Three And Out: Eagles-Seahawks Predictions
Player I’ll be watching
McManus: Mychal Kendricks
Russell Wilson told Philly reporters this week that teams have used a spy on him ever since he started playing football. Odds are the trend will continue Sunday. Whether Kendricks is the one who draws that particular assignment or not, he’ll be playing a critical role against Seattle.
“I feel like some of the decisions that I’m going to have to be making are going to be based off of the studying that I’ve done, understanding what [Wilson] is doing, what he plans to do,” said Kendricks. “I don’t see them doing a whole bunch of checks. I think it’s more a responsibility type of game, don’t get outside of yourself and try to make a big play. Just do my job and have the other people around me do their job, and collectively I think it will work out.”
The dual threat of Marshawn Lynch and Wilson in the zone read game spreads defenses out and forces them to be honest. That coupled with Wilson’s scrambling ability can put some serious strain on a linebacking corps. Kendricks has the athleticism and recovery speed necessary to fight through such obstacles, but will need to be on top of his game.
Kapadia: Zach Ertz
This may seem like an odd choice, considering Ertz has only played 46 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps, but hear me out.
The passing game against the Seahawks will likely focus on working the middle of the field – the seams and underneath stuff. Against man, the Eagles have some tough matchups on the perimeter. It’ll be Jeremy Maclin vs. Richard Sherman and Riley Cooper against Byron Maxwell.
Guys like Ertz, Jordan Matthews and Darren Sproles may provide the Eagles with their best opportunity to win one-on-one matchups. Ertz can get open on intermediate routes too when the Seahawks are in zone.
The second-year tight end is averaging just 21.2 yards per game in his last five. The Eagles still use a lot of 11 personnel, and they prefer Brent Celek as a blocker in the run game. But plain and simple, at some point Sunday, they’re going to need guys to get open. And Ertz is still one of the best on the team at doing just that.
Over/under: 2 1/2 total touchdowns for Russell Wilson — Whaddya got?
McManus: I’ll go under.
Malcolm Jenkins talked about the general philosophy when it comes to defending a Wilson-led attack.
“You’ve gotta have your edges and you’ve gotta have your two guys in the middle and keep the pocket in tact when you rush. Although that might not create the most pressure, you still keep him in the pocket and kind of collapse the pocket on him and make him throw ‘out of the well’ is what we call it. Because as soon as you lose contain or somebody gets out of their lane, there’s a big step-up lane in the middle or the quarterback gets out of the pocket, and that puts stress on the secondary and that’s where all their big plays come,” he said.
“We keep the ball in front of us, make them get into a dropback pass game. They can do it but it’s not what they’re best at. We’re going to go at what they do best and see [how] we fare.”
Keeping Wilson bracketed in is easier said than done, but I think this unit is disciplined enough to keep contain and limit the damage.
Kapadia: I’ll go under as well. As I mentioned earlier this week, digging deeper into the stats shows that the Eagles’ defense is playing really well right now. The front seven has been terrific all season long, and Billy Davis is extracting every ounce of potential from a secondary that needs an upgrade in talent.
The Eagles think they have an edge against zone-read teams because they have a bunch of coaches who have schemed against it in the past. I actually think there’s something to that. And these guys consistently play with great discipline.
The Lynch-Wilson combination is a tough matchup against any defense, but I don’t see the Eagles getting gashed. And the Seahawks’ passing game has been pedestrian all season long. The defense may give up a couple plays here and there, but overall, look for it to play well.
McManus: Seahawks 20, Eagles 19
Tough one. Two good teams, two good coaches. A lot on the line for both clubs.
I can’t picture either offense being terribly successful Sunday. Wilson and Lynch will make some plays for Seattle, ditto LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles for Philly. But every yard will be earned.
While you can make a good argument for both teams here, I’m having a tough time getting past the Mark Sanchez vs. Seattle secondary matchup. Sanchez has been good overall since stepping in for Nick Foles and seems to be getting more comfortable in the offense week-by-week, but he hasn’t faced a unit quite like this. Blessed with arguably the best cornerback (Richard Sherman) and safety (Earl Thomas) in the game, the Seattle DBs can make life very difficult on a quarterback. Consider: the Seahawks have not allowed a passing touchdown since the first quarter of their Week 10 game against the Giants; that’s a streak of 15 quarters and counting.
The Eagles have been great at home (6-0) and are good enough to stand toe-to-toe with the champs. Maybe special teams can tilt the game in their favor here. But Seattle’s defense is playing its best ball of the season right now, and I’ll say that’s the difference.
Kapadia: Seahawks 24, Eagles 17
Our explanations are similar. This looks like a tough matchup for the Eagles’ offense.
Everything for the Birds starts with the run game. Seattle’s scheme usually involves a single high safety and an extra guy in the box. They’ve got fantastic athletes who fly to the ball at every level of the defense. The Eagles got McCoy going against the Titans and Cowboys, but this is a different animal. If they can run the ball against Seattle, I might have to mention the SB word next week.
Tempo likely won’t be the weapon it is on most weeks. The Seahawks play the same coverages over and over. And I don’t see the Eagles sustaining enough drives enough to wear Seattle down. My sense is that this will be a frustrating game where the offense never really gets into a rhythm.
As I mentioned above, I expect the defense to play pretty well, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a turnover or two leads directly to points for the Seahawks.
We both liked the Eagles to beat Dallas last week, but it looks like we’re both on the other side this time around.