? At stake: Winner advances to conference semifinals (aka divisional playoff round)
Nick Fierro (11-5)
What the Eagles have done over the previous two weeks has served to turn me into a believer. I didn’t think they could beat the Cowboys or the Giants. They did.
Now I think they can beat the Seahawks, and not just because of how close their November meeting, a 17-9 Seattle victory, was despite five Eagles turnovers.
Like the Eagles, the Seahawks now also are dealing with a run of injuries. The only difference is that they haven’t been handling them as well, losing three of their last four and stumbling into the playoffs following a loss in which they botched a goal-line sequence on the final series at home against San Francisco.
Six players, including four starters, weren’t able to practice on Thursday. Two of them, tackle Duane Brown and guard Mike Iupati, are part of an offensive line that was a mess long before they were injured.
Then line quickly moved the other way, and now the Eagles are 1.5-point underdogs. Considering they’re playing with their practice squad and they’ve never beaten Russell Wilson (0-4) and the Seahawks are 7-1 on the road this season, that makes sense.
But the Seahawks are banged up and hardly a juggernaut.
And you get the feeling the Birds have something brewing.
They were 5-7 and done after a loss to Miami. Then Carson Wentz caught fire with a bunch of anonymous receivers who actually look interested in catching the ball, and they caught lightning in a bottle.
The Eagles are the team that defies conventional wisdom. CW suggested this team was done after back-to-back blowout losses to the Vikings and Cowboys in October. CW had them finished again when they lost three in a row to the Patriots, Seahawks and Dolphins from mid-November through the start of December.
Now CW has swung the other way and there’s a sense that after sweeping through the NFC East the past three weeks, this team is on a magical run spearheaded by practice squad products and Carson Wentz. Truly, if this team somehow gets to Miami on Groundhog’s Day, it will be one of the most improbably title runs any team has ever had.
While the Eagles are a team that has the ability to snack victory from the jaws of defeat, Seattle and Pete Carroll often finds a way to blow sure-fire situations like at the goal line against 49ers.
CW strongly suggests an Eagles win here and then maybe a rough time in San Francisco.
The Eagles and Seahawks may be the two most-injured teams heading into the NFL playoffs. Whether some of their injured players appear Sunday — think Lane Johnson, Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz for the Eagles, Jadeveon Clowney and Quandre Diggs for Seattle — will go a long way in determining this one.
Despite their offensive injuries, the Eagles will find ways to move the football against a Seattle defense that is far removed from the Legion of Boom days. Stopping Russell Wilson will prove tougher.
Seattle tends to play close games. The Eagles don’t want to be in a spot where Wilson has the chance to drive for the winning points late. They won’t be, running out the clock with a late drive to reach the divisional round for a third straight year.
Russell Wilson will no doubt produce some magic of his own and there could be another trick play or two thrown in by the Seahawks, but not enough to prevent the Eagles from extending the ride.
Eagles 20, Seahawks 17
Brian Wright (10-6)
I hate this matchup against Russell Wilson. Absolutely hate it. The Eagles’ secondary came up with some big plays at the right time against the Giants, but considering the way Wilson runs around behind the line of scrimmage and extends plays, it’s going to be a real challenge for the DBs to stay in coverage for extended periods.
Carson Wentz is playing his best football of the season and the unsung heroes from the practice squad have made an impression. The Seahawks defense is not great so the Birds will be able to put up some points.
The Seahawks have their own injuries to deal with -- a few weeks ago Marshawn Lynch was on his couch and now he’s about to suit up in a postseason contest.
The heart says the Birds get it done and move on to the Division round. The head says Wilson beats the Eagles again and the ride comes to and end.
We don’t really know how talented these replacements are, but most of them have been cut more than once. So that tells you something. The one thing we do know is that they are hungry and want to take advantage of this opportunity. So far they have.
Besides, the Seahawks have some injury problems of their own. Running back Rashaad Penny, who burned the Eagles for 129 yards in Seattle’s win on Nov. 24, is out for the season. Same thing with starting linebacker Mychal Kendricks, a former Eagle.
This time the Eagles make the plays they didn’t make in that November game, take better care of the football (five turnovers in the first meeting) and somehow take another – and improbable - step forward.