Bleeding Green Nation already took some time to chat with Field Gulls in order to preview the Philadelphia Eagles versus Seattle Seahawks wild card game and [you can read that here]. Today, we’re back with three reasons why each team might lose. This exchange allows us to show what the other side is concerned about.
1 - Seattle’s run defense has deteriorated
While much of the talk about the decline of the Seahawks defense has gone towards the lack of pass rush and the inconsistent play in the secondary, a major problem that has plagued Seattle is its run defense. They rank just 26th in DVOA, their worst ever mark under Pete Carroll. The Seahawks give up 4.9 yards per rush (tied for fourth-worst) and have allowed the third-most rushing touchdowns (22). Jet sweeps with receivers have also been poorly defended.
With run-stopping specialist Al Woods under a PED suspension, a thin Seahawks defensive rotation has gotten that much thinner. I’m not going to start up some “value of passing vs. value of rushing” debate but I don’t think it’s coincidence that three of Seattle’s five worst showings against the run -- vs. Arizona, vs. San Francisco, vs. Baltimore -- ended in losses. Granted, Philadelphia’s offensive line is severely depleted so it might aid Seattle’s lackluster d-line, but if the running game for the Eagles does get going with Miles Sanders and Boston Scott, the Seahawks will be in trouble. I’m sure Doug Pederson will try to exploit this weakness and not have Carson Wentz throwing as often as he did in the first meeting, and especially with safety Quandre Diggs returning from injury to solidify an improved secondary that on paper should be better than the recent opponents the Eagles have beaten.
2 - The Seahawks are very slow starters in the playoffs
Seattle’s offense has consistently taken forever to get going in playoff games started by Wilson. They’ve been held to 10 or fewer 1st half points in eight of Wilson’s 13 playoff starts, trailed at halftime in eight of those games, and been shutout in four of them. They have, of course, been able to dig out of some of these holes and win or just lose a little more respectably.
Many fans saw the ridiculously conservative gameplan that contributed to the Seahawks’ loss to the Cowboys last year, and it’s not unreasonable to think history could repeat itself. It was a low-scoring game when Seattle and Philadelphia played in the regular season, and it’s more than likely it’ll happen again this time. If Seattle falls behind early, then that ties into the potential for the Eagles to keep the Seahawks offense off the field with an efficient rushing attack to help extend drives.
3 - The Eagles d-line disrupts the Seahawks offense
Jim Schwartz largely contained Russell Wilson for the most part back in November. He’s never one to shy away from blitzes (sometimes to his own detriment) and Wilson was sacked six times. Even if he can get pressure with just four, he’s likely to succeed given George Fant is filling in for Duane Brown at left tackle (although Fant was surprisingly good vs. Nick Bosa), and Joey Hunt is just physically overmatched replacing Justin Britt at center (and Hunt is now on the injury report). Fletcher Cox should dominate him on the interior. To the surprise of no one, Wilson was among the most sacked QBs this year, and while he can often be at-fault more than the o-line, the OL has also given up instant pressure at a ridiculously high rate this year. Guess firing Tom Cable didn’t cure all ills.
While the Seahawks have a woefully ineffective defensive line that ranks near the bottom in pressure rate and sack rate, the Eagles are in the top-half in both stats. That’s terrifying.
Philadelphia’s front has what it takes to impact the Seahawks offense and put them off-rhythm, and Seattle just doesn’t have a lot of answers to effectively combat clogged running lanes (Eagles rank 4th in run defense DVOA) and heavy pressure.