Aerial Battle: Eagles Need to Slow Down Seahawks to Save Their Season
After last Sunday’s 17-10 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots, the Eagles playoff hopes are in dire straits. Is the mountain to climb insurmountable? Not quite. The Dallas Cowboys took care of the Detroit Lions in week 11 and consequently have a full game lead in the NFC East. However, both teams have challenging schedules in the coming weeks before they clash in a week 16 matchup that very well could decide the season.
While the Bird’s playoff aspirations haven’t been completely dashed, it’s clear that something needs to change for the better. From the looks of the game this past Sunday, that improvement will need to come from the offense. The defense actually held up admirably last week, holding the Patriots offense to just 17 points and not allowing Brady to throw a single touchdown. Unfortunately, the offense did not hold up their end of the bargain. In a reversal of their established trend from early in the season, the Eagles got off to a great start before stalling in miserable fashion down the stretch.
Eagles vs Seahawks – The Matchup
Week 12 should be no easier for the Birds as they host the 9-2 Seattle Seahawks coming fresh off their bye. The Seahawks are a team on a roll having outlasted the previously unbeaten San Francisco 49ers in overtime of a Monday Night Football game that was likely the most entertaining contest of the 2019 NFL season.
It is no secret that if the Eagles have any shot of winning this week they will need to slow down Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. This is no small feat considering that Wilson is playing quarterback this year better than anyone this side of Lamar Jackson. To make matters worse, a new weapon has been added to the Seattle pass-catching arsenal in the form of wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon already proved impactful in his first game as a Seahawk while on the receiving end of two crucial third downs late in the game. His potential chemistry with the offense after a full bye week could manifest in a matchup nightmare alongside veteran Tyler Lockett and rookie sensation DK Metcalf.
The good news for the Eagles is that their secondary put together their most complete game of the year last week. Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, and Avonte Maddox, all of whom have missed games at some point in the season with various injuries, all made noticeable contributions last week and will look to continue their success moving forward.
The Seahawks’ offensive is built around pounding the rock with workhorse Chris Carson and setting up big plays in the air through play action. If Jim Schwartz’s defensive unit can minimize gains of long yardage and adopt a bend-but-don’t-break approach, they have a real chance at slowing down Wilson and company.
Curtailing the production of Seahawks offense will mean little if the Eagles can’t score some points themselves. In part due to injury, Eagles wide receivers struggled mightily to make any big plays for Wentz last week, a factor many were worried about heading into the matchup. There is a definite chance for improvement this week as the Seahawks secondary is considerably weaker than that of the Patriots.
The return of wideout Alshon Jeffery and lead back Jordan Howard would help the entire offense immensely. Both remain questionable for this matchup and their participation could have a significant effect on the ability for the Birds to consistently move the ball.
Quarterback Carson Wentz hasn’t played terribly this season, but he has been underwhelming. It’s hard to assign too much blame when his weapons have been so depleted by injury but this is a game where the Eagles need him to put the team on his back more than ever. The Seattle defense is mediocre against the run and the pass so a balanced attack has the best shot at getting the job done.
The Bigger Picture
While it’s incredibly tempting to think of this game as a must-win, the fact remains that even with a .500 record the Eagles are just a game back from the Cowboys. This matchup is on the tougher side for the Birds, who are once again home underdogs, but Dallas also faces a worthy opponent in the New England Patriots. Some are calling this the end of a potential multi-year NFC dominant run. It’s up to the Eagles to respond.
Winning this game matters a lot for the Eagles but so does marked improvement on the offensive side of the ball. The Birds need to demonstrate that they can reliably move the ball. We’ve yet to see a game where both the offense and defense clicks against a quality adversary. With major playoff implications for the Eagles, here’s to hoping this is the game.