Pranav Ramasubramanian| January 5th, 2020
The Philadelphia Eagles did it again winning four straight games when it mattered most to get themselves into the playoffs for the third straight year, while the Seattle Seahawks rode Russell Wilson and their running backs to an 11-5 record. Carson Wentz has been banged up the last two years with multiple injuries enabling Nick Foles to start in the last two years of the playoffs, but now Wentz is healthy and has a chance to prove himself on the big stage for the first time in his career. The Seahawks had a chance to win their division and set up a matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, but failure to do so resulted in the five seed. The Seahawks and Eagles played each other once in the regular season resulting in a 17-9 victory. Rashaad Penny was the star of the game with 129 yards off of 14 carries with a touchdown.
The Seahawks look to avenge last year’s WildCard loss but being forced to travel to another NFC East’s team home field isn’t doing them any favors.
Brian Schottenheimer vs Jim Schwartz
The Seahawks love to run the ball a lot, but with injuries to Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, those roles were given to recently signed running backs Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. Lynch is a hard downhill runner while Turbin is one of those hard to tackle big backs because he uses his weight to get tough yards so Schottenheimer will look to primarily use Lynch while using Turbin in more short field situations. Travis Homer can also be used if the Seahawks are looking for more speed.
The Marshawn Lynch effect is having a positive impact in the #Seahawks running backs room, how Beast mode is in mentor mode as Seattle gets ready to face the #Eagles to start the playoffs👇🏽 pic.twitter.com/eCnI407fYR— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) January 3, 2020
Jim Schwartz will be running the 4-3 defense but will be aggressively playing run-stopping defense with his linebackers, who will be dropped in zone coverage as they will be giving up short yards but guard against the big play. This scheme helps Schwartz utilize them in the 3rd and shorts or 2nd and longs because he can use personnel like Nathan Gerry, Kamu-Grugier-Hill and Nigel Bradham to blitz hard at Russell Wilson to help the defensive line shred through Seattle’s offensive line. Schwartz will have to diagnose when and when not to run pressure or blitzes at the right times and he should be able to today.
Advantage: Jim Schwartz
Eagles offensive line vs Seahawks defensive line
The defensive front for the Seahawks lacked a punch so they traded for Jadeveon Clowney, who has brought his ability to blitz from linebacker depth, moving around on the line to create blocking mismatches and his physicality on the interior to help the Seahawks be more aggressive with Ezekiel Ansah setting him up. Jarran Reed and Quinton Jefferson can also bring the pressure well with their instinct and powerful bull rush. Poona Ford will be lurking to try and limit Miles Sanders so the Eagles have to find a way to account for the nose tackle.
The Eagles offensive line has the experience to deal with pass rushers like this and they need to make sure they are able to stay mentally focused throughout the game and not let Wentz take too many big hits. The line has been injury-prone all year so Andre Dillard and Nate Herbig need to keep themselves ready for when their name is called. Practice and preparation help, but the offensive line just doesn’t have the discipline to handle Ken Norton Jr.’s schemes.
Advantage: Seahawks defensive line
Russell Wilson vs Eagles defensive line
Wilson has looked like an MVP candidate in every facet of his game, winning games for the Seahawks single-handedly with his ability to hit most of his throws with his lethal arm, maneuvering in the pocket for extra time to throw while showcasing his fast legs on QB designed runs. Wilson also has football IQ that is off the charts so don’t expect him to make many mistakes today.
Fletcher Cox is nimble and shifty for his size so he can shed blocks easily wreaking havoc, but he needs Derek Barnett‘s ability to cause turnovers to help Cox get more one on ones that he can expose. Tim Jernigan just needs to not make any silly mistakes to cost the Eagles field position or else it’ll be a long day on the defensive side of the field. The Eagles will need a big play in a big moment so they need to make sure to put Brandon Graham in the right spots to try and execute that today.
Wilson is quick enough to make the right plays and make timely throws that should have the Eagles defense scrambling all day.
Advantage: Russell Wilson
The Eagles secondary has been among the worst in the league as they fail to get physical with receivers and the Seahawks were 27th in pass defense, but they should be better in this game because of the return of Quandre Diggs and his ability to cover the whole field well while causing turnovers. The Eagles finally have healthy running backs, but Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright should be up for the challenge limiting their production. Doug Pederson has to revert to using some North Dakota State offensive schemes to make Wentz comfortable early so he can get a rhythm while the receivers especially Nelson Agholor have to be ready to catch the ball as they can’t afford drops in this game. Pederson fails to be aggressive with Wentz sometimes so today Pederson needs to be aggressive and empty the playbook as that’s the winning formula for the Eagles. Pete Carroll just has to trust his own playcalling sometimes today as last year he relied too much on his coordinators that doomed him against Dallas. The Eagles have enough to hang around and being at home will give them a huge boost, but Russell Wilson should make just enough plays to send the Seahawks to the divisional round next week.
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks 24 Philadelphia Eagles 21
The offensive research was done by Pranav Ramasubramanian while the defensive research was done by fellow Eagles beat writer Alex Kielar.
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Main Image Credit:Embed from Getty Images