Philadelphia Eagles News

How Does Hare Beat The Tortoise?

Chip Kelly wants it fast, faster and fastest. Pete Carroll wants a S-L-O-W tempo to pound the football and move the chains and dominate the time of possession. This game is one that matches contrasting styles and philosophies.

The Eagles' up-tempo offense snaps the football at an average of 22.8 seconds, a pace that would be, according to Elias, the fastest over the course of a 16-game NFL season. The Eagles play the pace game as well as any team in the league with the intent of creating favorable personnel matchups and exhausting defensive players.

Seattle understands all of that, has beaten fast-snap teams and, frankly, doesn't expect to be fazed by the no-huddle Philadelphia offense.

When the Seahawks have the ball, they start with the running game and the pound-the-line-of-scrimmage approach and they will milk the game clock and slow things down as much as possible.

Tortoise, meet the hare. Who wins the pace of play game?

It is one of many questions to ponder for this NFC showdown at 4:25 p.m. Let's examine some of those questions here ...

1. Will The Eagles Challenge CB Richard Sherman?

Many teams stay away from Sherman, the ultra-talented playmaker who plays left cornerback for Seattle. Those offenses would rather not risk turnovers (Sherman has 23 interceptions since entering the league in 2011, eight more than any player since then). Sherman is, along with New England's Darrelle Revis, as close to a shutdown cornerback as there is in the NFL.

As much as it hurts an offense to throw Sherman's way, it also stifles things if offenses allow one player to close down an entire side of the field. Deion Sanders had that ability in his day. The Eagles will run their offense and they will threaten every part of the field and if wide receiver Jeremy Maclin works himself free against Sherman -- they will see each other a lot -- then quarterback Mark Sanchez has to be timely and accurate and attack.

The sense here is that the Eagles are going to do what they do best. They respect Seattle's defense, of course. Seattle is the defending Super Bowl champion with the No. 1-ranked defense in the league. The Seahawks have allowed three points in each of the last two games -- against Arizona and San Francisco.

But the Eagles also have a lot of confidence in what they do. Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur will look for chinks. The Eagles have to be precise and they have to be technically sound. I just don't see them shrinking away from  the challenge that Sherman presents. It isn't like there are soft spots anywhere within Seattle's defense. The Eagles have to run their offense and play at a very high level.

2. How Do The Eagles Handle QB Wilson's Mobility?

It's too easy to suggest that the Eagles will spy Russell Wilson, who has great foot quickness, elusiveness, intelligence and accuracy when he sets up and throws. He's going to get some yards with his legs. He just is. The third-year quarterback is a mature player who has a Super  Bowl win already.

Wilson's ability to escape pressure and break the pocket and still keep his eyes down the field is what separates him from a "scrambling" quarterback. Wilson is a quarterback who is able to scramble when needed.

The defense must be especially disciplined in this game. The defenders in coverage have to stay on their man when Wilson breaks the pocket or risk that Wilson will eschew the opportunity to run and gash the defense with his arm.

"We can't leave our man," cornerback Bradley Fletcher said. "We've got to be disciplined."

3. Who Wins The Physical Battle?

This won't be a "finesse" football game and, frankly, it's insulting to the Eagles to suggest that their running game is "finesse." You don't have the success the Eagles have had on the ground without being physical (although it's fair to question the inconsistency in the red zone).

Speaking of the red zone, Seattle ranks 28th in red zone efficiency on defense and the Eagles are 29th in red zone offensive efficiency. Something has to give. The Eagles need some touchdowns to force Seattle into a one-dimensional kind of approach on offense.

The Eagles defense must run to the football and gang tackle running back Marshawn Lynch, who is as nasty and as physical as any player in the league. One player isn't bringing him down. The defense has its hands full with Seattle's physical style, but the front seven has been up to the task all season.

None of the national analysts equate the Eagles with being a "physical" team, but maybe they should. A win on Sunday against Seattle would go a long way toward establishing Philadelphia as a team able to mix it up with the bangers in the NFL.

4. Turnovers, Takeaways And Special Teams. Who Is Better?

The Eagles have been plagued by turnover mistakes all season and it's cost them points and wins. They can't turn it over against Seattle and expect to win. Defying the Rules Of the NFL, which say that the teams that win the turnover battle win the game, the Eagles are a minus-6 in turnover ratio and yet they are 9-3 and in first place in the NFC East.

Seattle comes into Sunday with a plus-8 in turnover ratio since Week 8, second-best in the NFL.

There is also the Darren Sproles Factor to consider. He has to get his touches in this game. The Seahawks will have trouble matching up with him from the line of scrimmage, and Sproles' punt return skills change games. Will Seattle kick the ball to Sproles?

This is going to be a playoff-level environment at Lincoln Financial Field. Seattle won't be intimidated by the 10-game winning streak at Lincoln Financial Field or the offense's pace or the travel from the West Coast.

We knew this three-game stretch -- at Dallas, home against Seattle and Dallas -- would define the season. The Eagles have put themselves in position to play meaningful games in December. Now we find out what they do in these meaningful games, starting with a date against the defending Super Bowl champions.

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