The Philadelphia Eagles are at home this week to face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. The Eagles face a tough matchup against the defending Super Bowl 48 champions. It's slated to be a good game between two of the top teams in the NFC. Both teams are playing for their playoff hopes as well as potential post-season seeding.
Bleeding Green Nation already took some time to chat with the staff from Field Gulls this week. On Wednesday, we discussed which Seahawks player the Eagles would take and which Eagles player the Seahawks would take. We then exchanged five questions on Thursday: here's the BGN version and here's the FG version.
Today, we're back with reasons why each team might lose. This format forces us to consider each team's weaknesses, rather than just think of why each team is awesome.
So here's why the Seahawks will lose, as explained by Danny. Check out Field Gulls to see why I think the Eagles might lose.
Everyone talks about the Eagles’ potent an explosive offense, but Philly has a highly underrated defense as well. Per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, the Eagles own the 8th ranked rush defense and the 8th ranked pass defense in the NFL — so this is not going to be a free ride for the Seahawks’ offense.
Seattle is likely to be without starting center Max Unger again this week — meaning recent free agent addition Lemuel Jeanpierre will probably get the start there again, and this lack of continuity has been something that affects the Seahawks’ consistency in blocking. It affects communication, cooperation, and it’s going to be very tough to handle on the road in a hostile environment.
The Hawks held up well enough last week against the Niners, but this is another brand new challenge to get the chains moving on the ground. Additionally, with rookie Justin Britt at right tackle still learning the ropes of pass protection, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Russell Wilson get pressured a good amount in this one, forcing him to run for his life and make plays on the fly. Wilson is good at this, of course, but there’s a big element of randomness involved, and if he can’t Houdini his way out of trouble in this one, Seattle could be in for a long day in the pass game.
The Eagles are 2nd in the NFL in sacks with 42.0, so their goal will to make sure to keep Wilson not only pressured and harassed, but also contained in the pocket. Close escape lanes, assign a spy to keep track of him, and play strong coverage downfield — if Philly can do this, it will go a long way into keeping Seattle off the scoreboard and trying to come from behind — which is not their core strength.
The Eagles were the NFL’s top running team last year and finally look to be rounding back into that shape by getting some of their offensive line healthy. With the Eagles’ characteristic outside zone read option runs clicking on all cylinders, the Seahawks will really be missing nose-tackle penetrator Brandon Mebane in the middle.
With Mebane’s disruptive, run-lane-blasting presence no longer a factor, Seattle will need to be extra careful in pursuing down the line, fitting into run gaps as they change on the fly, and making sure that Philly’s backs don’t cut downfield untouched or cut back across the field and find open space. There’s not many teams hotter in the run game right now than Philly, so they’ll really look to punish Seattle at the edges. LeSean McCoy will be enemy #1 for the Seahawks.
In the pass game, Chip Kelly will look to keep the tempo high and force Seattle into defensive mismatches. Mark Sanchez has experienced a renaissance of sorts over the past few weeks since taking over as starter, and will be facing Pete Carroll’s defensive scheme — something he saw plenty of in practice while at USC. Obviously, the cast of characters’ on Carroll’s defense are much better now than they were before, but if Sanchez can protect the football, make sound decisions, and get rid of it quickly to his playmakers, the Eagles should be in good shape to move the ball. Seattle has held their last two opponents to six points combined, but neither the Cardinals nor the Niners had been playing well on offense. The Eagles are a horse of a different color, having scored 30+ in four out of their last five games.
One thing that has uncharacteristically plagued the Seahawks this year is their coverage on special teams. This is a vulnerability that the Eagles may well be able to exploit. Seattle has allowed their punter Jon Ryan to "let his leg out" a little more than normal this year, which has meant there’s greater chance that Darren Sproles or Eagles’ returners will have shots at trying a few returns. With Seattle’s inexperience and issues on their coverage teams, Philly could really put a dagger into Seattle’s heart with a big play in this area.