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Eagles vs. Seahawks: Something’s Gotta Give

Posted By Christopher Rowe On Nov 30 2011 @ 6:32 pm In Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment

Should anyone try to tell you that this Thursday Night game between Philadelphia and Seattle holds any meaning for anyone not working for NFL Network, it might be difficult to believe them. While the Philadelphia Eagles have often performed their best in December under Andy Reid – this is also a franchise with a 61-51 record under Reid since Super Bowl XXXIX.

Philadelphia enters December with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread (and needing lots of help from other teams) while the Seattle Seahawks play host at CenturyLink Field simply because this game is on the schedule. Both teams sport 4-7 records.

Losses in three of the past four weeks have left the defending NFC East champion Eagles in a perilous position regarding their streak of postseason appearances to four straight years. Philadelphia currently trails rival Dallas by three games in the division standings with five to play – and is behind the three top teams (Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit) in the conference Wild Card race by the same margin. This would be assuming that New Orleans, Green Bay, San Francisco and the NY Giants wind up winning their respective divisions.

At this point Andy Reid, Joe Banner, Howie Roseman and Juan Castillo may not be the only Eagles fighting for their jobs. There have been reports of fighting (actual fisticuffs) among coaches, plus the usual verbal sparring between players, front office and members of the media.

Though the Eagles clearly face an uphill climb, history says it’s not an impossible one. Philadelphia was in a similar situation back in 2006, having compiled a 5-6 record through 12 weeks and faced with a two-game deficit behind the Cowboys in the NFC East. The team rallied to win its final five tests to surpass both Dallas and the Giants to seize the division crown.

Five years ago, that comeback was fueled by then-backup QB Jeff Garcia, playing for an injured Donovan McNabb. This Nightmare (formerly Dream Team) will be led by another second-stringer for Thursday’s crucial test. With Michael Vick still on the mend from a rib fracture sustained in a Week 10 loss to Arizona, Vince Young seems the most likely candidate to start for a third consecutive week with Mike Kafka as his backup.

Vince Young threw for a career-high 400 yards completing 26-of-48 attempts in last week’s loss to the Patriots. Philadelphia’s unpredictable defense was lit up for 361 yards and 3 TD by New England QB Tom Brady permitting 4 TD drives of 69 yards or more. The Eagles had previously allowed just 278 total yards in a 17-10 victory over the Giants on the road a mere one week earlier.

Seattle is coming off a disappointing defensive display of its own from a week ago, surrendering 416 total yards in a 23-17 home setback to Washington that ended the Redskins’ six-game losing streak. The Seahawks had a 17-7 lead early in the fourth quarter before giving up a pair of big-play TD: a 28-yard scamper by Redskins rookie RB Roy Helu and a 50-yard connection from QB Rex Grossman to Anthony Armstrong. Seattle also hurt itself with penalties all throughout the afternoon, being flagged nine times for a total of 91 yards, while QB Tarvaris Jackson managed just 144 yards on 14- of-30 passing. The Seahawks had posted consecutive wins prior to that result, following up a 22-17 upset of AFC North co-leader Baltimore on Nov. 13 with a 24-7 road smear of St. Louis in Week 11.

Seattle has hardly been explosive on offense, having amassed the third-fewest total yards (294.1 ypg) in the NFL and ranking just 26th overall in points scored (16.8 ypg). Recently, RB Marshawn Lynch (706 rushing yards, 20 receptions, 7 total TD) has ripped off three 100-yard rushing efforts in four weeks and scored a TD for a seventh straight game as part of a 111-yard, 24-carry outburst against the Redskins. His re-emergence has helped ease the burden on the often- erratic Tarvaris Jackson (2,065 passing yards, 9 TD, 12 INT) as well as a makeshift front line that’s lost rookie starters James Carpenter and John Moffitt to season-ending knee injuries and has allowed 36 sacks (second-highest amount in the league). There are injury concerns among the receiving corps with highly-skilled Sidney Rice almost certain to sit out this contest post- concussion from Sunday’s loss. His absence makes rookie surprise Doug Baldwin (37 receptions, 2 TD) a primary target, with career reserve Ben Obomanu (28 receptions, 2 TD) an uninspiring second option for the NFL’s 25th-rated passing offense (196.4 ypg). Seattle stands just 27th in rushing yards (97.7 ypg), but has averaged a much- improved 132.8 yards per game on the ground over the last four games.

Philadelphia ranks third in the NFL in total offense (420.1 ypg) and piled up 466 total yards on the Patriots last week. A good chunk of Young’s career-best 400 passing yards in that game came late with the outcome already essentially decided and half the Patriots starters showering and making dinner plans in the third quarter. Philadelphia was able to convert just 4-of-13 third-down opportunities on the day. Young (658 passing yards, 3 TD, 5 INT) did orchestrate an 80-yard, 8:00 TD drive against the Giants back in Week 11, but has shown he is no more than a suitable substitute for Vick in his two starts this year. The Eagles ground game has averaged an impressive 159.4 rushing yards per week (2nd overall), though LeSean McCoy (1,050 rushing yards, 38 receptions, 13 total TD) had just 10 carries for 31 yards against New England. Should Marty Mornhinweg not make better use of his stud RB, the Eagles offense will be as effective as an underthrown Vince Young pass!

McCoy does have five 100-yard rushing outputs on the season, however, as well as a league-best 13 touchdowns. With leading receiver Jeremy Maclin out for a third straight game (hamstring and shoulder woes) Riley Cooper (8 receptions, 1 TD) will start alongside dangerous DeSean Jackson (39 receptions, 2 TD) and slot specialist Jason Avant (43 receptions, 1 TD) with trusty TE Brent Celek (42 receptions, 2 TD) an important part of the game plan. This would be assuming Jackson has been cleared to play after being benched twice in the past three weeks!

Philadelphia enters the week third in the NFL in total offense (420.1 ypg) and piled up 466 total yards on the Patriots last week, though that number is a bit misleading. A good chunk of Young’s career-best 400 passing yards in that game came late with the outcome already essentially decided, and the Eagles were able to convert 4-of-13 third-down opportunities on the day. Young (658 passing yards, 3 TD, 5 INT) did orchestrate a long touchdown drive in the final minutes to upend the Giants back in Week 11, however, and has shown he can be a suitable substitute for Vick in his two starts this year. The former Titans’ first-round pick is aided by a strong ground game that’s averaged an impressive 159.4 rushing yards per week (2nd overall), though playmaking back LeSean McCoy (1050 rushing yards, 38 receptions, 13 total TD) had just 10 carries for 31 yards last Sunday with coordinator Marty Mornhinweg opting to attack New England’s shaky defense more through the air. The third-year standout does have five 100-yard rushing outputs on the season, however, as well as a league-best 13 touchdowns. With leading receiver Jeremy Maclin likely out for a third straight game due to hamstring and shoulder woes, young reserve Riley Cooper (8 receptions, 1 TD) has worked alongside dangerous speedster DeSean Jackson (39 receptions, 2 TD) and slot specialist Jason Avant (43 receptions, 1 TD) in Philadelphia’s three-wide sets, with trusty tight end Brent Celek (42 receptions, 2 TD) an important part of the game plan as well. Avant had the biggest day in the New England loss, hauling in eight Young passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.

Shady McCoy and the Eagles may be hard-pressed to match their rushing production against a Seattle defense that’s been one of the league’s sternest against the run. With two excellent anchors up front in nose tackle Brandon Mebane (36 tackles) and oversized end Red Bryant (23 tackles, 1 sack), the Seahawks yield just 3.5 yards per carry. That being said, this same group was just torched for 108 yards on 23 attempts by Redskins Roy Helu last week. A bigger issue for Seattle has been trying to find a consistent complement to ex-Eagle Chris Clemons (30 tackles, 8 sacks) in the pass-rushing department, where the team has accumulated only 20 sacks thus far. As a result, a young secondary featuring CFL import Brandon Browner (39 tackles, 2 INT, 13 PD) and raw rookie Richard Sherman (35 tackles, 2 INT, 9 PD) at the corners and a pair of second-year safeties in Kam Chancellor (63 tackles, 1 sack, 3 INT) and leading tackler Earl Thomas (73 tackles, 1 INT) was burned for 306 net passing yards and two scores.

Philadelphia begins a stretch of back-to-back away tilts and sports a 3-2 record as the visitor this season. Their recent home woes might make travelling a positive influence on the club. Eagles boast a 35-14 mark in December over Reid’s first 12 years as head coach. Philadelphia has gone 10-2 during the month over the past three seasons.

PREDICTION: Struggling Seattle boosts the Eagles spirits, garnering the Eagles their fifth win on the season. Don’t get too excited. Beating Seattle 21-15 to reach a 5-7 record is not very gratifying. We’ll still take the win.

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