And now, for the game. The Eagles are in prime time once again and it has, everyone agrees, a "playoff atmosphere." So we're in line for some fun against a 7-4 Seahawks team with a rabid fan base in full throat tonight at CenturyLink Field.
The weekend got off to a great start with the news that wide receiver Alshon Jeffery signed a four-year contract on Saturday morning, and the three-game road streak continues on in Los Angeles and New York, but tonight the focus is on the Pacific Northwest. Here are some matchups to watch …
QB Carson Wentz Vs. QB Russell Wilson
Here is what head coach Doug Pederson said about Russell Wilson during his conference call with Seattle-area reporters this week:
"Everything runs through Russell right now," Pederson said. "This kid, he's unbelievable. I loved him when he came out of Wisconsin. I was actually a part of the Eagles staff when I had a chance to work him out and thought he was going to be a special player in this league, and he has obviously turned out to be one. The team feeds off of that and they still do. We got our work cut out for us there."
We've all seen Wilson play great football. He accounts for a preposterous percentage of Seattle's offense – Wilson has passed or rushed for 85.9 percent and all but one of the team's touchdowns this season – and every defense plays Seattle thinking the same thing: We have to contain Russell Wilson.
Problem is, it's very difficult to do. Wilson is so resourceful, he's so resilient, and he's the most creative quarterback you've ever seen.
On the other sideline, the Seattle defense must figure out what to do with Carson Wentz, who has been sensational in his second NFL season. Wentz is big, athletic, inventive, and calm and cool with the football in his hands. He may not make as many spectacular plays as Wilson, but Wentz's 28 touchdowns and 5 interceptions this season has led the way for the Eagles' No. 1-ranked offense (in points scored) in the NFL.
Wentz and Wilson don't play against each other tonight, but it's going to be impossible not to compare their performances.
Eagles' Running Game Vs. Seahawks' Run Defense
Who knows how the Eagles are going to play it tonight? They may just come out and try to run the ball, and if they do, it will be a battle of an offense that's ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards per game against a defense that has given up an average of 3.2 rushing yards per carry and only 11 runs of 12-plus yards over the past eight games. The Eagles have an NFL-most 37 runs of 12-plus yards.
Seattle's front is very good, and Sheldon Richardson inside will be tough to handle, while linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are lights out against the run.
Having a balanced, powerful, and explosive running game has been key for the Eagles in this 9-game winning streak. Stopping the run is the best part of Seattle's defense. This is a fast-flowing defense that gets to the football in waves and tackles well.
S Malcolm Jenkins Vs. TE Jimmy Graham
Six feet 7, 265 pounds. Jimmy Graham is a big man and a big target for Seattle, particularly in the red zone, where Graham has been making his living in 2017. He has eight touchdown catches this season, all in the last seven games and all in the red zone.
The Eagles know that when Seattle reaches the red zone and Wilson drops back to pass, Graham is going to be a target.
"He's so big and athletic. He just finds a way to go get the football," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "He and Russell have a good thing going. It's definitely something we're aware of and need to stop."
Vs. DE Michael Bennett
Lane Johnson has played at an All-Pro level this season against a string of great pass rushers. He's likely to see a lot of Bennett tonight and Bennett is Seattle's best edge pass rusher. Now, Seattle could move Bennett to the other side to match up against Halapoulivaati Vaitai, but he's played most of the season on the left side of Seattle's defense.
Johnson needs another great performance in the running game and in the passing game for the Eagles. The offensive tackles are on the spot here in the loud environment and with the very fast and physical Seattle defense on the other side of the line of scrimmage.