8:30 p.m. on NBC
Eagles favored by 5 1/2
Handicappers have installed the Eagles as favorites against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Stadium in Seattle. The Eagles can clinch the NFC East and a playoff spot with a win on Sunday night, in Week 13, no less. Just as everybody anticipated all along!
It’s incredible to think about where the Eagles stand today, on Dec. 3, in contrast to popular opinion a little less than two months ago. The last time this team was preparing to play an opponent with a winning record, it was a three-point underdog heading into Carolina on Oct. 12. Now, the Eagles are supposed to handle one of the conference’s perennial powerhouses in one of the NFL’s toughest places to play.
Can it really be that easy?
The Eagles are 10-1, winners of nine straight. Talk of a division title or playoff berth has taken a backseat to hope for a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. But they have to get through the regular season first, and the 7-4 Seahawks — banged-up as they might be — are no pushovers. This may finally be the matchup people are taking lightly.
Or, the Eagles truly are one of the league’s dominant teams and will take care of business against an inferior opponent on the road. Either way, we’re going to learn more from this game than any other they’ve played thus far.
No place like home?
Seattle’s dominance at CenturyLink is well documented, although the mystique has taken a big hit in recent weeks. The Seahawks have lost back-to-back games in their own building, falling to the Redskins and Falcons, and dropping their home record to 3-2 in 2017.
Consecutive home losses are unusual for the Seahawks, but not a total anomaly, last occurring in 2015. Still, for a team that has a 37-8 record on its own turf since the ’12 season, it's perhaps a sign that there is something larger amiss.
Make no mistake, the Eagles will face loud noise on Sunday. Ultimately, that’s only so important if the Seahawks prove incapable of using it to their advantage.
Legion of Gloom
One of Seattle’s glaring issues is in its once-great secondary, where two All-Pro players are out with injuries and a third is hobbled. Cornerback Richard Sherman and strong safety Kam Chancellor are done for the season, while free safety Earl Thomas is battling a heel injury.
Not surprisingly, teams have had success throwing the ball against the Seahawks the past two weeks. Falcons and 49ers quarterbacks combined to complete 64.1 percent of passes for 396 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Those aren’t earth-shattering numbers — granted, one of those signal callers was San Fran's C.J. Beathard — but the 88.9 passer rating is nearly 10 full points better than Seattle’s 79.1 mark for the season. The defense is becoming increasingly vulnerable through the air, which bodes well for the Eagles’ aerial attack led by Carson Wentz.
Wentz won’t be the only candidate for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award taking the field on Sunday. Russell Wilson has a legitimate case because, let’s face it, he’s the Seahawks’ only shot at winning a game like this.
Wilson has accumulated 3,029 yards passing and another 401 on the ground. Subtract 163 yards lost on sacks, and that gives the sixth-year veteran 3,267 net yards of offense. The Seahawks have 3,994 yards of offense as a team, which means Wilson has accounted for 81.8 percent of their total production. That’s insane.
What’s more, Wilson is doing it behind a horrendous offensive line and with essentially zero help from his running backs. Love him or hate him, the guy is phenomenal, and somehow the Eagles must find a way to keep him from taking over this game. Easier said than done.
Wilson is a unique talent, the likes of which the Eagles haven’t faced under center in some time. Maybe that’s been reflected on the scoreboard of late. Or maybe the Eagles' defense has been so stifling it doesn’t matter who is taking snaps for the opposition.
The Eagles’ D receives its fair share of praise, but maybe not enough for their smothering efforts over the past month. In the last four games, the unit has only surrendered two touchdowns, and neither of those have come in the last two contests. All told, the Eagles' defense and special teams are on the hook for just 38 points during that span — 9.5 per game.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have also scored two touchdowns defensively — a Jalen Mills interception and Nigel Bradham fumble recovery — in the last four games. In other words, the unit has scored almost as many points as it has allowed. The best offense is a good defense, indeed.
Class of the NFC?
Yes, this is a down season for the Seahawks given all their injuries, and the franchise hasn’t been quite as dominant since back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2013 and ’14. Regardless, an Eagles win in Seattle would still feel significant.
There’s a hierarchy within the conference, and the Seahawks were one of the two teams, along with the Packers, consistently at the top. This is an elite team that’s won a lot of games this decade, and knocking Seattle off in its own building still means something.
Not as much as beating the Rams in Week 14 would, or beating the Vikings or Saints in the postseason this January would. But beating Seattle would certainly be a step in the right direction for the Eagles — maybe even a step toward establishing a new hierarchy in the NFC.