The Philadelphia Eagles enter the playoffs on a red hot 4-game winning streak, but are unquestionably the most banged up team in the playoffs. Giving them hope is the fact that they’re playing the second most banged up team, the Seattle Seahawks, who limp in to January with a 1-3 record to close out the season.
If this game is won by Philadelphia, it’s won in the trenches. How do you stop Russell Wilson? Mounting up pressure helps. The Seahawks will be without tackle Duane Brown, guard Mike Iupati is questionable, and Fletcher Cox showed center Joey Hunt all fifty states last time around. Pro Football Focus has the biggest trench war advantage of the weekend to the Eagles’ defensive line when rushing the passer.
Wilson has been under extreme duress in four weeks, facing pressure on 39% of his dropbacks. When facing the heat in that span, he’s only completed 39% of his passes and owns a 49.3 QB Rating. Wilson was gangbusters against pressure previous to that stretch, but as things have fallen apart around him it’s been much more of a struggle.
“Hunt’s presence at the pivot has thrown a wrench in the team’s construction of the OL and his inability to anchor vs. power-rushers has damaged the integrity of the pocket. George Fant is a dramatic downgrade from Brown and with Ifedi’s documented struggles as a pass-blocker these injuries have done irreparable damage to the pocket for Russell Wilson.
Wilson is a magician that excels vs. pressure, but it is difficult to see how this offense can do enough to consistently score and win multiple games this postseason without a herculean effort from Wilson at a level we haven’t seen before.” - Brandon Thorn, Establish the Run
Just as favorably on the offensive side of the ball, PFF gives the Eagles the biggest advantage for an offense when pass protecting or run blocking. Lane Johnson returning could be a boon, but there are concerns that his ankle sprain will limit his effectiveness. The injury is to his dominant inside foot so each time he powers out of his stance in pass protection, he’s putting stress on that ankle. Thankfully, it’s been four weeks since the injury and he should be close enough to 100% that it shouldn’t hinder him too much.
Thorn also chimed in on the Eagles unit and thinks highly of them despite the loss of Brandon Brooks.
With Halapoulivaati Vaitai having invaluable experience as one of the league’s most versatile backups, the loss of Brooks should be mitigated enough that the run-blocking will continue to be a strength, while Johnson’s return after a three week hiatus will bring much stability on Carson Wentz’s frontside. This is a group that has played in the biggest of games before with multiple elite players still in place (Kelce, Johnson) plus excellent coaching to boot. Even with the loss of Brooks, this is a unit entrenched in the second tier.
Outside of an under-performing Jadeveon Clowney, there’s not much to fret about from a Seahawks’ pass rush that has only sacked the quarterback 27 times this year (31st). They can’t buy a pass rush right now and over the last three weeks they’ve posted anemic pressure rates of 17%, 18% and 21%. The run defense isn’t much either, ranking 26th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric on the season.
On paper, the Eagles should win their individual match-ups up-and-down the line and on both sides of the ball. Doing it when the whistle blows is another story entirely. If they take care of business like they should, the Eagles have a great chance to advance.
We broke down the match-up between the Eagles’ offense and Seahawks’ defense along with giving our final predictions on The Kist & Solak Show #167! Listen on the media player below or click here if the player doesn’t load. New to podcasts?! Check out our guide on how to listen and subscribe to BGN! FLY EAGLES FLY!