In a matter of two weeks, the 8-4 Seattle Seahawks have gone from looking like an also-ran in the to NFC to a team on the brink of taking control of its division. The Seahawks knocked off the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers in back-to-back games by the same odd score of 19-3.
In doing so, they have now positioned themselves as the NFC's fifth-ranked team, winning tiebreakers with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. Sitting a game behind the slumping Cardinals, the schedule doesn't get any easier this week, as the Seahawks head across the country to face the 9-3 Philadelphia Eagles.
Fresh off a big divisional win over the same Dallas Cowboys that knocked off the Seahawks in Seattle, this game has all the makings of a possible NFC Championship Game preview between two major Super Bowl contenders.
Seattle's defense is healthy and looks every bit as stout as it did a year ago, albeit in a different way. The offense continues to take strides toward becoming more efficient by utilizing their running attack to spark the passing game. Russell Wilson appears to have made it through his rough patch unscathed and is in prime form for the home stretch as well.
The Eagles are 6-0 at home, while the Seahawks have had the majority of their struggles on the road, posting a 3-3 record so far. According to Odds Shark, the opening lines for this week's matchup opened up with Seattle being 1.5-point underdogs but have since shifted to pick 'em.
|Seahawks and Eagles NFL Ranks|
|Seattle Seahawks||Category||Philadelphia Eagles|
|361.0 (13th)||Total Offense||416.2 (4th)|
|24.8 (11th)||Scoring Offense||31.3 (4th)|
|192.4 (29th)||Passing Offense||286.0 (5th)|
|7.4 (13th)||Yards Per Attempt||7.3 (15th)|
|168.6 (1st)||Rushing Offense||130.2 (6th)|
|5.3 (1st)||Yards Per Attempt||4.2 (12th)|
|40.6 (19th)||3rd-Down Percentage||43.7 (11th)|
|285.8 (1st)||Total Defense||366.3 (24th)|
|18.4 (3rd)||Scoring Defense||23.8 (t-19th)|
|199.4 (3rd)||Passing Defense||258.6 (26th)|
|6.5 (6th)||Yards Per Attempt||7.6 (24th)|
|86.3 (5th)||Rushing Defense||107.7 (12th)|
|3.5 (4th)||Yards Per Attempt||3.9 (8th)|
|40.9 (15th)||3rd-Down Percentage||38.1 (10th)|
There were a lot of Mark Sanchez skeptics when third-year quarterback Nick Foles suffered a broken collarbone, but an Eagles offense that averaged 29.6 points per game only got better under the former New York Jets first-round draft pick.
The Seahawks have dealt with injuries along the offensive line all season, giving them something in common with their Week 14 opponent.
As the Eagles offensive line has healed up, the team's running game has improved significantly, and LeSean McCoy has rushed for 289 yards over the last two weeks.
Though the Seahawks run defense has been perhaps the team's greatest strength throughout the year, they face a difficult challenge in stopping Philadelphia's improving run game. The pace at which the Eagles offense plays will put significant strain on the Seahawks' thin defensive rotation.
None of the team's current defensive tackles has played more than 41 snaps in a game, with two of the three members seeing their highest totals in the loss to Dallas. The Cowboys ran 77 plays against Seattle; the Eagles have averaged 79 offensive snaps per game over the last five weeks.
The Seahawks will need to put added strain on the Legion of Boom to stop the passing game while stacking the box to crush the Eagles run and screen game. Darren Sproles and McCoy present significant threats in the passing game, too.
Oft-injured starting center Max Unger has missed the majority of the season for Seattle but could make another return to the lineup this week. Seattle's offensive line has been better of late, especially in the run-blocking department, but the pass protection is still hit-or-miss most of the time.
They will face a major test in Philadelphia, as the Eagles are second in the league with 42 sacks. The right side of the offensive line in particular will need to step up their play to keep Russell Wilson upright. Justin Britt and J.R. Sweezy have been the weakest links along the offensive line on pass plays.
Everyone will expect to see plenty of screen passes from Seattle, but any lapses in pass blocking could result in even more screens and the team's tight ends being left in to block. The Seahawks must get their league-best running game going with Wilson chipping in earlier than normal to help get the Eagles pass-rushers out of rhythm.
*All stats gathered from Pro Football Focus (subscription required).