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Eagles-Seahawks Preview: Wentz Wagon Heads Out West

Updated on November 17, 2016

Two of the best defensive teams in the NFL square off on Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) fly to the west coast to take on the Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1). The Seahawks are almost unbeatable at home, with a 31-5 record in Seattle since 2012. That is not good news for an Eagles team that is 1-4 on the road this season, including 4 straight losses.

Both teams are coming off impressive wins over teams that were considered to be the best in the NFL. The Seahawks beat the New England Patriots 31-24 and the Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons 24-15. The teams are 7-7 in their history, but looking back at the last time they met is useless. On Dec. 7, 2014, Mark Sanchez was the Eagles QB. Enough said.

One of the most interesting subplots of this game is the similarity of the two quarterbacks. Both are mobile QBs, who started for their teams since Day 1. And the Eagles wanted to draft Seattle QB Russell Wilson back in 2012, but Andy Reid waited too long. Seattle drafted him in the 3rd round, 13 spots before the Eagles drafted Nick Foles. Wilson and the Seahawks have been to two Super Bowls and won one, since then. Oh what might have been. Eagles fans can only hope that Carson Wentz is as good as Wilson someday.

Anyway, let's check out the matchups.

The Philadelphia Eagles wanted to draft QB Russell Wilson, but he won a Super Bowl for Seattle instead
The Philadelphia Eagles wanted to draft QB Russell Wilson, but he won a Super Bowl for Seattle instead

Eagles Offense Versus Seahawks Defense

Wentz leads the Eagles 17th ranked offense (344.0 yards per game) into CenturyLink field against Seattle's 9th ranked defense (338.4 ypg). But the Seahawks are a better team at home with their fans behind them and they have let up the 2nd fewest points in the NFL per game (17.6). The main thing Wentz will need to do this week is protect the football. In the Seahawks 2 losses and 1 tie, the opposing QB did not throw an INT. Wentz has completed 65% of his passes for 2,121 yards, 9 TDs and 5 INTs, for a passer rating of 87.6. That's pretty good for a rookie, but he's never faced a challenge like the Seattle defense at home presents.

The Seahawks are famous for their "Legion of Boom" defensive backs, led by CB Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas (who should have been an Eagle) and Cam Chancellor. Sherman is able to completely shut down the opposing team's best WR, but since the Eagles WRs are the worst in the NFL, that isn't the advantage it is against most teams. Nelson Agholor looks like a complete 1st round bust and Dorial Green-Beckham hasn't had a single catch the last two games. As usual, Jordan Matthews will need to lead the receivers from the slot. The one positive for the Eagles 26th ranked passing attack (225.1 ypg) is that TE Zach Ertz looks to finally be getting hot. Ertz has 14 catches for 152 yards in the last two games, so Chancellor is going to have his hands full in his second game back from a groin injury that cost him 4 games.

Did the Eagles finally get their "Russell Wilson" in drafting QB Carson Wentz?
Did the Eagles finally get their "Russell Wilson" in drafting QB Carson Wentz?

The Eagles rediscovered the winning formula of actually turning around and handing the ball to a running back last week. Hopefully, head coach Doug Pederson doesn't forget that and continues to take the pressure off his rookie QB with the running game. After rushing for 208 yards against Atlanta, the Eagles are the 8th ranked run offense (118.9 ypg). RB Ryan Mathews re-emerged as the lead back last week with 19 carries for 109 yards. They even got rookie RB Wendell Smallwood 13 carries for 70 yards. And while Darren Sproles isn't a big back, but he's on a pace for the most carries of his career. He's still a threat out of the backfield and will test Seattle LBs Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright, who are both major talents. Wagner actually leads the NFL in tackles. Seattle is 9th against the run (96.8 ypg), but have allowed an average of 124.5 rushing yards per game over the last four.

The Eagles will get LG Alan Barbre back after a two game absence, but RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai is still filling in for the suspended Lane Johnson. Seattle DE Michael Bennett is out with a knee injury, but his replacement, Frank Clark has 7.5 sacks. Vaitai is going to need some help with him. On the other side, LT Jason Peters is back to playing at a Pro Bowl level. He'll be seriously tested this week, going up against DE Cliff Avril, who has 9 sacks. Expect the Eagles to stick with the running game to keep those DEs from being able to tee off on Wentz in the pocket.

Seahawks Offense Versus Eagles Defense

The Eagles rediscovered the winning formula of actually turning around and handing the ball to a running back last week. Hopefully, head coach Doug Pederson doesn't forget that and continues to take the pressure off his rookie QB with the running game. After rushing for 208 yards against Atlanta, the Eagles are the 8th ranked run offense (118.9 ypg). RB Ryan Mathews re-emerged as the lead back last week with 19 carries for 109 yards. They even got rookie RB Wendell Smallwood 13 carries for 70 yards. And while Darren Sproles isn't a big back, but he's on a pace for the most carries of his career. He's still a threat out of the backfield and will test Seattle LBs Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright, who are both major talents. Wagner actually leads the NFL in tackles. Seattle is 9th against the run (96.8 ypg), but have allowed an average of 124.5 rushing yards per game over the last four.

The Eagles will get LG Alan Barbre back after a two game absence, but RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai is still filling in for the suspended Lane Johnson. Seattle DE Michael Bennett is out with a knee injury, but his replacement, Frank Clark has 7.5 sacks. Vaitai is going to need some help with him. On the other side, LT Jason Peters is back to playing at a Pro Bowl level. He'll be seriously tested this week, going up against DE Cliff Avril, who has 9 sacks. Expect the Eagles to stick with the running game to keep those DEs from being able to tee off on Wentz in the pocket.

Seattle Seahawks RB C.J. Prosise
Seattle Seahawks RB C.J. Prosise

Seattle is no longer a running team, after the retirement of Marshawn Lynch. They are ranked a pathetic 30th in rushing (77.7 ypg). As a matter of fact, they just cut their leading rusher, Christine Michael. That's because rookie RB C.J. Prosise is becoming a bigger part of the offense and Thomas Rawls, who led the NFL in average yards per rush (5.6) last season, is coming back from injury on Sunday. Prosise is also a receiving threat out of the backfield, so MLB Jordan Hicks is going to be busy. The Eagles are even better than their 13th ranking against the run (100.6 ypg), because they gave up 230 to the Redskins in one game. The Eagles will need to stop the run and force the Seahawks to be one-dimensional. That worked against the Falcons and the Seahawks offense isn't even in the same league as the Falcons.

The Seattle offensive line is not good. It just isn't. The average fan has never even heard of any of their lineman, so DEs Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham need to have a good game if the Eagles want to have any chance at winning. The biggest mismatch in this game might just be DT Fletcher Cox going against rookie RG Germain Ifedi. Cox started out the season great with 4 sacks, but hasn't had one since Oct. 9. He needs to absolutely dominate Ifedi and earn that huge contract he signed. If the Seahawks somehow win the battle in the trenches, this game could be a blowout.

Will a WR Not named Jordan Matthews catch a pass for the Eagles at Seattle?

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Special Teams

The Eagles still have the best special teams units in the entire NFL. They lead the league in starting field position after kickoffs (29.8) and opponent average starting field position after kickoff (22.5). Their 2 kick return TDs leads the NFL and since Sproles has been their punt returner, they lead the NFL in punt return average (12.5). Seattle is below average in kick and punt returns and in their coverage units. That is a big advantage for the Eagles. Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka is 19-for-21 on his FG attempts this season. Meanwhile, Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis ranks 3rd in the NFL with 88 points and is tied for 1st with 23 FGs.

Coaches


Eagles head coach Doug Pederson grew up a Seahawks fan, so he knows how loud those fans can get. He also coached against them when he was an assistant with the Chiefs. Eagles fans just hope he doesn't revert back to the ways of his mentor, Andy Reid and completely abandon the running game after just one game. Pederson has had some shaky coaching moments in his rookie season. On the other sideline, Pete Carrol has led Seattle to two Super Bowls and has one ring to show for it. He also called a pass play at the goal line when he had Marshawn Lynch and it cost him a second ring, so it's not like they're going to rename the Lombardi Trophy after him anytime soon. It is also worth noting that the Eagles are preparing for the same defensive scheme as they did last week. Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn used to be the Seattle defensive coordinator and they still run the same scheme.

Seattle's "Legion of Boom": Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Cam Chancellor
Seattle's "Legion of Boom": Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Cam Chancellor

The Prediction

This game should be a defensive battle, but this Eagles team has been impossible to predict this season, so anything is possible. The Eagles need to continue to run the football to keep the pressure off Wentz and play sound defense to get pressure on the QB with just their front four to make it easier for their injury-depleted secondary. Seattle is getting better each week, as Russell Wilson gets healthier. Their scoring is up and their calling-card is always their great defense.

If this game was in Philadelphia it might be a completely different story. The Eagles are 4-0 at home, but only 1-4 on the road. And there is no tougher place to play in the entire NFL than Seattle. Add in the fact that Wilson is getting healthy and more dangerous and I just don't see how the Eagles can pull off the upset in Seattle

Seahawks 24 - Eagles 20

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