When the Seahawks face off against the Eagles on Sunday Night Football, it could be the biggest game of the season for both teams. The Eagles will be playing in hostile territory against one of the better teams in the NFC. It will be a big test for a 10-1 Eagles team that has looked almost unstoppable this season.
For the Seahawks, they are looking to avoid their third straight loss at home since Pete Carroll has been Seattle’s head coach. It will also be the biggest test the team has faced since injuries of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. And a win is needed with the season winding down and the Los Angeles Rams still a game ahead of the Seahawks in the NFC West.
These teams faced off during Week 11 of last season, when the visiting Eagles fell to the Seahawks 26-15. But this game will look very different, especially on the Seahawks side of the ball. Last season, the Seahawks leading rusher was C.J. Prosise, who is out with an ankle injury. Also, both Chancellor and Sherman picked off Carson Wentz, but this season, he does not have to face them.
For the Eagles, their leading rusher in last season’s game was Wendell Smallwood, who’s role has taken a backseat to LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi. Their two leading receivers, Jordan Matthews and Dorial Green-Beckham, are no longer with the team. With so many new circumstances facing both teams, there are many things to watch for in this Sunday Night Football contest.
Seattle’s new look offensive line vs. the Eagles defensive front
Last week against the 49ers, the Seahawks trotted out a new offensive line. From left to right, the line consisted of Duane Brown, Luke Joeckel, Justin Britt, Ethan Pocic, and Germain Ifedi. That line did not give up a sack, which was the first time that has happened this season for the Seahawks. But they will have their hands full with one of the best, most experienced defensive lines in the NFL when they play the Eagles.
The Eagles boast a defensive line with seven quality players. Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Timmy Jernigan, Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham, Chris Long, and Beau Allen have been outstanding this season. They rotate in all seven players to keep a fresh defensive line in the game. These seven players have accounted for 26.5 of the teams 31 sacks. The Seahawks have become pass happy, and need to keep these players off Russell Wilson to move the ball against this tough Eagles defense.
But the defensive line is also very good against the run. Graham and Curry have the two highest run stop percentages for edge players. Which leads us into the next thing to watch for.
Will the Seahawks try to establish a run game?
For most of the season, the Seahawks offense has played very poorly in the first half. This is due in large part to Darrell Bevell trying to establish a run game that has been nonexistent since Chris Carson went down. But in the second half, the Seahawks offense can put points on the board. This is because of Seattle practically abandoning the run.
The Eagles have given up the fewest rushing yards this season, with opposing offenses only gaining 716 rushing yards and an average of 3.5 rushing yards per carry. With how good of a run defense the Eagles have, the Seahawks should avoid trying to be reliant on the run early, and instead just mix it into their offense. The Eagles are not a team that will let opponent’s comeback into the game if you can’t score points early on. Seattle needs to rely on Wilson’s arm and legs to put points on the board early on.
Carson Wentz vs. the makeshift Legion of Boom
Wentz has played phenomenal this season. He has thrown for 2,657 yards, 28 touchdowns, and five interceptions with a 60.2 completion percentage. Last season against the Seahawks, he struggled. He completed only 23 of his 45 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. But that was with an almost completely healthy Seattle secondary, only missing Earl Thomas. This year, they will be without Chancellor and Sherman.
This sets up well for Wentz. With Jeremy Lane filling in for Sherman, there is no reason for Wentz to avoid throwing that way. If Sherman was on the field, that would be a different story. Sherman would lock down one side of the field and teams would avoid throwing that way. But with Lane on the field, Wentz can throw to one of his many weapons on the right side, and opens the entire field instead of just one half of it.
Without Chancellor, it opens the middle field of the field for Wentz to throw into. Bradley McDougald is a good player, but he is not the force that Chancellor is. He is not the force that receivers fear going over the middle of the field. But there are also questions of who will defend Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. It is likely that McDougald will be on Ertz. But Ertz can use his size and frame in the redzone, which could cause problems for McDougald.
There is also the possibility that Wentz has issues with Seattle’s defensive scheme. Seattle plays in a Cover 3 defense almost the entire game. With the reliance in this coverage, players know their assignments very well. They are able to react very quickly to what is thrown their way. That is what Wentz struggled with last season. With players that know the system in Lane, Shaquill Griffin, and Byron Maxwell, they can fill in and do what is needed to shut down Wentz and the Eagles offense.