Carson Wentz will make his NFL postseason debut when the Eagles host the Seattle Seahawks in the wild-card round at 4:40 p.m. Sunday.
Here’s an in-depth breakdown of the game.
Miles Sanders rushed for 63 yards on 12 carries against the Seahawks in Week 12. Five of his 12 runs gained 7 or more yards. Sanders missed most of the last three quarters of last weekend’s division-clinching win over the Giants with an ankle injury, but he is expected to play Sunday. Jordan Howard, who played just one snap after missing six games with a stinger, also is expected to get more work. And Boston Scott is coming off a three-touchdown performance against the Giants.
But the Eagles suffered a major blow with the loss of right guard Brandon Brooks (dislocated shoulder). On the plus side, they’re hoping to get right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle) back this week.
The Eagles need to get some first-down production from Howard and/or Scott against a Seattle defense that has the ninth-highest first-down opponent rush average (4.6) in the league. That would free up Sanders to take the lion’s share of second- and third-down snaps. He has the third-best second/third-down rushing average in the league among running backs over the last seven games (6.0).
The Seahawks are 22nd in run defense (117.7) and 28th in opponent rush average (4.9). They gave up 5.4 yards per carry over the last four games. Five of their last 11 opponents rushed for 140-plus yards against them.
Wentz has been dealing with a depleted receiving corps that is missing its top three wideouts and its most productive pass-catcher, tight end Zach Ertz. And yet he’s been putting up some of his best numbers of the season. He had a 100.8 passer rating over the last four games, including a 67.6 completion percentage and no interceptions.
Doug Pederson has increased the dosage of screens to running backs Miles Sanders and Boston Scott and the other tight end, Dallas Goedert. Against the Giants last week, they also got Wentz out of the pocket more. His 24-yard touchdown pass to Josh Perkins and his 41-yard pass to Deontay Burnett both came on designed movement plays.
Goedert has been productive since Ertz got hurt. But it was the combination of the two that made their 12-personnel packages so potent. Without Ertz last week, Wentz completed just 15 of 29 passes against the Giants with 12- and 13-personnel groupings. Wentz completed 73.3% of his attempts against Seattle in Week 12 but was done in by his four turnovers (two lost fumbles, two interceptions).
The Seahawks have given up just 19 touchdown passes, which is the fifth fewest in the NFL. Their 16 interceptions are the league’s fifth most. Jadeveon Clowney hasn’t had the anticipated impact on the Seahawks’ pass rush. Clowney, who is dealing with a core muscle injury, has just three sacks. As a team, the Seahawks have 28, which is the second fewest in the league.
The Seahawks have lost their top three running backs — Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and C.J. Prosise — to injury, which prompted the signing last week of 33-year-old Marshawn Lynch. Lynch and rookie Travis Homer, who didn’t play his first offensive snap until Week 15, combined for 96 yards on 22 carries against the 49ers. Homer had 62 yards on 10 carries, including three double-digit-yard runs.
The Seahawks averaged 30 rushing attempts per game this season. And even without Carson and Penny, they’re still going to try to run the ball. They ran on 30 of 71 plays Sunday night against the 49ers, including eight runs by quarterback Russell Wilson. They ran on 16 of 30 first-down plays.
The Seahawks rushed for 174 yards against the Eagles in Week 14, but 58 of them came on Penny’s early-fourth-quarter touchdown run up the middle. Penny also had 26- and 21-yard runs against the Eagles.
The Eagles have done a good job against the run most of the season. They’ve had an occasional gap-related breakdown, like Penny’s run and Saquon Barkley’s 68-yard TD run last week. But they’ve been otherwise pretty sound. They’re third in run defense (90.1) and tied for eighth in opponent rush average (4.1).
The Eagles did a pretty good job on Russell Wilson in their Week 12 loss, holding him to one touchdown pass, which came on a flea-flicker, and 13 completions in 25 attempts. But they dodged a couple of bullets.
Wilson made a once-in-a-blue-moon overthrow on a short end-zone toss to wide-open tight end Jacob Hollister. And rookie wide receiver D.K. Metcalf dropped a pass in the end zone after getting behind Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby.
Wilson is third in the league in touchdown passes (31) and second in touchdowns-to-interceptions differential (plus-26) and interception percentage (1.0). Wilson’s scrambling ability makes him even more lethal, but the Eagles managed to sack him six times in Week 12.
The addition of the 6-4, 230-pound Metcalf, who ran a 4.33 40 at the predraft scouting combine, has been a game-changer for Wilson and the Seahawks offense. He has seven TD catches and has averaged 15.5 yards per catch, and has opened things up for the other receivers, such as Tyler Lockett, who had a career-high 82 catches and eight TDs.
The Eagles need to keep Seattle’s receivers in front of them and tackle well. But that can be a challenge if Wilson is able to get out of the pocket and extend plays.
After nailing his first 16 field-goal attempts this season, Jake Elliott is 6-for-10, missing from 47, 49, 53, and 55 yards. Punter Cam Johnston is ninth in gross (46.4) and eighth in net (42.6) average. He’s had 32 of 71 punts returned (45.0 percent) and has put 28 attempts inside the 20.
The Eagles are 11th in punt coverage, holding teams to 6.5 yards per return. Seahawks punt returner Tyler Lockett is averaging just 5.1 yards per return. The Eagles have returned only 27 of 86 punts this season and just 7 of 35 in the six games that Greg Ward has been handling the return duties.
Seahawks kicker Jason Myers has made 23 of 28 field-goal attempts, including his last 11 in a row. He has a strong leg — he has made 51- and 54-yarders this season and made a 58-yarder as a rookie in 2015. Punter Michael Dickson is ninth in net average (42.3). He has had just 24 of 69 punts returned and has put 29 inside the 20. The Seahawks are 10th in punt coverage (6.3) and 15th in kickoff coverage (22.2).
The Seahawks have to fly across the country for this game after a heartbreaking Sunday night loss to the 49ers. The Eagles defense is giving up nearly 11 fewer points at home than on the road and didn’t give up more than 17 points in its last six home games.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Seahawks 23
Eagles LDE Derek Barnett vs. Seahawks LT George Fant: Duane Brown is less than two weeks removed from meniscus surgery and likely won’t play. Fant is an athletic former basketball player, but Barnett has been playing the best football of his career in recent weeks despite an achy ankle. ADVANTAGE: Eagles
Eagles CBs Jalen Mills/Sidney Jones/Avonte Maddox/Rasul Douglas vs. Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf: Jim Schwartz is playing it close to the vest as far as who will be his starting corners. Whoever is out there, they need to do a better job of keeping Metcalf in front of them than they did in Week 12. ADVANTAGE: Seahawks
Eagles LT Jason Peters vs. Seahawks DE Jadeveon Clowney: Clowney, who is nursing a core muscle injury, has lined up on both the left and right sides, but most of his snaps in recent games were from the right side. Peters isn’t a dominant All-Pro player anymore, but he has been largely dependable protecting Carson Wentz’s blind side. ADVANTAGE: Eagles
Ball security. The Seahawks are third in the league in takeaways with 32. Five of them came in their Week 12 win over the Eagles, including three in Seattle territory that killed scoring threats.
Pressure on Wilson. The Eagles sacked Russell Wilson six times in Week 12. They had 29 pressures Sunday against the Giants. They can’t give the Houdini-like Wilson time to run around and find open receivers.