Winners of consecutive games for the first time this season, the Eagles (4-3) are aiming for their third straight win when they meet Seattle (2-5) on Sunday afternoon. We break down the X's and O's here in our Countdown to Kickoff ...
For the first time this season, it looks as if Donovan McNabb will have most of his major offensive weapons. Kevin Curtis is back. Brian Westbrook is healthy. Reggie Brown practiced fully all week. It's go time.
Despite the probability of Brown's return, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said this week that rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson will likely be starting alongside Curtis, with Brown rotating in, creating a versatile corps for McNabb to look for. This, with Westbrook another week healthier, could spell doom for the Seattle defense.
Westbrook gained a career-best 167 yards on the ground last week and he totaled 209 yards from the line of scrimmage. McNabb, meanwhile, shrugged off a slow start to throw for 253 yards in the victory over Atlanta.
Regardless of who is on the field, the Eagles' offense needs to solve its problems in the red zone, particularly in the goal-to-go situations. The team converted just two of four red zone possessions against Atlanta.
Tight end L.J. Smith is out this week and he has been a viable option down near the goal line throughout his career. Let's see what second-year man Brent Celek can do with this opportunity.
On the home sideline, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will sit out with a leg injury for another week. Seneca Wallace, who played well against San Francisco a week ago, will direct the offense.
Defensively for Seattle, Patrick Kerney, who leads the team with five sacks, is not expected to play because of a shoulder injury. Couple that with the status of perpetual thorn in the Eagles' side Lofa Tatupu (groin), who is a game-time decision, and it could be a long day for the Seahawks.
PLAYERS TO WATCH*
Seahawks QB Seneca Wallace: Wallace was 15-of-25 for 220 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers in a 34-13 rout of the 49ers. He isn't an experienced quarterback, but he has terrific mobility and can break the pocket. Containing Wallace will be a big key on Sunday.
Seahawks OLB Julian Peterson: Peterson seems to make at least one big play in every game, whether it with one of his four sacks or one of his three forced fumbles. With Patrick Kerney out for the game, Seattle will look to Peterson. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said it's important to keep quarterback Donovan McNabb clean, and stopping Peterson is a good place to start.
Eagles WR Kevin Curtis: Curtis made his season debut last week against the Falcons, catching three passes for 45 yards. With middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu questionable with a groin injury, Seattle's secondary is the strength of the defense. The Eagles will need more production from Curtis, who was the team's leading receiver last season.
Eagles LB Stewart Bradley: The Eagles' secondary should almost cancel out the Seahawks' receivers, so Seattle will most likely rely on its running attack to come out on top. If that's the case, it's up to Bradley and the other linebackers to stuff the run. Bradley is tied with safety Quintin Mikell for the team's lead in tackles with 46. If how Michael Turner fared against the Eagles' defense last week is any indication, the Seahawks may be in for a long afternoon.
FROM THE COACH'S DESK*
Though the Seahawks have suffered some costly injuries on offense and defense, special teams coordinator Rory Segrest warned his players not to overlook Seattle's dangerous return game.
Segrest said the Seahawks have some playmakers that can change the tide of the game rather quickly.
"(Kick returner) Josh (Wilson) has great speed. He is a dangerous threat and he breaks a lot of tackles," Segrest said. "For a smaller guy, he is pretty impressive when you see guys bounce off him and he continues to get extra yardage after first contact."
Though Wilson hasn't broken off a kick return for a touchdown in 2008, he did take an interception 75 yards to the house in San Francisco last week.
In addition to Wilson, Segrest also warned about rookie running back Justin Forsett, who has seen reps as the team's punt returner since coming over from Indianapolis on Oct. 8.
But the most dangerous aspect of Sunday's game, Segrest said, could be the weather. Not surprisingly, the forecast calls for rain in Seattle.
"We have been fortunate enough to have some days where we've had a little bit of rain during training camp and days where we've been able to get some wet-ball simulation," Segrest said. "I feel like we're in pretty good shape, as far as that goes. Again, it's just one of those deals where you have to make good decisions out there on game day."
KEEP AN EYE ON ...*Seattle TE John Carlson**
In the win over the Falcons last week, the Eagles showed they utilized the bye week to improve in a number of areas. One of the places where the Eagles were not tested was whether they could shut down a legitimate tight end. This week, we'll find out.
Carlson, a second-round pick out of Notre Dame in this year's draft, has started in five of Seattle's seven games and is the team's leading receiver. The Eagles have struggled in stopping big-time tight ends -- from Dallas' Jason Witten to Washington's Chris Cooley and Chicago's Greg Olsen. Even St. Louis' Randy McMichael and San Francisco's Vernon Davis even had big plays.
Carlson has 20 catches for 214 yards and a pair of touchdowns and he's the beneficiary of quarterback Seneca Wallace's ability to roll out of the pocket and find a quick, secure option. At 6-5, 251 pounds, Carlson presents the size and big-play athleticism that must be contained.
The question is, will the Eagles use strongside linebacker Chris Gocong, who had a phenomenal game against Atlanta, especially in the running game or will the Eagles mix in the safeties - Quintin Mikell and Brian Dawkins? No matter what, this is one area before the bye that had to be addressed.
If the Eagles plan on making a serious playoff push, they must figure out how to stop tight ends from being a thorn in the side of the defense. And this Sunday will present a good test to see where the Eagles stand.
*FIRST AND LONG
*- In November and December, the Eagles are second in the NFL in overall winning percentage (.701) and road winning percentage (.743) during that span.
- In only career meeting vs. Seattle (9/23/01), QB Donovan McNabb completed 24 of 37 (64.9 pct.) for 283 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 106.0 passer rating.
- Last December vs. Seattle, RB Brian Westbrook carried 21 times for 93 yds. and a TD, adding 46 yds. on 7 receptions. He also had a 64-yd. punt return in the 4th quarter.
- FS Brian Dawkins needs one interception to tie Eric Allen and Bill Bradley (34 INTs) for the franchise lead, and 47 return yard. to pass Bradley for the club record.
- RB Correll Buckhalter needs 7 rushing yards to reach 2,000 for his career.
- Offensively, they are 4th in the NFL with 5.88 yds. gained on 1st down. Defensively, they rank 2nd in the NFL allowing just 4.08 yds. on 1st down.
- Philadelphia averages 27.7 points per game, while only allowing 19.6. With a difference of 8.1 points per game, the Eagles rank 3rd in the NFL.
- Philadelphia's defense has logged 23 sacks.
- In its last nine meetings against NFC East opponents, Seattle is 8-1, including 3-0 in the postseason.
- Since week 16 of the 2002 season, the Seahawks have used the home crowd to their advantage. During that span, Seattle is 35-9 at Qwest Field, the second-best regular-season home record during that span.
- Seahawks' OLB Julian Peterson had a sack and an INT in last meeting vs. Eagles. He has 3 sacks in 5 games vs. Philadelphia.