November 19, 2016
Going into Seattle and leaving with a win over the Seahawks is still one of the hardest things to do in football.
And that's the task currently facing Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday if they hope to stay above .500 and have a chance to move back into playoff position as the 2016 season heads into the home stretch.
As we do each week, here are some numbers to keep an eye on in this one, in the form of five over/unders:
That’s currently the point total being offered over at topbet.eu. It’s an appropriately conservative number given the fact that these are two of the top three scoring defenses in the NFL. That being said, the Eagles have consistently scored in the 20s all season, no matter the opponent. The Seahawks, who have been more inconsistent in their point totals this season, have scored 20 or more in six of their last seven games. And while they may be 21st in the league in total points, that number is being held back by three extremely low scoring games — 12 points in Week 1, three in Week 2, and 6 in Week 7.
If you take those first two games out, Seattle’s scoring average jumps almost four whole points (from 21.44 PPG to 25.43 PPG), even with that 6-6 tie against the Cardinals. That’s likely closer to the Seattle offense you’ll see on Sunday, especially considering their a much better offensive team at home — they average 26.5 PPG at home, compared to 17.4 PPG on the road. Add in the fact that the Eagles defense hasn’t played nearly as well away from the Linc. The Eagles have allowed 122 of their 160 points against on the road (24.4 PPG). In four home games, they’ve allowed just 28 points TOTAL.
Two great defenses squaring off in Seattle has all the making of a low-scoring defensive contest. And while I took the under in my game prediction (41 total points), I’m starting to think this one may go the other way.
Against the Falcons, Carson Wentz proved that you don’t have to light up the scoreboard in order to post a decent passer rating. His 86.7 rating last week came despite just 231 passing yards total and no touchdowns. But because Doug Pederson was able to limit his number of throws to 36, the rookie was much more accurate than he was in the loss to the Giants. A big reason for that was the fact that he didn’t throw an interception for the sixth time in his first nine games.
But that was against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. This week, he’s facing one of the best. So don’t be surprised to see his QB rating below his season average of 87.6 on Sunday. The Eagles should be OK even if that’s the case, so long as the reasons behind his low rating are similar to the ones against Atlanta — low volume, no touchdowns — and not because of interceptions. Turning the ball over is a surefire way to make a long flight home from Seattle feel even longer.
Speaking of turnovers…
Seattle is undefeated this season when winning the turnover battle and 5-1 when it forces at least one, something the Seahawks have been able to do in six of their last seven games. That’s not great news for an Eagles team that has turned it over at least once in five of its last six games and is averaging two giveaways per game over that span. This is where Wentz’s ability to protect the ball will be huge. Their defense is good enough to bail them out from time to time, but it’s really difficult to see them coming away with a win if they turn the ball over more than once. Sorry.
The Eagles have rushed for at least 94 yards in each of their nine games so far this season. In six of those games, they rushed for over 100 yards. And last week, they set a new season-high with 208 rushing yards against the Falcons.
If they can find success against Seattle this week, it will go a long way towards keeping Wentz out of trouble. And if you think Seattle’s defense won’t allow the Eagles to do that, think again. Over their last four games, the Seahawks are allowing 124.5 yards per game on the ground. They’re still second in the league at 3.2 YPC, so Pederson will have to still with the ground game and not become intimidated if Seattle makes some early stops against Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Stick with it and the Birds shouldn’t have a problem getting close to their season average of 118.9 yards per game.
Jimmy Graham has only faced the Eagles once during the regular season — back in 2011 with the Saints. He caught eight passes for 72 yards and a touchdown in that game. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles attack the big tight end, as he’s the kind of player that has given the Eagles fits in recent years. He isn’t having his best season, but he still has 42 receptions for 593 yards and three touchdowns. Furthermore, his 14.1 YPC are the most of anyone on his team with at least 20 receptions.
He’s still dangerous — and still a nightmare matchup for any NFL team.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin