An upset gave the Seahawks sole possession of first place in the NFC West on Sunday with the 5.5-point underdogs 49ers doing Seattle a huge favor by going into Los Angeles and beating the Rams on a last-play field goal, 23-20.
Now, to keep from having that sole possession taken away, the Seahawks need to avoid an upset Monday night at Philadelphia.
Seattle is a 6.5-point favorite against the 3-6-1 Eagles, and with a victory would move to 8-3, a full game ahead of the 7-4 Rams in the NFC West, and knowing that Los Angeles still has to come to Lumen Field for a game next month.
But if Seattle loses, then the Seahawks would fall back into a tie with the Rams, but because L.A. has beaten the Seahawks already, Seattle would officially be in second place and relegated to a wild-card spot.
Not that anything that happened Sunday changes Seattle’s approach to the Eagles game, which begins a stretch of four in a row against teams that all have losing records and are a combined 11-31-1 (the Giants, Jets and Washington follow the next three weeks).
The Seahawks know the next month represents a golden opportunity to not only take control of the NFC West but also potentially surpass the New Orleans Saints to grab the No. 1 seed in the conference.
But with the Saints getting somewhat of a gift-wrapped victory against the quarterback-less Broncos on Sunday to move to 9-2, Seattle also needs a victory Monday just to keep pace on that front.
However, if the Seahawks beat the Eagles they will be in the No. 2 spot in the NFC, holding a strength of victory tiebreaker on Green Bay, which improved to 8-3 with a victory over Chicago on Sunday night (Seattle also holds a common games edge on the Packers).
If Seattle loses, it will remain in the fifth spot in the conference thanks to Kansas City handing Tampa Bay its second consecutive defeat and dropping the Bucs to 7-5.
What the Seahawks also want to do is continue the defensive resurgence of 11 days ago when Seattle beat Arizona 28-21, a victory that assured that if the Seahawks win out they will win the division (the Cardinals also lost Sunday on a last-second field goal at New England to fall to 6-5, meaning Seattle can move two games ahead of Arizona on Monday).
The Seahawks held Arizona to 314 yards, a season-low for a Seattle opponent and 100 yards less than the Cardinals were averaging heading into the weekend, which led the NFL in yards per game.
Now Seattle faces an Eagles team that has had one of the more disappointing showings all season, especially an offense averaging just 330 yards per game — 26th in the NFL — behind struggling quarterback Carson Wentz (who has the same number of touchdowns and interceptions, 14) and a receiving corps that lacks a deep threat.
Wentz has descended so far this season that Eagles coach Doug Pederson now faces weekly questions about how much confidence he has in the fifth-year quarterback.
Pederson reiterated that Wentz remains the starter.
“Things aren’t going the way we had hoped for,” Pederson told reporters who cover the Eagles on Saturday. “And you know, he and I are in this together, and we’re going to get this thing turned around and fixed and I’ve got a lot of confidence in him that he’ll get it done and got confidence in myself that I can get it done and he’s had a really good week of practice.”
But reports Sunday surfaced that the Eagles gave rookie backup Jalen Hurts more reps with the first-team offense this past week than he has gotten previously with the thought that he could see some significant action against Seattle.
Hurts, who played last season at Oklahoma after beginning his career at Alabama and was taken by the Eagles in the second round, has played at least one offensive snap in nine of the Eagles’ 10 games this season, but not more than seven in any one game, with 31 snaps overall.
Hurts has 56 yards rushing on 12 carries and is 2 for 2 passing for 27 yards and has also caught one pass for 3 yards and the Eagles appear ready to try to maybe give him a few series to see if he can inject some life into their offense.
But Seattle’s main task figures to still be stopping Wentz and containing an Eagles rushing attack that averages 5.0 yards per carry — third in the NFL — the same as the team averages per pass, which ranks 31st.
And while the Eagles have lost twice as many games as they’ve won so far, they also can remain in first place in the NFC East with a victory Monday.
“They haven’t had the success that they want to have but they’re leading their division and they know they’re battling for that and he’s their leader and he’s their guy,’’ Seattle coach Pete Carroll said of Wentz. “So he’s a big stud quarterback and he’s hard to get on the ground, a lot like (Buffalo’s Josh Allen) and he makes things happen. So he’s tough to deal with.’’
Carroll and a few of the team’s players gave some of the credit for the defensive revival to an “accountability meeting’’ led the night before the Arizona game by defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., which stressed each player understanding his role and responsibilities in the defense.
“It was probably one of our best games thus far just (with) communication, executing, playing as one heartbeat,’’ said safety Jamal Adams. “I think that’s what it’s about, man and we’re going to continue to jell.’’