By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
Given everything that has happened this season, it is truly remarkable that the Eagles are even playing football this weekend. This team has suffered through injuries to just about every impact player, incredible inconsistencies and a mind-numbing amount of situations where they’ve shot themselves in the foot.
Yet, here they are. They’ve overcome everything, with help from a historically bad division, to win the NFC East.
Because of their division title, the Eagles will be playing at home on wild card weekend. They will be hosting the Seattle Seahawks, the first of two wild card teams in the NFC.
Philadelphia has won four in a row after a bad loss to the Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have lost three of their last four, including two straight home losses to division foes.
Seattle and Philadelphia have already played once this season. The Seahawks bested the Eagles 17-9 at the Linc in mid-November. It was one of the ugliest games I’ve ever watched.
Expect this game to look different from the last meeting.
Eagles Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
The Eagles offense has found their groove at the right time. It seems as if everything is clicking right now for the offense. The biggest reason for that? They found their identity.
That may seem confusing, given the fact that some of the Eagles key skill players weren’t even on the 53-man roster to begin the season. However, most of them have adopted their roles and truly thrived.
Running back Boston Scott is coming off of a three touchdown performance last week, good enough to get him offensive player of the week honors. He was consistently great in both the run game and pass game. This was especially impressive because he did not come off the field for one snap after the injury to Miles Sanders.
Speaking of Sanders, he is doing everything in his power to return to the field this week. As of Thursday evening, he was yet to practice this week. He is hopeful to play on Sunday. If he is able to play, that would obviously be a huge boost to the offense.
Eagles do-it-all back Miles Sanders (ankle) is hopeful to practice Friday, and a source says his plan is to play vs. SEA barring a setback. It's a low-ankle injury, so the issue has been inflammation. He is improving. 'He wants to play,' the source said.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 2, 2020
For one, it would take some of the load off of Scott. Sanders has also been the Eagles big play back in the running game, as he has consistently ripped off runs of at least ten yards. If he is unable to go, the Eagles will likely lean more heavily on Carson Wentz and the pass game.
Carson Wentz did not play his best game of the season last week, but he played well enough to get the job done. Wentz is going to have to play at the top of his game throughout the postseason if the Eagles want to keep playing.
I’d like to see Pederson draw up a lot of plays that see Wentz rolling out of the pocket. He has been one of the top rated passers all year when throwing on the run or out of the pocket. Its extremely odd that Wentz is more accurate while throwing on the run instead of in the pocket, but if it works, it works.
Carson Wentz made this throw....— Thomas R. Petersen 🦅 (@thomasrp93) December 30, 2019
On the run...
In pouring rain...
To yet another one of his practice squad WRs...
On his way to win 4 straight divisional games and the divisional title.
Case closed 🤷♂️ pic.twitter.com/fJmiHJKm0W
Pederson has started to dial up more plays that get him moving. Hopefully, he will continue to do that. With the cast that Wentz has out there, he needs every advantage he can get.
Expect more of the same in terms of the skill position players this week. Nelson Agholor remains out of practice, and Zach Ertz was limited in practice with his rib injury. I’d be surprised to see either player play on Sunday. As much as I’d love to see Ertz on the field, playing two weeks after suffering a lacerated kidney seems unsafe.
The Eagles offense suffered another huge loss last week. Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks was placed on injured reserve this week after suffering a dislocated shoulder last Sunday. Losing Brooks is one of the biggest losses this team could suffer. He has consistently been one of the best linemen in all of football this season.
The Eagles will have to continue to adopt the montra they’ve had all season: Next man up. Matt Pryor will likely start in Brooks’ place at right guard. He played well in his place last Sunday.
Seattle’s defense is not the defense you remember dominating opponents five years ago. In fact, the Seahawks defense is one of the worst in the league.
Unsurprisingly, however, they played their best game of the season against the Eagles in week 12, allowing only a field goal and a garbage time touchdown. The Eagles fumbled four times and Wentz threw two interceptions. Expect a much cleaner performance from the Birds offense this week.
The Eagles need to take advantage of Seattle’s poor defense. Seattle is giving up the seventh most yards in the league (381 per game). They are also giving up 25 points per game, 22nd in the league. This defense is vulnerable against both the run game and pass game, but they are especially weak in the secondary. Expect Wentz to have a much better performance this week as opposed to the first match-up.
A key player to watch for on Seattle’s defense is middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. Wagner is a tackling machine and is constantly around the football. He is this defense’s do-it-all man. This season, if he doesn’t do it all, then they’ve been in trouble. Expect the Eagles to game plan to attack players that aren’t him.
Injury Report: Seahawks at Eagles
Eagles Defense vs. Seahawks Offense
The Eagles defense has decided to play their best football of the season at the right time. They dominated the Giants offense for a large portion of the game last week. Other than Barkley’s long touchdown run, the Birds bottled him up and didn’t give him anywhere to run. With Seattle’s running game as depleted as it is, expect the Eagles to dominate that aspect of the game again.
Where my concern is for the defense this week is where it’s been all season: the secondary. With Ronald Darby out for the season, Rasul Douglas has been playing in his place. If you watched the game last week, or just about any other game this season, you know that Douglas is a weak-link at cornerback.
Douglas has been targeted more than a duck during hunting season at the Wentz household. This is for good reason: Douglas can’t cover a deep route to save his life. He’s been torched more times than I can remember on deep routes. That worries me against this team.
Seattle’s quarterback, Russell Wilson, is one of the best in the league at throwing the deep ball. He has some receivers that will go get ‘em too. Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are big-time threats down the field.
There is some good news for the Eagles, though, as cornerback Jalen Mills has been a full participant in practice this week. Expect him to play on Sunday.
Another key to this game for the Eagles defense will be containing Russell Wilson. They cannot let Wilson extend the play or get out of the pocket. He is absolutely lethal when he extends the play. He will either find someone open down the field or pick up a huge first down with his legs.
The best way for the Eagles to contain Wilson will be by getting pressure from the front four. The Eagles defensive line has really played well down the stretch. If they do what they did to Daniel Jones last week, the Eagles will be in good shape.
Another way that Philly can try to bottle up Wilson is to have a spy on him in key situations. This would be effective in keeping him from using his legs to get out of the pocket. I think Malcolm Jenkins would be very effective in this role.
A big advantage for this Eagles defense is that the Seahawks offensive is really banged up. Their top three running backs are all lost for the season, so they had to bring in Marshawn Lynch off the street for their playoff run. I like Lynch as much as the next guy, but at this stage in his career, I’m not sure how much he’ll worry the Eagles.
Seattle’s offensive line is also really banged up. Their starting left tackle, left guard, and center have all yet to practice this week. If they were to miss the game on Sunday, this would be a huge advantage for the Eagles.
Seattle certainly doesn’t struggle to move the ball and put up points. They put up 375 yards per game, eighth in the league, and score 25 points per game, ninth in the league. With all of their injuries, though, I don’t think this offense will be as effective.
After analyzing this game from every angle, I have an unsettling amount of confidence in the Eagles this week. I think that the Eagles really match up well with this Seattle team. I really believe that the Eagles have the advantage on both sides of the ball.
Seattle’s defense has been worked all season. The Eagles offense has hit their stride. Seattle’s offense is banged up and has essentially become one-dimensional because of that. The Birds defense has been playing with a lot of confidence. If their cornerbacks can turn around and play the ball, they will be in good shape.
With an exuberant amount of overconfidence, I think the Eagles win 27-20. Wentz plays well in his first career playoff game, as he is able to guide the offense up and down the field and protect the football. I truly think that this is the key to the game. If the Eagles hadn’t turned the ball over 82 times in the first match-up, they would have had a solid shot at winning that game.
The Eagles defensive line contains Wilson and frustrates him throughout much of the day. Seattle will keep it close because both teams love playing close games, but I think that the Eagles come up clutch when it matters most.
All this being said, if this game is close in the fourth quarter and Wilson has the ball with a chance to win the game, we should all be very concerned. He is the king of the two minute drill.
A team that once seemed left for dead will be winning a wild card game and playing next week, as one of the NFL’s elite eight. A truly incredible turnaround. Come postseason time, it's not always the better team that wins. More often than not, it's the team with the hot hand.
Time: 4:40 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass