The Philadelphia Eagles (No. 4 seed) and Seattle Seahawks (No. 5 seed) are set to rematch at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. In order to preview this wild card matchup, reached out to our associates over at Field Gulls. The keen Kenneth Arthur kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming playoff game. Let’s take a look at his answers. Don’t forget to check out my side of the Q&A exchange over at FG. (And here’s our previous exchange from Week 12.)
1 - What’s significantly different about the Seahawks since the last time these two teams played back in Week 12?
Left tackle Duane Brown missed the final two game of the year and his status for Sunday is unknown. Backup George Fant seemed to have a good day against Nick Bosa last week, but it’s an obvious missing piece whenever Brown is out. Chris Carson was injured and is out for the year. Rashaad Penny hit IR at the same time. The new starter is Travis Homer, a sixth round rookie out of Miami who had a very nice debut against the Niners last week. His backup is somehow Marshawn Lynch, and he had a few nice plays himself. The team also has Robert Turbin, another signee last week, but he was not so much in the plan. They worked out another former Seahawks running back, Alex Collins, and as I write this I don’t know if he’ll be signed. Josh Gordon played 20 snaps in the last one, but he’s been suspended again. The third receiver might be David Moore, Malik Turner, or rookie John Ursua.
Seattle has also been without safety Quandre Diggs, one of their best players in the second half of the year. His status is unknown at this time. His backup is Lano Hill, and that doesn’t seem to be good. Jadeveon Clowney didn’t play in the last one, he will play this time. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks was just placed on IR, meaning that third round rookie Cody Barton will be playing, and he’s done some nice things in his opportunities. Kendricks wasn’t having a great year. Cornerback Shaquill Griffin has been out a couple of weeks and we’ll see if he returns as well. If not, the team has been starting Akeem King, and he’s been fine.
There’s been a lot of injuries. The team has routinely looked outmatched at offensive and defensive line because of it, and because they just maybe weren’t as stout this season. They go into the game on a high note because the Seahawks did outplay the 49ers for a half of football and nearly won the division, but I’d say they probably don’t look as good today as they did in Week 12.
2 - When the Seahawks played the Cowboys in the playoffs last year, I couldn’t help but feel like they were actively trying to lose the game. Seattle seemed so unwisely committed to taking the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hands by running too often. Any chance that the Seahawks are as generous to the Eagles as they were to the Cowboys?
By DVOA, the Eagles have a great run defense and an average pass defense. I want to say that this leads to more Wilson throws perhaps, but the Cowboys had a top-ranked run defense a year ago. Truthfully, I think it just comes down to Carroll’s commitment to being a running team at all costs. But they ran it 22 times to the backs and Wilson threw it 40 times last week vs San Francisco. Injuries have maybe forced this transition to happen quicker than usual. I don’t think running is a bad thing for Seattle if they’re successful at it. The problem wasn’t so much running against the Cowboys, but running so poorly. Knowing that Carson and Penny are out and that Homer is a rookie, Lynch has taken 14 months off, maybe that means that Wilson has to put the ball in his hands more often. The downside being that after Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, they also don’t have many receiving options. Will they commit to the run vs the Eagles? 100%. Will they transition to passing it if running doesn’t work? Maybe in this case, Carroll has little choice. The decisions didn’t look all that great vs San Francisco though, but they still nearly won. It’s just that it might be easier for defenses to key in on the Seahawks’ only two receiving threats because there are only two of them.
3 - What’s one key matchup in this game that favors the Seahawks?
The entire defense vs Philly’s entire arsenal of weapons, assuming Zach Ertz is out. I don’t know how Wentz will do it. It’s pretty remarkable that they’ve come this far with what they have out there besides Ertz. It’s one thing that I have some confidence in though is Tre Flowers, Bradley McDougald, KJ Wright vs this particular set of weapons once injuries have wiped out any viable options for the Eagles. I’m sorry that it has come to this for your team, but that’s an obvious concern, right? Like, every single week? Seattle has plenty of their own concerns and in this game I expect them to have very little pass rush (I know that they got something going last time with Ziggy, but that was an anomaly, even facing a backup RT) as per usual, but hopefully this is a game where broken coverages don’t burn them third down after third down. If Quandre Diggs and Shaquill Griffin are able to return, I think the Seahawks actually have a good secondary. A good secondary vs the league’s worst set of pass catchers (again, not trying to throw barbs, but this is agreeable, right?) has to be Seattle’s biggest sense of hope, especially if they build any kind of second half lead.
4 - What’s one key matchup in this game that favors the Eagles?
Literally anything that happens within that 5-yard radius around the ball being snapped. The Seahawks have one of the worst offensive and defensive lines in the NFL, especially when accounting for recent injuries. Clowney had three sacks this season and I’m sorry, that’s rarely acceptable for a player who has the reputation of being a pass rushing edge defender. Like, he’s more known for his run defense and his run defense is elite -- and Clowney also draws as many double teams as anyone -- but what good has that done them? The whole unit ranks bottom-3 in pass rush in the NFL. Underwhelming seasons from nearly every player on that defensive line and Philly should have the personnel to make them look even worse. Unless injuries have really snake bitten you there once again too.
The offensive line is decent sometimes, but starting center Justin Britt is on IR, Brown is recovering from knee surgery, and the replacements haven’t done that well on a consistent basis. Mike Iupati seems good, DJ Fluker acceptable, but Germain Ifedi often draws the most boos from fans. Penalties hurt. His pass protection can look really bad at times. It’s going to be an interesting offseason too because Clowney, Ziggy, Jarran Reed, Iupati, Ifedi, Fant, Al Woods, and Quinton Jefferson are all free agents. So not only are these units bad, they are almost all set to leave! Is that good or will it make them even worse? We’ll find out soon. This game is for their next paychecks in some cases though.
5 - Who wins this game and why? Score prediction?
After nine seasons at Field Gulls, this may be the last Seahawks game that I cover there. I’ve done a lot of these and been asked for many predictions but none have come with the bias of really wanting to see myself go out with them winning. I can see the Seahawks winning because they’ve done it in Philadelphia recently, the Eagles are suffering from injuries at key positions again and are without a top threat at receiver and perhaps also tight end, and they’re 7-1 on the road. But more importantly, I just want them to.
Seahawks 24, Eagles 16