By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
Coming off a tough loss last week to New England, the Eagles play host to another elite team in the 8-2 Seattle Seahawks.
This battle of the birds has been dominated by the Seahawks in recent years. The Eagles have defeated Seattle just once out of seven contests since 2005.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Eagles are playing another huge game that some would consider a must-win. An Eagles loss this week coupled with a Dallas victory would be crippling to the Eagles playoff chances.
With the way the Eagles have played throughout this season, would anyone really be surprised if this team misses out on the postseason? I sure wouldn’t.
Playoff teams play well consistently. Playoff teams keep their best players healthy and on the field. Playoff teams catch the football. The Eagles do none of those three things. These reasons, as well as a multitude of other reasons, are why the Eagles are sitting on the outside, looking in on the postseason.
Eagles Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
The Eagles offense was, well, nonexistent for much of the game last Sunday. That’s being nice. Were the Eagles facing the best defense in the league? Sure, but the Eagles sure had their opportunities.
Looking back at the tape, there were a lot of mental errors and miscues by the Eagles offense. Here’s a video by the great Brain Baldinger detailing one of many blunders by the Eagles offense.
The Eagles will be facing another uphill battle this week, without even factoring in the Seahawks defense. Lane Johnson has already been announced as out for this Sunday. Andre Dillard is expected to make his first career start at right tackle in his place.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane, Dillard has never played a game at right tackle in his entire life. Dillard also gave this quote, describing the adjustment from left to right tackle. Jadeveon Clowney is licking his chops right now.
When asked about the transition of switching from LT to RT, Andre Dillard asks a reporter which hand he writes with.— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) November 22, 2019
Dillard responded: “Write with your left.”
Alshon Jeffery and Jordan Howard are also listed as questionable this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if neither of them suit up. As of Friday, neither had participated in a full practice. As of Thursday, Howard hadn’t even been cleared for contact.
Nelson Agholor is also listed as questionable. At this point, I’m not sure if he’d help the team more on or off the field. I can imagine which way some Eagles fans are leaning in that scenario.
In all seriousness, the Eagles need to execute better this week on offense if they want to have a chance. I promise you that ten points isn’t going to be enough to beat Russell Wilson. Even just cutting down on the mental errors will help the Eagles so much. Executing plays just comes easier when players aren’t thinking too much on the field.
Carson Wentz did not have his best game at all last week, as he missed multiple easy throws. There are no excuses to be made for him, he needs to be able to make the easy throws. If he completes that third down pass to Ertz on the last drive, he doesn’t have to chuck one up in the endzone to butterfingers on fourth down (which was a phenomenal throw, by the way).
Also, Doug Pederson, please don’t give Boston Scott more carries than Miles Sanders in the second half this week. I cannot muster up a good explanation for giving a guy who began the year on the practice squad more opportunities than your second-round pick who has been improving each week.
So, in short, my extremely in-depth analysis for the Eagles offensive game plan this week: play with confidence, don’t overthink, do your job and don’t make boneheaded decisions. Just doing those things will make this offense run 50 times better than they did last week. Once they do those things, maybe they can focus on catching the football. Ah, who am I kidding, one thing at a time.
As for Seattle’s defense, they aren’t the legion of boom unit that dominated the league a few years ago. In fact, they are quite the opposite of that. The Seahawks rank 28th in the league in pass defense, as they are allowing 271.8 yards per game.
Seattle’s secondary has been the Achilles Heel of their defense. Carson Wentz and his rag-tag group of receivers need to take advantage of that weak unit if they want to win this game. It can certainly be done, as the Seahawks are giving up 25 points per game, which is the tenth most in the league.
Seattle’s front seven is much better than their back four. Jadeveon Clowney is a generational talent at defensive end, even if he doesn’t have the stats to prove that this year. He can wreck a game by himself when he’s at his best. He is currently listed as questionable on the injury report. If he is forced to miss the game, that is a huge advantage for the Eagles offense.
The strength of the Seahawks defense are their linebackers. Bobby Wagner is one of, if not the best, this league has to offer at the position. K.J. Wright and former Eagle Mychal Kendricks have been great against the run, but susceptible against the pass. Expect Ertz and Goedert to have big games again this week.
Injury Report: Seahawks at Eagles
Eagles Defense vs. Seahawks Offense
The Eagles defense played by far their best game of the season last week. They kept a great New England offense out of the end zone, except for some dang trick play on a third down. Be thankful you weren’t in the same room as me when that play happened.
Outside of that, the Eagles defense did a great job when their offense put them in some tough spots. Forcing three red zone field goals from the Patriots is no small feat.
The main thing that I saw from this defense that shows me they may have truly turned a corner: they’re playing with confidence and swagger again. They’re getting fired up after big plays, which are coming more and more frequently. The secondary is actually...playing well? It’s amazing what can happen when you let your guys get healthy.
The Eagles defense will be facing an even tougher test this week. Seattle’s offense, led by MVP candidate Russell Wilson at quarterback, are as efficient as any offense in the NFL. The Seahawks average the third most yards in the league, with 389.1 yards per game. They’re also putting up 27.5 points per game, good enough for sixth most in the league.
The key to this game for the Eagles defense is easier said than done: contain Russell Wilson. You aren’t going to stop him, it’s just not possible. He’s going to make great plays and keep his offense in the game at all costs. Even when they’re down, they’re far from out. If the Seahawks are down late in the game with a chance to tie or win the game, expect Russell Wilson to get the job done.
So what’s the game plan for the Eagles defense? Do not let Wilson extend the play and get out of the pocket. That is where he is the most dangerous. The threat of him running the ball usually leads to him finding a receiver wide open. Or, in the off chance that you have them all covered up, he’ll take off running and inexplicably gain 15-20 yards even though he looks like he’s jogging.
The best way to play against this in my opinion is to play man defense in obvious passing situations while having a linebacker who is good at tackling in the open field play a spy on Wilson. That linebacker could be anyone not named Nathan Gerry. If the Eagles do go this route, I’d expect Nigel Bradham, who will be playing in his first game since week six, to fill that role. He’s great against the run and not as good in coverage.
It will also be crucial for the Eagles pass rush to not allow any lanes for Wilson to escape through. They’ll need to have the defensive ends push up the field to keep him in the pocket, while the defensive tackles keep in their lanes straight toward the quarterback. If Wilson gets even the slightest opening, he will take it.
Contrary to years past, Seattle’s offense is not make or break on the shoulders of Wilson. Running back Chris Carson is having his best season as a pro, and is dangerous as a receiving option out of the backfield. He excels running between the tackles as well as in open space. The Eagles defensive line will need to bottle him up.
Wilson has a multitude of solid receivers to throw the ball to. I wonder what that's like. Tyler Lockett is short in stature for a receiver, but he can surely do it all. He is a good possession receiver and is absolutely lethal running deep routes. Him and Wilson have a great connection.
Breakout rookie D.K. Metcalf and recently acquired Josh Gordon fill out the receiving corps. Both excel at jump balls and creating separation at the line of scrimmage to get open. The Eagles inexplicably passed on both players this season. Tight end Jacob Hollister was listed as the team’s third tight end entering the season, but he has been fantastic since taking over due to injuries.
The Birds defense faces an uphill battle this week, but with the way they’ve been playing of late, expect them to keep the Eagles in the game. The Eagles offense has a strong opportunity to rebound this week, as they face a shaky secondary.
Another advantage for the Eagles is that this game was flexed out of Sunday Night Football into the 1:00 slot. Russell Wilson seems to play even better in primetime, and a west coast team traveling across the country to play at 10 a.m. in their time is surely a disadvantage for Seattle.
The recipe is certainly there for an Eagles upset. However, the Eagles offense is going to be facing an uphill battle with all of their injuries. Even if Howard, Jeffery, and Agholor do play, they won’t be at 100%. If they don’t play...yikes. A receiving corps of Mack Hollins, Jordan Matthews, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside does not inspire confidence.
Seahawks win, 27-23. It’s a close game throughout, but Russell Wilson does what Russell Wilson does in the fourth quarter to get Seattle the win. The Eagles offense plays surprisingly well, but the story of the game will be their inability to turn key scoring chances into touchdowns, as they settle for three field goals.
The Eagles fall to 5-6, and are left praying for a Dallas loss in New England to keep them within striking distance of the division. Playoff chances look bleak.
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass