December 02, 2017
In Week 13, the Eagles are looking to hand the Seahawks their first three-game losing streak at home since Donovan McNabb was the Birds quarterback. They'll also be looking to win 10 straight games in a season for the first time in franchise history.
Oh, and they can clinch the NFC East crown with a victory on Sunday night.
But none of those is the real reason the Eagles want to pick up their 11th win of the season on Sunday night. The real reason they want to win is because, despite their 10-1 record, their far from clinching up home-field advantage in the postseason, and the team closest to them in the standings, the Minnesota Vikings, are actually better positioned in terms of playoff tiebreakers.
The playoffs are still more than a month away, but it's not like the Eagles are looking past their current matchup by focusing on the seeding implications of this primetime matchup. After all, the objective is the same: win.
Here are a few numbers that could go a long way towards making that happen:
That's the current total being offered at Bovada, and based on the predictions I've seen from other football writers, it seems about right. Personally, I predicted a total of 50 points, so I'm stuck taking the over here. But if I was a betting man, I'd say the safer money is on the under.
The Eagles defense is good enough to keep the Seahawks from scoring too many points – Seattle is currently averaging just over 24 points per game while Philly is allowing just 17.4 points per game this season, third best in the NFL – and that's the main reason they've failed to hit the over in three of their last four games despite the offense scoring at least 31 points in each.
Speaking of the offense, the Eagles average an NFL best 31.9 points per game, but on the road against a Seahawks defense that is in the Top 10 in points against (19.3/game), it's difficult to see them putting up a huge game in Seattle. That's why I think the safe money is on the under, even though my prediction for Sunday night's game suggests otherwise.
Third in the NFL with 22 takeaways this season, the Eagles have forced 10 turnovers over their last four games and average two per game this season. And on Sunday night against the Seahawks, hitting their season average could go a long way toward securing a victory. In the five games since their Week 6 bye, Seattle is 4-2. Not only did both of those losses come at home, but they were also the only two games in that stretch where the Seahawks had multiple giveaways (two in each game). The good news for Eagles fans is that their team has forced multiple turnovers in seven of their 11 games this season, including five of their last six. They're also undefeated under Doug Pederson when winning the turnover battle.
The bad news is this: Seattle only averages 1.1 turnovers per game on the year, so they likely won't come easy. Still, I think Jim Schwartz and his defense will be able to force at least two on Sunday.
That number might seem low for a guy who is currently leading the entire NFL in Pro Bowl voting, but you might be more surprised to find out that the reason I chose that number has just as much to do with Wentz as it does the opposition and location of the game. That, however, isn't meant to be a shot at the second-year quarterback – it's actually impressive to see how efficient he's been this season.
Wentz has only thrown for 300 yards in a game three times this season and hasn't done so since Week 5 against the Cardinals. In the six games since, he's averaging just 216 yards per game but has thrown 18 touchdown passes (and just two interceptions). Furthermore, his lone loss this season came in the same game as his season-high in passing yards. In other words, he doesn't need to throw for a ton of yards to beat you.
And that's a good thing against a Seahawks team that has allowed just one 300-yard passer this season (Deshaun Watson, Week 8). They've also held three of their last four opponents under 200 yards passing, including Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins. Interestingly enough, both of those quarterbacks were able to escape Seattle with wins despite their pedestrian passing numbers.
The Eagles must've been pissed about surrounding 112 rushing yards (tied for their most this season) to the Ezekiel Elliott-less Cowboys two weeks ago because they followed up that performance with a season-best six yards allowed on the ground against the Bears last week. Only twice all year have the Birds allowed more than 100 yards on the ground, and only four times have they allowed more than 75 yards.
The Seahawks have been able to maintain a respectable ground attack despite only having one running back over 200 yards on the season (Chris Carson, 208) and just one rushing touchdown by a running back (J.D. McKissic, back in Week 4). Their other three rushing touchdowns came from QB Russell Wilson, who leads the team with 401 yards and has scored on the ground in each of his team's last two games.
Sure, the Seahawks average over a yard per carry more at home and four of their five 100-plus-yard performances came at CenturyLink Field, but this Eagles rushing defense has been historically good.
BONUS - Russell Wilson rushing yards: 35.5
Earlier this week, we took a look at how the Eagles plan to contain Wilson, who can beat you through the air and on the ground. The Eagles have allowed several opposing quarterbacks to lead their teams in rushing this season, but that's a product of their ability to shut down running backs more than anything else.
Just look at last week, when the Bears mustered a whopping six yards against them. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky finished with a team-high 12 yards, while Bears running backs finished with a combined -6 yards on the ground. A few broken plays that force Wilson out of the pocket, and he could easily hit 36 yards (his season average on the ground).
OVER. (And for those keeping track, yes, this does mean that I think the Seahawks running backs will finish with fewer than 35 yards on the ground.)
There's been a lot of talk about silent counts and the Eagles practicing with artificial crowd noise to prepare themselves for the atmosphere in Seattle. But they've been there before, so we don't have to come up with hypotheticals about how the crowd noise will impact the Birds offensive line.
In their 26-15 loss last November, the Eagles were called for two false starts, both on Jason Peters, who won't be out there on Sunday night. This season, the Eagles have been called for 12 false starts through their first 11 games, six fewer than they had at this point last season, thanks in large part to more continuity along the offensive line and the development of Carson Wentz at the line of scrimmage.
And maybe the 12th Man is losing some of its edge, as Seattle has only drawn seven offsides penalties at home so far in 2017. By comparison, the Seahawks have had six called against them at home.
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