The Seattle Seahawks and the Philadelphia Eagles will clash in an NFC matchup Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks (6-2) are coming off an impressive win against New England, and they’re starting to heat up. But the Eagles are coming off an impressive win themselves against Atlanta. Despite a 5-4 record, Philly is one of the most balanced teams in the NFL when you factor in what they’re doing on defense, special teams, and offensively.
“It’s a big challenge for us,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “You see a lot of potent football players. They got guys in a lot of really great spots, loaded up in places where they can make plays… We got a great matchup.”
Here are three key matchups that could make the difference in this game between these NFC teams:
Philadelphia’s Defensive Line vs. an Improving Seahawks Offensive Line:
Seattle’s young offensive line has taken strides this season, in terms of protecting Wilson, and as was evident last week, in the way Seattle ran the ball. But building off that success won’t be easy Sunday against a talented Eagles front that is arguably a bigger test than what the Seahawks have faced in recent weeks.
“Their front four guys are really good,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “All the way across the board. Fletcher (Cox) is a terrific player, Bennie Logan can play, they’re all really loaded up. They bring the heat. Their style, (Defensive coordinator Jim) Schwartz really has always had his guys come off the football and rush the passer first and really attack. That’s what really jumps out, is that they’re really good up front.”
With rookie George Fant’s growth at left tackle, and with rookie right guard Germain Ifedi improving every week, and with the unit as a whole making progress under the leadership of center Justin Britt, there is plenty of reason for optimism when it comes to Seattle’s line going forward, but on Sunday that group will have a big challenge on its hands.
“They’re talented,” Carroll said. “I think talent is one thing, and just the tenacity they have. Really the two guys off the edge, they have great motors, they don’t quit, they work hard each play. They don’t take plays off. They have two of the better tackles, a Pro Bowl tackle with Cox inside. It’s a really good front four and they have a couple solid backups that can help them in there. It’s going to be a good test for us.”
Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin vs. the Eagles Secondary:
When the Seahawks offense took off in the second half of last season, quarterback Russell Wilson and receiver Doug Baldwin were a nearly unstoppable duo. Over the final seven games of the 2015 season, Wilson threw 24 touchdowns and just one interception, and 11 of those went to Doug Baldwin, who finished the season with a league-high 14 touchdown receptions. So when Wilson hooked up with Baldwin for three touchdowns in last week’s win over the Patriots, it might have not only been a great game for those two but a sign that another prolific stretch is coming for two of Seattle’s best players.
Wilson has thrown five touchdown passes and no interceptions over the past two games, while Baldwin had six catches for 89 yards the week before his three-touchdown game. When you factor in Jimmy Graham’s outstanding play this season, Tyler Lockett’s improving health, and the progress of the running game, which will get Thomas Rawls back this week, there’s plenty of reason to believe Seattle’s offense is setting up another big finish to the season.
Eagles Rookie Quarterback Carson Wentz vs. the 12th man:
Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, is enjoying a very impressive rookie campaign, one that has seen him put up spectacular numbers at times while helping keep the Eagles in playoff contention. As Carroll pointed out this week, Wentz came out of the gate on fire, with the Eagles not limiting their offense early in the season like the Seahawks did with Wilson in 2012.
Wentz and the Eagles did come back to earth a bit after that fast start, however, with the Eagles losing four of six following a 3-0 start, and Wentz throwing five interceptions in those six games after not getting picked in his first three. Wentz and the Eagles bounced back with a strong performance in last week’s win over the Atlanta Falcons, but Philadelphia is 1-4 on the road this season heading into one of the most difficult road environments in the NFL.
Wentz has heard enough about CenturyLink Field and Seahawks fans to know he’s heading into a difficult environment, but he’s looking forward to that challenge.
“I’ve heard it’s loud,” Wentz said. “I’ve heard it’s arguably one of the loudest places in the NFL. I think we’re all excited for it. We’re excited for that atmosphere. It’s going to be a physical football game, a fun football game on Sunday afternoon. Like I said, its going to be loud and I know the Seahawks fans are very passionate, very into it, so I think it will be a lot of fun.”
And of course there’s a bigger challenge facing Wentz than just the crowd; he has to deal with one of the best defenses in the NFL, a defense that is feeling very confident after beating Tom Brady and the Patriots last week.