BY CASEY MABBOTT via Oregon Sports News
Instead of coming out of their bye week and lazily traveling to the east coast to take on the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday night, your fighting Seattle Seahawks have been flexed out of their primetime matchup and will now play the Eagles at 10am this Sunday morning. With 9-1 San Francisco hosting 8-2 Green Bay this weekend, the folks at NBC decided that was the more intriguing matchup and moved the Seahawks back to FOX, giving them the morning game to boot with the afternoon slate already loaded.
Seattle is 5-0 on the road this season, including 3-0 in Sunday morning road games in the eastern time zone. They have had a week off to rest up (and to get newly signed receiver Josh Gordon more involved, more on that later), and are just a week and change removed from a Monday Night Football victory over the previously undefeated 49ers. Philadelphia is a very average 3-2 at home, but they are a more impressive 3-1 in their home games that kick off at 1pm on the east coast. The Eagles are fresh off a brutal 17-10 home defeat at the hands of the defending champion New England Patriots, with both teams coming off their bye weeks. The Eagles scored a touchdown with just under 13 minutes left in the second quarter to go up 10-0, and allowed 17 unanswered points in the remaining 42 minutes of game time.
Following this game, Seattle (and everyone else) will have just five precious weeks of regular season football left to make their case that they belong in the postseason. This weekend kicks off the last six games of the season, which is split pretty evenly with the Seahawks travelling to the Eagles, Rams, and Panthers, and hosting the Vikings, Cardinals, and 49ers. All six games should be competitive, but I’ll be surprised if they can’t go at least 3-3 over that stretch. A record of 12-4 is ideal to win the division, but 11-5 could get it done. A 49ers loss Sunday night coupled with a Seahawks win Sunday morning would give Seattle their first lead over San Francisco in the division around the time Seattle players are getting home Sunday night. The Seahawks then get a long week to prepare for their next game against Minnesota on Monday Night Football in week 13.
After hosting Seattle, Philadelphia has a relatively easy go of it the rest of the way as they travel to the Dolphins, Giants, and Cowboys, and host the Redskins and Giants. Philadelphia lost to Dallas earlier this season but are just one game behind the division-leading Cowboys with the Eagles hosting a rematch in what could be the division-deciding game in week 16.
Seattle enters this game with their offense ranked 4th in yards, and 7th in points, scoring 27.5 per game. QB Russell Wilson is 7th in yards (2,737), 1st in passing TDs (23), 2nd in INTs (2), 7th in completion percentage (68.5%), and is the top-rated passer in the league (147.2). Wilson has the passing offense ranked 10th in the league, and is on pace to throw for more than 4300 yards and 37 TDs with just 3 INTs. If he gets even close to those numbers, it will be virtually impossible to keep him from winning the league MVP award, no matter how fun Lamar Jackson is to watch. While it’s possible they could share the award, in the 43 years the MVP award has been around, they have had a split victory just twice – 1997 (Barry Sanders and Brett Favre) and 2003 (Steve McNair and Peyton Manning).
Seattle’s rushing offense is currently ranked 6th, with lead-back Chris Carson 7th in yards (853) and 6th in TDs (4), but a concerning league-worst in fumbles (5). The good news is that Carson committed most of his fumbles in the first few games, so hopefully, he has turned things around for good.
Receiver duo Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf have been a fun surprise this year, as Lockett is 5th in receptions (62) in his first year as the primary target, ranking 11th in yards (793) and 3rd in TDs (6), well on his way to a career year. Metcalf is having a fine rookie season, ranking 38th in receptions (35), 25th in yards (595), and 4th in TDs (5). Newly signed receiver Josh Gordon looked promising in his debut against the 49ers and seemed to have a fast-growing trust and connection with Wilson, earning a couple of key first downs against all-pro cover corner and former Seahawk Richard Sherman. Should Sunday’s battle turn to an offensive showcase, we could see more usage out of Gordon and if he can get going, it will only continue to open things up for this offense that is still discovering how good they can be. TE Jacob Hollister is another wild card, and had a great game against the 49ers and may have taken over the starting position.
On defense, the Seahawks will continue to have their work cut out for them as they employ a “bend but don’t break” philosophy. Their defense currently ranks 25th in yards, 23rd in points (25.4), and has just 20 sacks, good enough for 28th. They are tied for 10th with 8 interceptions, so just imagine what this team could do if they can find ways to pressure the QB consistently. The pass rush did seem to turn a corner against San Francisco, but we’ll have to see if that was a one-game thing or if it becomes a real trend. They are the 12th-ranked rushing defense and the 28th-ranked passing defense; they will need to work to tighten things up as they approach the winter months and games get more and more meaningful.
The Eagles offense come into this game ranked 23rd in yards per game and 14th in points with 23.4. QB Carson Wentz leads the 24th ranked passing attack, and individually ranks 18th in yards (2,274), 12th in TDS (16), 28th in INTS (4), 27th in completion percentage (61.2), and is the league’s 17th rated passer. Wentz and the offense have not produced much in their last few games, despite the defense getting healthy and created additional opportunities.
Jordan Howard leads the 11th ranked rushing attack, and Howard is 15th in yards (525), 4th in TDs (6), and has zero fumbles. The passing attack is essentially a four-headed monster, with TE Zach Ertz (55 for 621), WR Alshon Jeffrey (34 for 353), WR Nelson Agholor (36 for 322), and TE Dallas Goedert (24 for 257) all ranking in the top-50 in receptions. They have also combined for 10 TDs. How this team with so many playmakers struggles to consistently win is a head-scratcher, but Seattle will need to have a solid game plan if they are going to keep this offense at bay, even if they are not at full strength or playing well.
On defense, the Eagles are ranked 9th in yards allowed and 18th in points with 23. They have the 4th ranked rushing defense and are the 17th ranked passing defense, ranking 15th in sacks with 25 and tied for 10th with 8 INTs. While the numbers do not paint them as a very complete defense, they were struggling to field a full unit until recently, and now that they are healthy, their pass rush and secondary will continue to climb the rankings and catch up with the rush defense. If the defense stays healthy and the offense turns the corner, with such a light schedule down the stretch, this team might finally get to see what franchise QB and former league MVP Carson Wentz looks like in a postseason game.
While the Eagles appear to need this game more than Seattle, I don’t trust them enough to pull off the upset. Seattle is a perfect 5-0 on the road this year, 3-0 in eastern time zone games, and 3-1 in games following their bye week on the road in Russell Wilson’s career. Wilson is also 3-0 in his career against Philadelphia, including 2-0 against Carson Wentz.
All signs point to a Seattle victory, and there just aren’t any signs indicating the Eagles have what it takes to stay competitive in this one even if they do have the home field, the schedule, and the time zone on their side.
With a win Sunday, Seattle will guarantee a perfect 8th consecutive winning season in Russell Wilson’s career and would put themselves in prime position to compete for a top-4 seed in the NFC playoffs.
FOX will have the game on local broadcast with coverage at 10am. Make sure you tune in to see Seattle continue their goal to win back the west.