The Philadelphia Eagles (5-5) and Seattle Seahawks (8-2) are set to play at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. In order to preview this Week 12 matchup, I reached out to our associates over at Field Gulls. The knowledgeable Kenneth Arthur kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming game. Let’s take a look at his answers. Also, don’t forget to check out my side of the Q&A exchange over at FG.
1 - The Seahawks are 8-2 and have an MVP candidate at quarterback but fan optimism doesn’t seem to be as high as one might expect. I noticed FanPulse only has the Seahawks’ confidence rating at only 70%. I also noticed one of recent top FanPosts on Field Gulls was titled “I’ll be Excited When Pete Carroll Retires.” What’s preventing Seahawks fans from feeling better about this team?
That’s a question I have to ask myself every day honestly, though I don’t think it’s exclusive to Seahawks fans. Maybe it is more “Seattle” than other teams to feel pessimistic or to focus on what’s going wrong over what’s going right, but I haven’t covered another NFL team before so I’m not exactly sure. I think part of it relates to the expectations set by Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson from 2012-2015 when they went the divisional round of the playoffs all four years and the Super Bowl twice. That defense was an all-timer and since 2016 the Seahawks have bounced around the more “average” side of things -- though despite that they’ve still been to the playoffs two out of the last three years and are 8-2, one of the best starts in franchise history. The way I see the 8-2 record is that they’ve managed to accumulate necessary wins that they didn’t accumulate in past seasons before November/December. Frankly, I’d rather see the team have a point differential of 0 and be 8-2 than have a point differential of +80 and be 7-3. With the NFC the way it is, and especially the NFC West, you can’t poo poo overtime wins, ugly wins vs ugly teams, or getting lucky. If it weren’t for every win -- whether it’s 21-20 over the Bengals at home or needing the 49ers to miss an OT field goal -- Seattle wouldn’t be in the position they are in now to potentially snag a bye week. At the end of the day/end of the season, nobody cares how you got there as long as you got there. I don’t imagine that many Eagles fans lament the loss of Carson Wentz in 2017 over the joy of winning the Super Bowl that year. I’m sure you no longer give a shit that the Eagles lost 24-10 to the Seahawks that season. I bet you’re not nervous that when you talk about Philly winning it all that you’re going to have to talk about a narrow win over the Falcons in the divisional round. So me personally, I am a guy who has been driven by stats, analytics, and using history to try and forecast the future, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that you can’t forecast the future. You can’t predict anything. The only thing I can predict right now about the playoffs is that the Seahawks are maybe only two wins away from getting where they need to be for a wild card. That’s a lot better than being four wins away.
Also, I believe that FanPulse pollwas actually sent out before Monday night’s win over the 49ers. My guess is that by the time this runs, the new FanPulse will be noticeably higher. As to the Fanpost, I may disagree with that particular writer/reader, but everyone has a right to their opinion and in this case, I know a lot of fans wish Carroll was more “innovative.” I can’t think of many coaches in the last decade who have adapted as well he has and innovated week to week, so I just think we’re viewing things differently.
2 - When I watch Russell Wilson play against the Eagles, I wonder how this dude ever loses a game. He seems like the NFL’s most indefensible player. How nice is it to have a quarterback like that and what’s the Eagles’ best chance of stopping him?
It’s really nice. I had this weird feeling a few weeks ago actually. I of course have followed Wilson’s career extensively since 2012. I know a few people who know him better than I do (@hwkbgr on Twitter is the ultimate Russell Wilson fan for whatever that’s worth) but I’ve poured over every statistic for years on end. I’ve dedicated thousands of hours to Wilson alone, I’ve had campaigns where I wrote a Russ article a day for like two months until he signed his first extension, I’ve argued for him as MVP in past seasons, I’ve written comics about him. At the end of my Field Gulls career, it will be at least 80% about Wilson, I imagine. Yet it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that it dawned on me that I really admire Russell Wilson. Like, a lot. If I was writing a third grade report about my hero, Wilson might be the subject. This is a person who I bet has come along many times before -- “you’re too small” -- and I bet many times before that person accepted the criticism and tried something else. They moved to running back or safety or they quit football altogether. Wilson wanted to be a Hall of Fame quarterback probably well before his body told him that there was absolutely going to be no chance he’d become a HoF quarterback, but he never listened to his critics and he never listened to his 5’10 frame. He only listened when it fueled him to be the best and then he became the best. He couldn’t play division one football anywhere except Duke or NC State. He had baseball offers that were far more probable than thinking he could make it in the NFL. He had a Heisman caliber season at Wisconsin and there were virtually no discernible flaws in his game other than his height and he still dropped to the third round after players like Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler. He was told my almost every writer (including myself that first offseason) and fan that he was no better than a “fun backup” as if he was a Cabbage Patch Kid. And now he’s one of the top-5 players in all of football and he’s really been exceptional since day one. He didn’t get there because of gifts he was given, he got there because of gifts that he wasn’t given. When I approach my own life, I sometimes think about the effort and focus and detail with which Wilson approached becoming a record-setting quarterback. I think about the uselessness of excuses as anything other than motivation. “I can’t do this because X” is actually “I will prove that I can do this despite X.” Russell Wilson is an awesome person, on the field and off of it, and I admire him for all of it.
That being said, how do you stop him? Two of the last four defenses faced did a good job on Wilson (Ravens, 49ers) and managed to get him out of his comfort zone. Pressure is obviously the big one and Seattle’s offensive line is back at it again. Not only are they playing poorly but four out of five starters were on the injury report recently. Fletcher Cox getting push on backup center Joey Hunt likely helps a lot. Duane Brown isn’t the player he once was, at least not from what we’ve seen so far this season. Wilson is capable of doing a lot outside of the pocket but he and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer would prefer him to sit in there with plenty of time and make his throws. Pressure him up the middle, get the linemen flustered, and shutdown the running game. That might help a little.
3 - The Eagles had a chance to trade for Jadeveon Clowney, draft DK Metcalf, and claim Josh Gordon but they all ended up on the Seahawks instead. To what extent have those players been critical to Seattle’s success and how do they factor in moving forward?
Clowney’s been moving the needle a lot recently. His start to the season wasn’t worth what we expected maybe, at least as a pass rusher, but in the last three weeks he’s been much more of a terror. That lines up with the return of defensive tackle Jarran Reed from suspension and that’s giving Seattle a lot more push on the quarterbacks, it seems. Overall, I’d grade the acquisition of Clowney as an A because it was a low cost, but his season as a whole is probably more like a B-. In these next six games, it would be nice to see him take over more as a pass rusher and finish some of those sack attempts off.
Metcalf is the best rookie receiver the Seahawks have had since Doug Baldwin and maybe since Joey Galloway in 1995 and OG Steve Largent in 1976. Not to overstate or overrate it, but Metcalf came into a big opportunity: start from Week 1 because Baldwin had to retire and help carry an offense that will lose Will Dissly again. Metcalf has responded by leading all rookies in receiving yards (595) with 9.3 yards per target and far fewer limitations and drops that many predicted. He’s a solid number two receiver, not just for a rookie, but for anybody. To think that he’s 22 and doing this already, it’s a wonder that so many receivers went ahead of him but then again, we’ve seen plenty of combine heroes fail at the next level.
Gordon’s played just the one game with Seattle and he took a lot of snaps but didn’t get targeted until late. Those two targets proved huge, especially the last one. I have low expectations for Gordon. He may have already exceeded them.
4 - If you were building a game plan to beat the Seahawks, how would you attack them on both offense and defense?
It’s a good question, I just always get flustered by it because I don’t know the first thing about game planning. Especially game planning to beat a coach like Carroll or a quarterback like Wilson or a linebacker like Bobby Wagner. Seattle’s big defensive weakness this season has been pass rush, which hopefully is improved, as I’ve said, by the return of Reed and the regression of Clowney. So a) Keep them off your quarterback with the help of a stout offensive line and give the defensive backs more headaches of having to cover your receivers for too long. b) The weakness in the secondary is free safety and I’m not even sure who gets the most run there this week, either recent trade acquisition Quandre Diggs or rookie Marquise Blair. We’re excited by both but starting this week could be a bit too soon for either. c) Mychal Kendricks has been one of the worst starting linebackers in the NFL, both in missing tackles and being poor in coverage. So Zach Ertz vs Kendricks could be a matchup to exploit if you can. d) Pressure Wilson by beating up Hunt and getting through those gaps. e) “force” Chris Carson to fumble by lightly touching him. f) any pass not going to Tyler Lockett or DK Metcalf is an opportunity. The Seahawks lack a reliable third option unless the real Josh Gordon returns.
5 - Who wins this game and why? Score prediction? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Seahawks season?
The Seahawks are 5-0 on the road this season, which is nice. Playing on the east coast at 10 AM seems less of a bummer than it used to seem. The Seahawks have finished strong in almost every year under Carroll and by “strong” I mean they become a very dominant team. Given that they usually start slow though and this time they’re 8-2, I don’t know that I have any reason to start betting on them getting their cake and eating it too. If Seattle went 4-2 down the stretch, that would be awesome. A 12-4 record guarantees them a playoff spot and if one of those wins is over the Niners in Week 17, maybe the division too. I don’t know that this game is as critical as some others, so I’m not putting too much pressure on them to win it. They would rather get a win over the Vikings in Week 13, a win over the division rival Rams in Week 14, and win their last two games, at home, vs the Cardinals and 49ers. Those are more key to a division championship or a wild card berth. No offense to Philly, who I see as only being focused on the NFC East right now. There’d be nothing shameful about losing to the Eagles on the road and my biggest concerns are protecting Wilson, Carson protecting the football, and the defense containing Ertz. And of course, special teams coming into factor when none of us want it to.
My optimism lies in Philly’s receiving corps and the general lack of belief that the Eagles can score 24 points without a lot of help from the opposition. Carroll loves run defense MORE than pass defense actually and if he’s gameplanned that well, and Philly doesn’t run for 200+ like they did against Buffalo, or 199 like the Ravens did when they beat the Seahawks, then I like the defense’s chances of holding the Eagles to under 20. If they can hold the Eagles under 24, and especially under 20, then I like Seattle’s chances to win. They have failed to score 24 points only twice and they haven’t scored under 27 on the road yet this season. This reasoning probably sounds moronic to your readers -- maybe it is -- but I guess I’m just kicking it old school with some “points talk.”
Simply because Philly’s having trouble scoring and the Seahawks are not, I’ll give Seattle the edge. It’s a game I could see them losing and not feeling that upset about it, but I’ll take the Seahawks 27, Eagles 21.
My expectations for rest of season -- I try not to forecast.
Bonus: Not a question, just wanted to say I enjoyed my visit to Washington back in the summer.
Glad to hear it. I have barely touched the surface in Washington since moving to California in 2009, but it is a beautiful place.