A mere six weeks ago, the Seahawks defeated the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, in a game that never felt as close as its final score, 17-9. In fact, Seattle has won five straight meetings dating back to 2011. What makes anybody believe the playoffs will turn out any different, other than blind faith?
Quite a bit, actually.
The Seahawks are heading back to Philly favored by a point or two, not to mention the trendy pick for bettors and experts alike. Yet, much has changed since the last faceoff, for both squads — and it’s the Eagles who appear to hold the momentum this time around.
The Seahawks are backing into the playoffs
While the Eagles enter the postseason riding a four-game win streak, the last month has not been nearly as kind to Seattle. The Seahawks have lost three of their last four, getting blown out by the Rams and Cardinals (neither of whom have plans in January) and dropping a close one to the top-seeded 49ers in Week 17. Even their W over a terrible Panthers squad was way closer than it should’ve been.
This is far from a dominant opponent we’re talking about here.
They’ve also been eviscerated by injuries
The Eagles aren’t ones to talk in this department, as Brandon Brooks is the latest to land on injured reserve, and Zach Ertz is up in the air for Sunday.
Fortunately for the Eagles, Miles Sanders is ready to return.
But the last few weeks have been particularly awful for the Seahawks — so bad at running back, for example, where Pro Bowler Chris Carson and former first-round pick Rashaad Penny were lost, that the team was forced to bring Marshawn Lynch out of retirement.
Left tackle Duane Brown, left guard Mike Iupati, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and linebacker Mychal Kendricks are among the players who hadn’t practiced this week as of Thursday and, at the very least, may not be 100 percent for the game.
The injuries on both sides level the playing field. It may even be somewhat advantageous for the Eagles, who have been shorthanded for so long that they appear to be used to it now.
Jordan Howard, others back for Eagles
And while the Seahawks are largely down key contributors from the previous meeting, or at least unsure whether they’ll be ready and effective on Sunday, the Eagles are gaining reinforcements. Jordan Howard will be a big boost in the run game, and Lane Johnson has a chance to play this week as well. Those are potential game-changers.
The Eagles’ offense found its identity
The Eagles are scoring a touchdown more per game since their first meeting with the Seahawks. Guys like Jay Ajayi, Jordan Matthews and Mack Hollins were playing significant snaps in November but are now on the street, while the likes of Boston Scott, Greg Ward and Joshua Perkins have emerged as playmakers for the offense.
Carson Wentz has his swag back
A big part of that is Carson Wentz’s stunning return to MVP form. Most people probably believed he still had this type of run in him, but nobody thought he’d be playing at this level with the talent surrounding him.
Through the Seahawks game, his worst of the season, Wentz was completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 230 yards per game and 6.5 yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. In the five games since, he’s 66.2 percent for 301.8 yards per game and 6.9 yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns and 1 interception. Massive difference.
And Russell Wilson looks ordinary
To be fair, Russell Wilson’s slide began before playing the Eagles, but the bottom line is he hasn’t looked like an MVP-caliber quarterback the second half of the season.
Weeks 1 through 9, Wilson was the frontrunner for the league’s biggest individual award, completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 278.3 yards per game and 8.5 yards per attempt with 22 touchdowns and 1 interception. In the seven games since, he’s completed 63.2 percent for 229.3 yards per game and 7.2 yards per attempt with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions — not to mention 26 sacks. The guy is beatable.
The Eagles are at their best as underdogs
Everybody is betting against the Eagles. Sound familiar? It’s been the story of the postseason the past two years, and each time, this team showed up — obviously winning a Super Bowl in 2017, but also nearly advancing to the NFC Championship Game a year ago.
For whatever reason, this group seems to thrive in the us-against-the-world role. And while some might be quick to point out Nick Foles was previously at the helm, Wentz has already overcome the odds just by getting the team to this point after a 5-7 start. The Eagles do not quit. In fact, they feed off the energy of everybody shouting they will fold.
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