Seahawks vs. Eagles: What Are the Experts Saying About Philadelphia?
Sunday's matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks could be a playoff preview. The 9-3 Eagles are in the driver's seat for their second consecutive NFC East title under Chip Kelly, while the Seahawks (8-4) are coming off two straight shellackings of quality divisional opponents.
Fortunately for Philadelphia, Seattle has to come to Lincoln Financial Field. Since 2012, Seattle is a ridiculous 20-2 at home (22-2 including postseason). On the road though, it's just 11-10 (plus 1-1 in the playoffs). That means the Seahawks are beatable on the road.
This matchup will feature two of the game’s best head coaches going head-to-head. Pete Carroll and Chip Kelly have history from their USC-Oregon days, as Kelly beat Carroll back in 2009. They haven’t yet met in the NFL.
Sunday will provide a good answer as to whether one of these two teams can grab a first-round bye in the playoffs. For now, here is what the experts are saying.
They're 2 of the 5 Best Teams in the NFL
Last year, the Seattle Seahawks went 13-3 and won all three playoff games, earning the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory. This year, they’re not as dominant, but they’re still 8-4. And by virtue of playing the Arizona Cardinals later in the season, they can control their own destiny for a first-round bye.
The Philadelphia Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East in Chip Kelly’s first season as head coach. This year, they’re 9-3 and looking like they will win at least 11 and another division title.
Just how good are these two teams?
Per ESPN.com’s latest power rankings, each team finds itself in the top five NFL teams.
Philadelphia was ranked fourth, up two spots from the previous week. Seattle came in at fifth, up two spots as well. These teams trail just the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, teams which happen to feature the league’s three best quarterbacks.
The winner of this game has a chance to join the top three teams.
Seattle's 'Legion of Boom' Defense Will Be Chip Kelly's Biggest Test
The 2013 Philadelphia Eagles went 10-6 but didn’t actually defeat any playoff teams other than the 8-7-1 Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers. This year, the Eagles have beat just one for sure (the Indianapolis Colts), while it remains to be seen what happens to the Dallas Cowboys.
Per ESPN.com’s Phil Sheridan, Chip Kelly said, “It will be the best secondary we play.” Kelly has had extra time to prepare for the Seahawks, given that the Eagles played on Thanksgiving Day, but then again, the Seahawks played on Thursday too.
The Seahawks stopped Aaron Rodgers in Week 1. They mystified Colin Kaepernick. They’ve won consecutive games by 19-3 scores. This team ranks third in scoring defense and first in total defense. Its passing numbers aren’t quite the same, but that may be more because the pass rush that racked up 44 sacks last year is on pace for just 24 this season.
How will Kelly get past a defense with Richard Sherman on one side and Earl Thomas patrolling the defensive backfield? Will he sacrifice Riley Cooper so that Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews can match up one-on-one with Byron Maxwell and Tharold Simon (two players who are pretty solid themselves)? Can Zach Ertz get involved again? Will LeSean McCoy go wild?
LeSean McCoy the Best Running Back in Franchise History?
How good has LeSean McCoy been for the Philadelphia Eagles? After this week, he’s going to likely cement himself as the best running back in franchise history.
Bleacher Report’s Andrew Kulp wrote an interesting piece breaking down McCoy’s place among the all-time greats for this franchise; there have been a bunch, from Steve Van Buren to Wilbert Montgomery to Brian Westbrook.
But McCoy is just 26 years old, and he plays in an offense tailored for his skills. If he can remain an Eagle—as has been speculated recently, notably by ESPN.com’s Greg Garber—McCoy can entrench himself as a likely future Hall of Fame back.
Brandon Graham May Not Be Earl Thomas, but He's a Pretty Good Player
If you’re not aware of this by now, you haven’t been following the Philadelphia Eagles too closely. Four years ago, the team drafted Brandon Graham, bypassing both Earl Thomas and Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP has trailed off after an All-Pro start in New York, but he still led the Giants to a Super Bowl title.
Thomas, though, has a chance to go down as one of the best safeties to ever play the game. He’s made three Pro Bowls, two All-Pro teams and started every game for the Seattle Seahawks while leading the organization to a Super Bowl championship.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have rotated every safety from Kenny Phillips to O.J. Atogwe to Jaiquawn Jarrett to Kurt Coleman to Nate Allen to Earl Wolff to Marlin Jackson. (The Malcolm Jenkins signing has worked out well, but imagine if the Eagles had Thomas AND Jenkins in that secondary.)
For the first two years, they had a draft bust to show for their 2010 pick, as Brandon Graham failed to develop into much of anything. He was a dominant pass-rusher in 2012, although in a limited role, and he’s taken his game to a higher level this year.
This play is representative of how Graham has performed this season.
Brandon Graham has been doing this to offensive linemen all season. Check out the sack on Tony Romo: https://t.co/VfUhwIaZ1t— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) December 2, 2014
Graham has 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, and he’s going to get a big free-agent contract this coming offseason.
What's with the 'Chip Kelly to Florida' Rumors?
Perhaps the University of Florida didn’t understand that Chip Kelly has a team already, and it’s at a higher level than the NCAA. Fortunately, Kelly has reiterated that he has no intentions of leaving the Philadelphia Eagles.
HC Chip Kelly: Florida hasn't contacted me. And if they did, I wouldn't listen. It's false. I think false things are silly.— Eagles Insider (@EaglesInsider) December 3, 2014
He better not leave.
Kelly has done a marvelous job, and if all head coaches were instantly declared free agents, he may be the most coveted of them all.
Bottom line: You can pick any coach in football to start your team with, who are you picking? I'm taking Chip Kelly and not looking back.— Kyle (@IgglesNest) December 4, 2014
Kelly will need to add some playoff wins to his resume, but he’s certainly on the right track so far.