If you’re looking for hope in the Eagles’ 3-6-1 season, you might be able to find it in an improving defense that gave up just 79 points in the last four games.
If you’re looking for despair, there’s the offense, which had the league’s worst third-down percentage in the last five games, a quarterback with a league-high 18 turnovers, and an offensive line that already has given up 40 sacks.
Two turnovers, one by running back Miles Sanders and another by quarterback Carson Wentz, cost them a chance for a win on the road last week against the Browns. Now, they host Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, a team they are winless against in four meetings since Doug Pederson became the Eagles’ head coach in 2016.
Can they finally beat the Seahawks? Sure. Will they?
Let’s break down the game first.
When the Eagles run
The Eagles ran a lot of zone-reads in the first half against the Browns. Wentz had only three carries, but the possibility of his running and the need to account for him created some seams for Sanders and Boston Scott. The Eagles are third in the league in rush average (5.0). Sanders rushed for 63 yards on 11 carries in the first half against the Browns but was held to 3 yards on five carries in the second half. Sanders has the second-highest rush average (5.7) in the league among players with 80 or more carries. Only Nick Chubb (6.0) has a higher yards-per-carry-average. The fact that the Eagles have been playing from behind so much this season has limited their willingness to commit to the run. They have the fourth-lowest run-play percentage (36.5), and the sixth-fewest rushing attempts per game (24.1) in the league. While the Eagles’ overall rush average is high, they are tied for 22nd in first-down rush average (3.9). Wentz hasn’t been much of a factor in the run game lately. He had 20 rushing first downs in the Eagles’ first eight games but did not have any in losses to the Giants and Browns. With Jalen Hurts expected to play a little bit more Monday night, zone-reads figure to be a part of their attack. Seattle has one of the league’s top run defenses. They’re fourth in both rushing yards allowed (91.2 per game), and opponent rush average (3.6). They held the Cardinals to 57 yards on 18 carries last week. In their last four games, they held opponents to 2.8 yards per carry. They’re sixth in opponent first-down rush average (3.6), and have allowed the seventh-fewest runs of 10 yards or more (26) in the league.
When the Eagles throw
Wentz is having the worst season of his career. The only QBs with a lower passer rating than Wentz’s 73.3 are the Broncos’ Drew Lock (67.5) and the Jets’ Sam Darnold (65.9). He has an NFL-high 18 turnovers (14 interceptions, four lost fumbles) and has been sacked 40 times, also the most in the league. It’s not all his fault. He’s been playing behind an injury-ravaged offensive line he doesn’t trust and is throwing to a bunch of young receivers he also doesn’t seem to trust. Right tackle Lane Johnson will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury. The Eagles will be doing some major shuffling to their line against Seattle, including moving Jason Peters from left tackle to right guard. The Eagles converted a league-worst 22.2% of their third downs in the last five games. Wentz has a 44.4 third-down completion percentage in those 5 games. Wide receiver Travis Fulgham, who had 29 catches for 435 yards and four TDs in his first five games after being promoted from the practice squad, disappeared the last two weeks. He was targeted 12 times and had two catches for 16 yards. Tight end Zach Ertz is expected to miss his fifth straight game Monday night, but Richard Rodgers has been playing well as the second tight end with Dallas Goedert. He has 12 catches in the last 3 games and has averaged 16.1 yards per catch in those 3 games. Rodgers and Goedert combined for 125 of Wentz’s 235 passing yards against the Browns last week. The Seahawks’ pass defense isn’t very good. They’re 30th in opponent completion percentage (69.7) and 28th in opponent yards per attempt (8.0), and have given up the second-most pass plays of 20 yards or more (43).
When the Seahawks run
The Seahawks are 23rd in rushing (121.3) but fourth in rush average (4.9). They’ll be getting back their best running back, Chris Carson. The 5-foot-11, 222-pound Carson, who is coming off back-to-back 1,100-yard rushing seasons, has been out since Week 7 with a foot injury. They got their other top back, Carlos Hyde (hamstring), back last week. Hyde, who had missed three games, rushed for 79 yards on 14 carries in the Seahawks’ win over Arizona. Both Carson and Hyde are tough-to-bring-down power runners who will require the Eagles defense to use the same send-population-to-the-ball approach they used last week against the Browns’ Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb rushed for 114 yards vs. the Eagles, but 54 of them came on an early fourth-quarter run. Before that, the Eagles had held Chubb and the Browns to 54 yards on 26 carries as their much-maligned linebacker corps played its best game of the season. The Eagles have held opposing running backs to 3.6 yards per carry this season but have had problems with running quarterbacks and misdirection plays. Lamar Jackson had a 37-yard TD run against. the Eagles. The Giants’ Daniel Jones had an 80-yard run in one game and a 34-yard TD run in another. Now, they’re facing one of the league’s most elusive quarterbacks in Russell Wilson. Wilson leads the Seahawks in rushing with 367 yards and a 6.7 yards-per-carry average. He’s averaging nearly 8 yards per carry on first down. The Seahawks are tied for fifth in first-down rush average. The Eagles are 29th in opponent rush average on first down (5.0).
When the Seahawks throw
Wilson is third in the league in passing (111.5) behind only Aaron Rodgers (115.8) and Patrick Mahomes (114.3). He’s thrown an NFL-best 30 touchdown passes and is third in completion percentage (70.7) and fourth in yards per attempt (8.2). Wilson is one of the league’s top scramblers, which puts a lot of pressure on the back end of a defense. The Eagles lost twice to the Seahawks last year, once in the regular season and again in the playoffs. In the Week 12 regular-season loss, they sacked Wilson six times and held him to 13 completions in 25 attempts. But in the playoffs, they sacked him just once as he threw for 325 yards. D.K. Metcalf had seven catches for 160 yards and a TD. Tyler Lockett had four catches for 62 yards. Cornerback Darius Slay likely will travel with the 6-4, 229-pound Metcalf, who is averaging 18.0 yards per catch and has a team-high nine touchdowns. Lockett, who primarily lines up in the slot, has a team-high 67 catches for 748 yards and eight TDs. Wilson has been sacked 33 times, including 14 times in the last three games. The Eagles’ pass rush is the strength of their defense. They’re second in the league in sacks with 34. The one area in which Wilson has struggled has been third down. His third-down passer rating is just 57.4. On third downs of 7 yards or more, he has completed just 48.5% of his passes and has a 25.8 passer rating. But getting him into those third-and-longs will be the challenge for the Eagles. The Eagles did not allow a TD pass in the last three games and have given up only 13 this season, which is tied for the third-fewest in the league. But they also have only three interceptions. Slay has allowed them to neutralize the opponent’s top pass catcher. But they need better play from the rest of their secondary.
Jake Elliott has been inconsistent this season, missing 3 of 4 field goal attempts at one point, including a 29-yarder in the first Giants game. But he made his last two, from 40 and 43 yards. Pungter Cam Johnston is fourth in gross average (48.8) but has slipped to ninth in net (42.3) after spending much of the season in the top five. He had just a 36.5 net in the last three games. Nine of his last 12 punts have been returned, and the Eagles’ punt coverage unit hasn’t been playing nearly as well lately as it did early in the season. The Eagles are 15th in punt coverage, giving up 7.4 yards per return. They’ll face a tough challenge from Seahawks returner David Moore, who is among the league leaders with a 11.4-yard return average. The Eagles’ return game has been unproductive. They are 22nd in punt return average (6.0) and 28th in kick return average (19.0). Jalen Reagor is a more dangerous punt return option than Greg Ward but isn’t nearly as sure-handed. And the Eagles really can’t afford any additional turnover problems. Seahawks kicker Jason Myers, who is in his second year with the Seahawks and fifth in the league, has made all 12 of his FG attempts this season, including a 61-yarder, but has missed two PATs. He missed four PATs last season. Punter Michael Dickson is second in gross average (49.6) and fourth in net (44.1). He has put 19 of his 37 attempts inside the 20.
The Seahawks will be playing on 11 days rest, while the Eagles are coming off a tough, physical loss in the rain in Cleveland. Pete Carroll is 4-0 against the Eagles since Doug Pederson was hired in 2016.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Eagles 20
Eagles CBs Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox and Nickell Robey-Coleman vs. Seahawks WRs D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and David Moore: Metcalf will be Slay’s toughest “travel” challenge of the season. Maddox and Robey-Coleman both have been inconsistent this season.
Eagles TEs Dallas Goedert and Richard Rodgers vs. Seahawks Ss and LBs: Zach Ertz is expected to miss his fifth straight game. Rodgers has played well in his absence, averaging 16.1 yards per catch the last 3 games. Goedert and Rodgers combined for 125 receiving yards last week against Cleveland.
Eagles D-line v. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson: The Eagles have one of the league’s best pass rushes. But besides pressuring Wilson, they need to keep him in the pocket so that he can’t extend plays and give his receivers more time to escape coverage. Won’t be easy.
Keys to the game
Eagles’ third-down offense. The Eagles converted just 2-of-12 third-down tries vs. the Browns. And they were 0-for-9 the week before vs. the Giants. Their 22.2 third-down success rate over the last five games is the worst in the league. If that doesn’t change, they have no chance.
Eagles’ first-down defense. The Seahawks are second in the league in yards per play on first down (6.5). Wilson does much of his damage on first down. He has a league-best 119.4 first-down passer rating and is averaging eight yards per carry on first down. RB Chris Carson is averaging 4.8 yards per carry on first down.
The Wentz factor. Are Wentz’s 2020 problems irreversible? Possibly. He’s going up against a very beatable Seahawks defense Monday night, but will be missing right tackle Lane Johnson, and needs to get the ball out quickly.