5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Seahawks

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Seahawks

After crushing their last four opponents by an average of 26.75 points per game, things are about to get a little tougher for the Eagles

As you might have heard, the Eagles (10-1) have beaten just one team with a winning record this season. They're about to play two back to back.

Before they play the Rams in L.A., they'll have to take on the Seahawks (7-4) in CenturyLink Field, where Seattle is traditionally really tough to beat. It's worth noting, however, that the Seahawks have lost their last two home games.

Seattle hasn't lost three straight home games since 2008.

But the Eagles have a real chance to make that happen this weekend. Here are five matchups to watch Sunday night: 

Russell Wilson vs. Eagles D 
The days of the Seahawks being a run-first team are long gone. This offense is extremely reliant on Wilson's ability to throw the football. And some of the things he's been able to do this season are amazing. 

Wilson has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in the first 11 games this season. But what makes Wilson so dangerous is his ability to run. And it's not just scrambling. Wilson can buy time and still deliver downfield. 

Jim Schwartz said Wilson is unique because he can escape the pocket vertically, where most passers can do it horizontally. 

"You have to stay alive on everything," Schwartz said. "Our D-linemen are going to have to do a great job staying on their feet and staying alive. You can never go to sleep because if he's scrambling one way, there's a good chance he's coming back to you. We have to stay alive in coverage as well as our rush, and he threatens the whole width of the field and the whole length of the field."

Wilson basically plays backyard football and is the Seahawks' entire offense. It'll take a group effort to stop him. 

Doug Baldwin vs. Eagles corners
We mentioned that the Seahawks are a pass-happy offense these days and Baldwin is their main receiver. He already has 58 catches for 698 yards and four touchdowns this season. 

Baldwin is a speedy receiver, but the good news for the Eagles is that his big plays have come from the left side of the field. He has four catches for 111 yards on 20-plus plays to the left side of the field, according to ProFootballFocus. That's important to note, because that's the side of the field where Ronald Darby lines up. Darby is the Eagles' fastest outside corner. 

Jimmy Graham vs. Malcolm Jenkins
Graham is starting to become that weapon we all remember him being. This season, he has 49 catches for 447 yards and eight touchdowns. Only one player in the NFL has more receiving touchdowns (DeAndre Hopkins has nine).

Graham has been really dangerous in the red zone. He has more red-zone targets (21), receptions (13) and touchdowns (eight) than any other player in the league. 

Maybe he's not the Graham we once saw in New Orleans, but this guy is pretty damn dangerous and it'll be up to Jenkins to slow him down. 

Carson Wentz vs. Earl Thomas
The Seahawks have lost Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, but they still have at least one great player in their secondary. Thomas is still playing at a ridiculously high level. 

While there are maybe a few occasions where Thomas is down in the box now that Chancellor is out, he's still a true free safety, centerfielder. 

"Anytime you have a safety like that, that has free rein to be all over the field, that's big," Wentz said. "That's big to just know where he's at, at all times. Pick up on some tendencies, which there aren't many because he does kind of fly around and he's got no real responsibility. It seems like the coach just tells him to make plays and fly around and he does a great job of that. You just have to be smart with using your eyes and knowing where he's at, at all times."

Halapoulivaati Vaitai vs. Michael Bennett 
Bennett leads the Seahawks with 7½ sacks this season and although he wasn't mentioned in the group of top pass rushers the Eagles will face this season, he has been very disruptive. 

The interesting thing about Bennett is that he's normally on the left side of the defensive line but will move to the right side, too. According to ProFootballFocus, he has 313 pass rush snaps from the left and just 60 from the right. He's also been much more productive on the defensive left. Of his 52 total pressures, 47 have come from the left. 

But facing the Eagles, that would mean going against Lane Johnson, who is playing at an All-Pro level. It'll be interesting to see what the Seahawks do, but it would make plenty of sense to see them flip Bennett to the defensive right to go against Vaitai instead. 

Johnson said he thinks he'll have Bennett over him plenty on Sunday, but knows the Seahawks like to move him around. 

"They'll bounce him around," Johnson said. "They pick a matchup they like and keep him there." 

Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

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Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Facing a growing investigation that accuses him of sexual misconduct and using racist language at work, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced Sunday that he will sell the NFL team after the season.

The team announced on Twitter that Richardson is selling the team, linking to a five-paragraph letter by the franchise's only owner.

"I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership," Richardson wrote, saying he wouldn't begin discussions until after the season. The Panthers, who lost in the Super Bowl in 2016, are in playoff position again.

"I hope everyone in the organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl," said Richardson, 81.

The NFL awarded Richardson, a former player with the Baltimore Colts, an expansion franchise in 1993, and he has been the team's only owner.

Richardson's letter did not directly address the investigation.

"There has been no greater mission or purpose in my life than to have brought and NFL franchise to Charlotte," Richardson wrote. "The obstacles back then were significant and some even questioned whether or community could or would support professional football. But I always knew that if given the chance the Carolina would rise to the occasion. And you have. The team has become an integral part of the community. The stadium is in its best condition since the day it opened."

Richardson attended the game Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium and was photographed sitting beside his wife Rosalind in his luxury box.

He did not speak to reporters.

"While I will no longer be the team owner, I will always be the Panthers Number One fan," Richardson's letter said.

The Panthers are tied to Charlotte through June of 2019.

The city of Charlotte and the Panthers reached agreement on improvements for the team's stadium in 2013. The plan called for the city to contribute about $87 million for renovations to Bank of America Stadium in exchange for a six-year deal to keep the Panthers in Charlotte.

The money is less than what the team was seeking for improvements of the stadium, which opened in 1996. Forbes estimates the Panthers worth at $2.3 billion.

Richardson's announcement comes after a Sports Illustrated report that cited unnamed sources who said Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report states that the settlements came with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.

The NFL on Sunday said it has taken over the investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment on the report.

Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Sunday the team requested the league take over the investigation.

"We thought it would be best for transparency reasons," Drummond told The Associated Press.

The investigation was originally going to be led by the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by Erskine Bowles, a minority owner with the Panthers.

Drummond said in a release that the Panthers take these allegations very seriously and are committed to a full investigation.

"The entire organization is fully committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally," Drummond said.

The Panthers began play in 1995 but have never delivered on Richardson's promise of winning a Super Bowl. They lost after the 2003 and 2015 seasons.

The Panthers are 10-4 entering the final two weeks of the regular season and well positioned for a playoff run.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, like most of the team's players, hadn't read the details of the report that came out just as the Panthers were preparing to play the Green Bay Packers.

Newton said Richardson has served in a "father-like role" for him since his arrival in Carolina seven years ago.

"For me I hope things don't alter my thinking of Mr. Richardson," Newton said. "But I do know that he has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative of."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after the game it is important to let the process play out, but vouched for Richardson's character.

"The only thing I can speak on is for what he has been to me as far as I'm concerned," Rivera said. "A lot of you know I had a house fire and he was there for (my wife) Stephanie and I. He was tremendous in supporting us. My brother passed and Mr. Richardson was there and helped me get to the funeral and back. I can't speak to anything other than that."

It has been a whirlwind year for the Panthers organization.

Team president Danny Morrison abruptly resigned in February. Richardson then fired general manager Dave Gettleman on the eve of training camp and replaced him with former general manager Marty Hurney on an interim basis. It was a surprising move considering Carolina made the playoffs three times in four seasons under Gettleman.

Vikings' win means Eagles must wait for homefield advantage

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Vikings' win means Eagles must wait for homefield advantage

MINNEAPOLIS -- Eric Kendricks had an interception return for a touchdown, Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two scores, and the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North title with a 34-7 victory over the depleted and disinterested Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for 37 touches and 242 yards from scrimmage for the Vikings (11-3), who were given quite the reprieve on the schedule a week after their eight-game winning streak ended at Carolina in the last of three consecutive road trips. They were never challenged by a Bengals team missing more than half of its starting defense to injuries and met with a morning report by ESPN that head coach Marvin Lewis will not return next season.

The game went so smoothly that Teddy Bridgewater even made his grand entrance, his first live action in 16 months since a massive knee injury. Bridgewater's first pass was intercepted, a high throw that bounced off McKinnon's hands and into the arms of strong safety Shawn Williams deep in Vikings territory. That set up a short touchdown run by Giovani Bernard to keep the Bengals from being shut out for a second time this year.

Terence Newman also picked off former teammate Andy Dalton, who went just 11 for 22 for 113 yards and three first downs before the Bengals (5-9) turned to backup quarterback A.J. McCarron midway through the fourth quarter after the interception by Williams (see full recap).

Brady, Patriots do it again to Steelers
PITTSBURGH -- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski did it to the Pittsburgh Steelers again.

One questionable decision by Ben Roethlisberger helped.

Brady fed Gronkowski repeatedly to set up Dion Lewis' go-ahead 8-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining and Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone with 5 seconds left as the New England Patriots rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 on Sunday.

The Patriots (11-3) gained the inside track for homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs by ending Pittsburgh's eight-game winning streak. Brady threw for 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Gronkowski, fresh off a one-game suspension, finished with nine receptions for 168 yards, including four on the game-winning drive.

It briefly looked like it wouldn't be enough.

The Steelers (11-3), who played most of the game without injured wide receiver Antonio Brown, appeared to take the lead when Roethlisberger connected with tight end Jesse James for a 10-yard touchdown with 28 seconds to left. The play was overturned on review, with official Tony Corrente saying the ball did not "survive" the completion of the catch (see full recap).

Rams rout Seattle for control of division
SEATTLE -- Todd Gurley rushed for 152 yards and scored four total touchdowns in just 2 quarters, and the Los Angeles Rams moved to the cusp of their first division title since 2003 with a 42-7 thumping of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

The matchup to determine first place in the NFC West was completely one-sided.

Los Angeles (10-4) was dominant, embarrassing Seattle into the worst loss during Pete Carroll's eight seasons in charge.

Taking advantage of field position, the Rams scored on six of seven first-half drives, including a 21-point scoring blitz in the second quarter capped by a 57-yard TD run by Gurley on third-and-20 with less than a minute remaining in the first half to take a 34-0 lead at the break.

Gurley had 144 yards rushing in the first half, twice scoring from the 1. He added a 14-yard TD reception midway through the third quarter for a 40-0 Rams lead and spent the rest of his day watching. The 152 yards rushing were the second-best of his career.

The Rams don't have the division wrapped up, but have a two-game lead with two weeks to play. A win against either Tennessee or San Francisco is enough for their first division title in 14 years (see full recap).

Saints beat Jets for 10th win
NEW ORLEANS -- Mark Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage, including a late 50-yard TD run, and the New Orleans Saints overcame three turnovers to defeat the struggling New York Jets, 31-19 on Sunday.

Michael Thomas became the second NFL player with at least 90 receptions in his first two seasons. He caught nine passes for 93 yards, including a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown on a short slant for New Orleans (10-4), which retained its tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Alvin Kamara turned a short catch into a 10-yard TD in his return from a concussion that knocked him out of the Saints' loss at Atlanta a week earlier.

Bryce Petty made his first start at quarterback this season for the Jets (5-9), who were eliminated from playoff contentions. Petty completed 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice -- once on a tipped pass and once on a long, inconsequential throw as the game ended.

His 2-yard touchdown pass to former Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire cut New Orleans' lead to 24-19 with 1:51 left. But the Jets' onside kick failed and Ingram broke loose for his long score while the Saints were really just trying to run down the clock (see full recap).