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January 04, 2020

NFL Wild Card picks: Rounding up the experts' predictions for Eagles vs. Seahawks

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Fletcher-Cox-tunnel_010420_usat Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox walks through the tunnel before facing the Seahawks at the Linc earlier this season.

Another season, another chance for the Eagles to play spoiler as underdogs in the playoffs. 

Over the past two seasons, the Eagles have been postseason underdogs five times, and they've won four of those games. No other team in the NFL has more than one such win since 2016. And that's the opportunity that presents itself this Sunday to Philly, who clinched the NFC East title with a Week 17 win over the Giants. 

Meanwhile, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks come into the playoffs at 11-5, two games better than the Eagles. And while Philly is just happy to be playing into January, Seattle was hoping to avoid the hassle of traveling across the country to play, but their Week 17 loss to the Niners cost them not only a division title, but a home playoff game as well. Now, they have to travel 3,000 miles to face an Eagles team that, despite its current limitations, has the ability to compete with (and beat) good teams, as they've proven previously this season with wins over Green Bay and Buffalo and one-possession losses to New England and Seattle. 

Needless to say, Seattle would rather not be playing this one in Philly, and if the Eagles can come out hot on Sunday and put the Seahawks on their heels, those thoughts could creep back in for a team that lost three of their last four games to finish the season. Carson Wentz and the Eagles, on the other hand, have essentially been playing playoff games for a month now and have won four straight. Unfortunately, the great equalizer could be Wentz making his first postseason start against playoff veterans in Pete Carroll and Wilson. But playing at home, rather than in Seattle, should help a bit there. After all, that's the benefit of winning your division, even if you only managed to win nine games. 

We've already broken down the injuries on both sides of the ball, given you some matchups to watch when Philly has the ball and when Seattle has the ball, and offered our own predictions for Sunday's game at the Linc. Now, as we do every week, it's time to take a look around the nation to see how various experts, both local and national, see this wild-card matchup playing out...

• PhillyVoice staff: Four of our five writers are picking the Eagles, including Kyle Neubeck, who is predicting a 20-17 win for the Birds. Here's a look at what he has to say:

Russell Wilson is one of the few quarterbacks in the league that would genuinely terrify me as a coach. Even when he has a down game, there is always that second half stretch where he starts extending plays and distorting the opponent’s defense. When he does it on the road, you can almost feel the existential dread in the air.

You add that on top of Philly’s concerns, from Wentz’s first playoff start to their injury report to the fact that this team hasn’t been tested by a decent opponent down the stretch, and I could easily talk myself into picking Seattle. They’re home underdogs for a reason. 

I just can’t bring myself to do it. Wentz has really shown me something to string wins together in spite of all the injuries, and this defense has been a different beast at home. The regular season loss turned on a 58-yard touchdown from Rashad Penny and featured several Philly turnovers in enemy territory — the Eagles have cleaned up unforced errors as of late, and Penny (along with fellow running back Chris Carson) is out for the season.

They will have to dig deep for this one with all of the injuries coming in. If Lane Johnson doesn’t play, I fear Wentz is going to get pummeled in the pocket. But Doug Pederson’s Eagles find ways to win in these situations anyway, so who am I to bet against them?

• ESPN staff: Just four of their 10 experts are picking the Eagles to upset the Seahawks on Sunday.

• Tim McManus, Seahawks 28, Eagles 26

Brady Henderson, Seahawks 23, Eagles 21

• Gregg Rosenthal, Seahawks 23, Eagles 21

The Seahawks have lost three of their last four games. The Eagles have won four in a row. It's worth remembering those trends would likely be reversed if the Seahawks played in one of the worst divisions in NFL history. The Eagles finished 4-6 overall outside the cozy confines of the NFC East and haven't won a game against a non-division foe since Nov. 3. That streak includes a 17-9 home loss to the Seahawks in Week 12.

Then again, the Seahawks' good fortune has also been a huge part of how they reached this moment. They somehow won 11 games despite outscoring opponents by only seven points this season. The regression that many expected all year happened in December, along with a cascade of injuries. So much of this matchup could come down to which players that suit up on Sunday best resemble their former selves. ...

The Eagles, meanwhile, will be without Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks. The status of tight end Zach Ertz and right tackle Lane Johnson may not be known until game time. Rookie running back Miles Sanders, the fulcrum of the offense, is coming off an ankle injury and did not practice on Wednesday. Eagles coach Doug Pederson hasn't figured out Pete Carroll's defense in the past, failing to score more than 15 points in three meetings. Seattle's offensive upside -- shown in the second half against the 49ers last week -- still appears higher.

All this uncertainty should result in a game decided in the final minutes, with two of the most entertaining quarterbacks in football trying to overcome their circumstances. That's where Wilson does his best work.

• staff: Four of their eight writers are picking the Birds, including Pete Prisco, who sees a 26-20 victory for Philly:

Both of these teams are really banged up. But they were that way when they met in early December, a game won by the Seahawks on this same field. This time, the Eagles will win it. Carson Wentz is playing at a high level and I think that continues. The Eagles pass rush will steal the show here. Eagles will advance. 

MORE: Eagles vs. Seahawks: Predictions, odds and more for Wild Card Sunday

• OddsSharkIt's strange to say this, but their computer model might be higher on the Birds than even the biggest Eagles fans, picking Philly to win by nearly two touchdowns.

• Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: Seahawks 27, Eagles 20

It feels like Carson Wentz has spent 10 years in the NFL. (It’s actually his fourth season.) This will be his first playoff game. And while he’s been playing very well recently, the competition has been lackluster. The Seahawks are anything but. While not among the NFL’s elite teams, the Seahawks know how to win. And there’s something to be said for that during the win-or-go-home phase of the calendar.

• Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk: Seahawks 14, Eagles 10

I wouldn’t count the Eagles out. They’re playing at home, and they’re a team that has shown it can save its best for the postseason. But the Seahawks have the better roster, from top to bottom, and I expect them to emerge on top in a close and hard-fought game.

• Bleacher Report, NFL staff: Eagles 21, Seahawks 20

While both Carson Wentz and Tannehill are joining Allen in making their playoff debuts this weekend, Philly's quarterback doesn't seem as likely as the others to become overwhelmed. He's much more seasoned than Allen, he's facing a much weaker defense than Tannehill, he's been an MVP candidate in the past, and he's excelled in big games before. 

And while Wentz's supporting cast is a mess, he and the Eagles are remarkably resilient. They're also getting points at home from a struggling opponent that has also been ravaged by injuries.

The majority of our panelists see this as an opportunity to fade the public, which is heavily backing the Seahawks. ...

The Seahawks outscored their opponents by a grand total of seven points this season. And while they could at least get Duane Brown back on offense and Diggs back on defense, Philadelphia could benefit just as much if Johnson and Ertz can return. ...

It'd make a lot of sense to wait for more clarity on both teams' injuries before betting either way here. Or just spend the money on popcorn, sit back and enjoy what is almost certain to be a wacky game between two fun teams that refuse to die. 

• Sheil Kapadia, The Athletic: Sheil Kapadia, the former Eagles beat writer turned national NFL writer, makes picks against the spread every week over at The Athletic. This week, he's taking the Eagles (+1.5) to cover the spread on Sunday:

The case for the Eagles: They’ve essentially been playing playoff games for a month now. The Eagles’ defense has been much better at home (eighth in DVOA) than on the road (21st) this season. And their defensive line should have an advantage over the Seahawks’ offensive line. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have relied on their screen game, play-action, the run game and Carson Wentz making improvisational plays outside the pocket. Young players like Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Greg Ward have given the Eagles a boost, and Doug Pederson loves being able to play the underdog card to motivate his team.

The case for the Seahawks: They went toe-to-toe last week against a 49ers team that is much more talented than the Eagles. Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to three second-half touchdown drives before their final possession stalled and they got stuck with the five seed. Seattle has a big advantage with wide receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf going up against the Eagles’ cornerbacks. In the Seahawks’ 17-9 win over the Eagles in Week 12, their defensive line dominated and they shut down the Eagles’ offense. Pete Carroll and Wilson are 3-0 against Pederson and Wentz, dating back to 2016.

The pick: Eagles (+1.5)

This feels like a coin-flip game that is destined to come down to the final two minutes. The Eagles could have the advantage up front on both sides of the ball, and Pederson’s in-game management has been superior to Carroll’s. The Eagles have been underdogs in five playoff games under Pederson. They’ve won four of those and beaten the spread in all five.

• SBNation staff: Despite favoring the home team in the other three matchups this weekend, just one of their 10 experts is picking the Eagles to hold off the Seahawks at the Linc.

• Bleeding Green Nation staff: The split is quite the opposite over at SB Nation's local NFL site, Bleeding Green Nation, where eight of their nine writers are picking the Eagles.

MORE: All of Jimmy Kempski's NFL Wild Card picks

 Philadelphia Inquirer: Three of their four writers are taking the Eagles to win, including Les Bowen, who has the Birds winning 19-17 in a close one:

A couple of weeks back, I had no intention of picking the Eagles to win anything against anybody in the postseason, a place in which I was pretty sure they had no business playing.

What happened? Well, Zach Ertz, Miles Sanders, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson joined an already absurd injury list. And, oh yeah, the Eagles beat the Cowboys and Giants.

Is it ridiculous to think a team that ended the Giants game missing seven of 11 Week 1 offensive starters is going to get past the 11-5 Seahawks on Sunday? Probably, but I’m gonna go ahead and think it anyhow. And I’m not just counting on moonbeams and rainbows and guys from the practice squad doing “Rudy” impressions. Seattle’s defense actually ranks behind the Eagles’ defense in just about every category except turnovers. That is an important category, as the Seahawks demonstrated Nov. 24, when they took advantage of five of them to win at the Linc. I’m thinking that doesn’t happen again.

The thing about turnovers is, they have a lot to do with luck. (See Eagles vs. Falcons, January 2018, pass bounces off defender’s chest right to Torrey Smith.) Most teams that get a lot one year tend not to get nearly as many the next year. This also happens within seasons; The Seattle Times tells us that the Seahawks garnered half of their total of 32 in a five-game stretch, including that earlier Eagles game. In losing their final two games of the regular season, the Seahawks generated no turnovers.

The other big obstacle is Russell Wilson. He is one of the top three or four QBs in the league, an amazing, smart, athletic, dangerous player. But he likes to change plays at the line, and I’m thinking that won’t be easy at the Linc on Sunday. And like Carson Wentz, Wilson has seen his arsenal of weapons depleted by injury. His offensive line just flat out isn’t good. The Eagles’ defensive line is good.

So I’m taking the Eagles, and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but I have my reasons.

NBC Sports Philadelphia: All five of their writers are picking the Eagles over the Seahawks. Here's how Reuben Frank, who predicted a 27-23 Philly win, sees Sunday's game playing out:

A month ago, the Seahawks were 10-2 and had won five straight games and the Eagles were 5-7 and had lost five of their last seven. They were clearly two teams headed in opposite directions. Since then, the Seahawks have lost three of four, the Eagles have won four straight. These are both different teams than they were a month ago, and in the postseason I’m always going to go with the hot team. The Eagles have made their living the last few years playing their best football from December through February, and I don’t see that changing. Carson Wentz has another big game, a bunch of practice squad guys make big plays against a Seahawks defense that’s allowed at least 24 points in five straight games for the first time since 2006, and the Eagles’ defense — best in the league at home — bottles up Russell Wilson enough that the Eagles roll onto the conference semifinal round for a third straight year. 

• staff: Four of their six writers are picking the Eagles on Sunday, including beat writer Mike Kaye, who sees the game ending with the same score as Bowen, 19-17:

The Seahawks are coming off two consecutive home losses and just surrendered the NFC West crown to the San Francisco 49ers. The Eagles are on a four-game winning streak with a bunch of contributors most NFL fans have never heard of. These two teams met in Week 12 and the Seahawks were able to escape The Linc with a 17-9 win. That won’t be the case on Sunday, as the resilient Eagles are the team no one should want to play in the postseason.

• Todd Haislop, Sporting News: Seahawks 27, Eagles 24

Depending on the result of their Week 17 game against the 49ers, the Seahawks were either going to host the Vikings or travel to Philly to play the Eagles in the wild-card round. Even though Seattle now has to go on a long road trip, this is the better matchup for Russell Wilson and Co.

That doesn't mean Seattle will escape Philadelphia with an easy win — far from it. In an amazing turn of events, the Eagles not only are hosting a playoff game, but they are the team that will be impacted less by injuries. The Seahawks' holes on defense will be a problem against Carson Wentz in the QB's first playoff start, but the Eagles' defense has a bigger problem with Wilson. This will be another close game between two teams that seemingly only play in close games, and in that type of contest, we trust the Seahawks QB over almost anyone.

• Vinny Iyer, Sporting News: Seahawks 20, Eagles 17

The Seahawks won their Week 12 matchup in Philadelphia, 17-9. That game was sloppy for both offenses, with the difference being a 58-yard touchdown run by Rashaad Penny. The Seahawks will be without Penny and Chris Carson against a good Eagles power run defense. The Eagles' offense is limited on targets who can make the Seahawks' defense sweat downfield, especially if Zach Ertz can't play. It also will be tough for the Eagles to run on Seattle.

This will come down to which quarterback, Russell Wilson or Carson Wentz, can improvise better to make their typical clutch plays when nothing seems to be there in the fourth quarter. Wilson has a few more reliable weapons, and the Eagles' defense is weak enough for him on the back end. The Seahawks will continue their fine track record on the East Coast under Pete Carroll.

MORE: NFL Wild Card betting: Take the Eagles over Seattle and more

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