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Searching for the “fun” in an Eagles-Seahawks matchup

I don’t know which I dread more as an Eagles fan about my team playing at Seattle—having to watch our offense cope with a silent count on most plays from scrimmage, or watching our defense cope with a quarterback (Russell Wilson) who doesn’t just roll out left or right—he rolls backwards!

The Sporting News has featured this matchup as their top “Game of the Week”:

Eagles (-6) at Seahawks

Sunday, 8:30 p.m., NBC

Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson both are fun to watch. Their elusiveness and scrambling abilities are just as impressive as how they spread and push the ball downfield. Philadelphia has been unfazed in prime time, and the Eagles get a big break here, as their explosive offense won’t need to deal with several key members of the Seahawks’ defense. Wilson will do his best to rally Seattle, but Philadelphia has the better running game to finish a shootout.

PICK: Eagles win 38-34 but fail to cover the spread.

Ah, if only life were as simple and “fun to watch” as the Sporting News says this game will be.

I still have bitter memories of Russell Wilson scampering all over that funhouse in Seattle and ruining our season 1n 2016.

Not to mention the key false start penalties due to our difficulty in handling the Palestra-like crowd noise with our silent counts…and who can forget Nelson Agholor’s illegal formation penalty which cost us a touchdown…and probably the game?

Yeah, Sporting News, that was “fun to watch”…

This time I want it to be different. I don’t care if we lose a close game to the Seahawks based upon their being a better or more physical team (which I don’t think they really are). I just don’t want us to lose to the bloody 12th Man In the Stands— or to Russell Wilson’s tribute show based upon the career highlights of Fran Tarkenton.

Wilson is the main reason the Seahawks have won 7 games so far in 2017. It’s not the Legion of Boom’s time anymore, with Sherman and Chancellor gone with injuries. The Seattle offensive line is a shell of its former greatness. Wilson is still the mover and shaker. He’s thrown 23 TD’s and also rushed for over 400 yards already. He extends plays when not much is there and seems to will his guys open. Doug Baldwin has 58 receptions and 4 touchdowns. Tight end Jimmy Graham has 49 catches and a team-high 8 touchdowns.

As scouted by Fran Duffy of PE.com, when the Eagles are in their base defense, “Wilson will try and find favorable matchups with his running back (who right now, in space, is J.D. McKissic), and former All-Pro Jimmy Graham at tight end. At wide receiver, Doug Baldwin is one of the best pure route runners in the NFL and is a threat every time the Seahawks face third down. Third-year receiver Paul Richardson, a former second-round pick, has improved every year he’s been in the league, and he can stretch the field vertically. Tyler Lockett, a slot receiver by trade, lines up both inside and outside and also can make big plays down the field.”

One of the other ways the Seahawks pick up big plays courtesy of Wilson is the Empty set, where all five pass catchers spread out across the field and Wilson lines up in the shotgun, completely alone in the backfield. This Empty set really plays to the strength of Seattle’s style of play. Fran Duffy explains why:

The mismatch players (Graham, McKissic, etc.) can find favorable matchups in space.

The coverage can easily be identified pre-snap by the quarterback, who can then attack those coverages quickly and efficiently.

The ball typically comes out quickly, helping the offensive line.

The offensive line will see very defined looks from Eagles’ defensive fronts, because even if they do blitz they won’t disguise their blitzes pre-snap (expecting a quick throw).

If pressure does get through, the quarterback has room to run around in the backfield to create time and space to work, allowing more time for his receivers to uncover downfield.

One thing going for us this time around is QB Carson Wentz is more equipped to offset anything Wilson does by pitching his own trademark game. Wentz not only has an extra year of experience under his belt, but also better offensive weapons around him. Wentz was 23 of 45 passing for 218 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions last season in that 26-15 loss at Seattle. I just feel he is going to surpass that performance this time around by a significant margin.

The Seahawks still have some defensive troublemakers to make life challenging for Wentz. The front four features defensive ends Michael Bennett and Frank Clark with power inside from tackles Sheldon Richardson and Jarran Reed. Linebacker Bobby Wagner is a problematic ballhawk and a solid tackler. Safety Earl Thomas remains as the surviving velociraptor from the original Boom movie.

And just to add that extra “weird” factor to this game, former Eagle and DE Marcus Smith will be coming at Wentz off the edge in some rotation packages.

For all I know this could end up a whale of a game in which the Eagles prevail with a strong finishing move. I just tend to get the heebie-jeebies when I think of traveling to play in the Emerald City. There are a lot of strange clown-faces in the crowd there—I’ve never seen so many fans dress up in costumes to attend an NFL game. Then there’s that little magician on the field Russell Wilson, and that hyperactive wizard on the sideline Pete Carroll. The whole experience is like a scene out of Fantasia. I keep expecting a game of Quidditch to break out.

I trust our guys to stay on football, however. May the better team win.

 

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