on the east coast. The last time the Seahawks played a late afternoon road game in the eastern time zone after daylight savings time going into effect was two seasons ago when the Seahawks beat the Buffalo Bills in Toronto… I have remained more confident going into this week’s game than I was going into last week’s game in San Francisco… If the Seahawks win this game, I believe we will win out, putting us at 12-4.
Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With Seattle’s win and Arizona’s loss last week the Seahawks now sit one game back of the Cardinals for the NFC West lead. With one more game against the Cardinals left, the Seahawks now control their own destiny within the division; running the table gives us the division title. Should the Seahawks win this week, if the Cardinals also win the Seahawks will remain in the wild-card chase for at least one more week. A Seahawks win and a Cardinals loss will put Seattle in the #2 seed. A Seattle win, an Arizona loss, and a Green Bay loss on Monday night, and the Seahawks will have a hold on the #1 seed and home-field advantage with 3 weeks of the regular season left to play. Here are this week’s other games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.
Tampa Bay (2-10) at Detroit (8-4)
Kansas City (7-5) at Arizona (9-3)
San Francisco (7-5) at Oakland (1-11)
Atlanta (5-7) at Green Bay (9-3)
Prediction: This will be a classic back-and-forth football game. The Eagles will start the scoring with a short LeSean McCoy touchdown run. The Seahawks will come right back with a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7. Philadelphia will add a field goal at the end of the first half and the Eagles will take a 10-7 lead into halftime. The Seahawks will come out red hot in the second half, scoring 10 third quarter points and Seattle will take a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter. After Philadelphia ties the game at 17-17 thanks to a Jeremy Maclin touchdown reception, the Seahawks will take control of the game for good on both sides of the ball. In the final 10 minutes, the Seahawks defense will force three Philadelphia drives to stall and with 5 minutes left to play, Russell Wilson will find Luke Willson in the endzone for the game-winning touchdown. The Seahawks will get a huge win and with Arizona’s loss to Kansas City, the Seahawks will be the leaders of the NFC West by the time Sunday Night Football kicks off.
Seahawks 24, Eagles 17
Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my review of this week’s game. Go Seahawks!