The running game has started to carry the Eagles in recent weeks. LeSean McCoy is coming off consecutive 100-yard rushing games, and the offensive line has stabilized. Andrew Gardner has played well at right guard next to Lane Johnson, and the veterans on the other side remain solid. McCoy needs 48 yards to break the franchise's all-time rushing record. Chris Polk had an ankle injury last week, but should be able to play. Darren Sproles and Polk are only complementary players in the running game.
The Seahawks have the NFL's fifth-ranked rush defense. They limit opponents to 86.3 yards per game. They've been especially stout in recent weeks, keeping both the Cardinals and 49ers to 64 rushing yards during the last two weeks. That coincided with the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who is critical for the run defense. Outside linebacker K.J. Wright is also a big piece. Their interior defensive line is not as strong as it was last season. Safety Kam Chancellor can play in the box almost as an extra linebacker. Earl Thomas' range from the safety spot allows him to close on ballcarriers.
The Eagles face their biggest challenge of the season against Seattle's pass defense. Quarterback Mark Sanchez is playing against his former college coach, Pete Carroll, but it's the Seahawks' Legion of Boom that could make the afternoon tough for Sanchez and his receivers.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is perhaps the best in the NFL, with more interceptions than any player since he came into the NFL in 2011. Only 45.1 percent of the passes thrown in his direction are caught, according to Pro Football Focus, and there have been 51 attempts in 12 games this season. Sherman is expected to cover Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles' No. 1 receiver, who topped 1,000 yards in a season for the first time last week. Maclin is confident he can get open against anyone, but he has not had a test like the one Sherman will present. The Eagles can also move Maclin around. He played in the slot a bit last week, but he mainly sticks to the right side.
Slot receiver Jordan Matthews has been on a hot streak since Sanchez became the quarterback. The Seahawks can use both Byron Maxwell and Tharold Simon inside. Both players fit Seattle's mold of big, physical cornerbacks. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are key players in the passing game and will be important when the Eagles use their running backs and tight ends to catch the ball. Look for Sproles to play a part in the passing game.
Seattle's pass rush is not what it was last season, but it can still present problems. Edge rushers Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Bruce Irvin are all tough to block.
The Seahawks offense is built around the running game. They have the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense with 168.8 yards per game. The top rusher is Marshawn Lynch, a powerful running back who has 956 yards and could pass 1,000 on Sunday for the sixth time in his career. He has the second most yards after contact in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
Quarterback Russell Wilson has 679 rushing yards, the most of any quarterback. He is dangerous in the open field, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. Wilson doesn't usually look to run, but defenses must always pay attention to him. Almost 43 percent of Wilson's runs result in first downs. The Seahawks also have reliable backup running backs in Robert Turbin and Christine Michael.
The Eagles run defense has been strong all year, and they were just the second team to hold Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray to fewer than 100 yards. Sunday's game will be similar to the Thanksgiving game, when stopping the run was key. Defensive linemen Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, and Bennie Logan are the main cogs in the run defense. Each one is playing at a high level. The Eagles mix Emmanuel Acho with Casey Matthews next to Mychal Kendricks at inside linebacker. Acho did not play against the Cowboys.
The Seahawks have the No. 29 passing offense in the NFL, and they traded their best receiver earlier this season. Russell Wilson is one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, but he does not get much production from his passing game. The top receiver is Doug Baldwin, who often plays from the slot. Baldwin has 48 catches for 519 yards this season. The other top receivers - Jermaine Kearse and Paul Richardson - have been inconsistent. They also lost their top tight end, and neither Luke Wilson nor Tony Moeaki strikes fear in opponents.
The Eagles have the NFL's 26th-ranked pass defense, but Sunday's matchup seems favorable. The biggest weakness in the pass defense is allowing big plays. They have allowed a league-high 14 plays of 40 or more yards. The Seahawks have only five passing plays of more than 40 yards. They have allowed 31 sacks, and the Eagles are second in the NFL with 42. Rookie right tackle Justin Britt has allowed 31 quarterback hurries. He must block Connor Barwin, who was named defensive player of the month for
The Eagles special teams are among the best in the league. Seattle allows the second-most yards per punt return in the NFL and has allowed a punt-return touchdown. Darren Sproles has been an elite punt returner this season and could shift the game in that area. Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka is one of the best in the NFL. Eagles kicker Cody Parkey is dealing with a groin injury but also has been one of the league's top kickers.
The Eagles are undefeated at home this season. The Seahawks are 3-3 on the road, but they are 2-0 when traveling to the East Coast. Both teams haven't played in 10 days and are on two-game winning streaks. The Seahawks are among the NFL's hottest teams and have kept opponents to a combined six points in their last two games. The game is important for both teams' postseason hopes. An Eagles win would mean they could clinch the division next week against Dallas.