These Seahawks-Eagles games are almost starting to feel like a divisional rivalry.
For the third time in the past 12 months, the Seahawks will travel to Philadelphia for a showdown Monday night between two first-place teams.
The Seahawks defeated the Eagles twice at Lincoln Financial Field last season — a 17-9 win on Nov 24, 2019, and a 17-9 wild-card playoff victory Jan. 5.
The Seahawks are 5.5-point favorites this week.
Three things to know about the Eagles coming off their 22-17 defeat against Cleveland on Sunday:
They have major QB questions
Perhaps no NFL player has been more confounding than Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, whose latest head-scratching performance came in the defeat Sunday against Cleveland. Wentz threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, and took a safety on one of his five sacks.
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Marcus Hayes seemed to sum up the general feelings around Wentz when he wrote: “Skittish, gun-shy, inaccurate and bone-headed: That is, at this moment, who Carson Wentz is.”
Wentz leads the NFL with 14 interceptions and 18 turnovers, and coach Doug Pederson has faced persistent questions about potentially benching Wentz in favor of rookie second-round draft choice Jalen Hurts.
Pederson says he won’t do that.
“I think, if you get to that spot, where you don’t start him or you bench him, you’re sending the wrong message to your football team. That the season’s over. That’s a bad message,” Pederson said Sunday.
The Eagles have few playmakers on offense and have been without veteran tight end Zach Ertz (ankle). They rank 24th in scoring at 22.0 points a game, and they are just 2 for 21 in converting third downs the past two games.
Wentz ranks 29th out of 31 quarterbacks in passer rating, 30th in completion percentage and 29th in yards per pass, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia.
He also has been sacked 40 times, more than any quarterback. Eagles tackles Lane Johnson and Jason Peters and center Jason Kelce have been banged up of late.
Complicating matters is Wentz’s contract. The Eagles can’t afford to bench him. The No. 2 overall choice in the 2016 NFL draft signed a four-year, $128 million contract extension in 2019.
“Are we playing as good as we can as a team? No. Am I playing my best football? No,” Wentz said after the defeat Sunday, via The Inquirer. “There’s some circumstances out there today, that we left some plays on the field. We’ll be critical, we’ll go back and watch the tape … at the end of the day, that stuff is what it is. You guys can ask whatever questions you want, bring up whatever you want, and for me, I’m just going to put my head down and go to work.”
They get after the QB
The Eagles have a perfectly average defense, ranking 16th in scoring (25.4 points allowed per game).
But they excel at pressuring the quarterback.
The Eagles’ 34 sacks through 10 games rank second in the NFL behind the Steelers’ 38. They have successfully pressured QBs on 25.5% of dropbacks, which ranks as the fourth-best in the NFL, per Pro Football Reference.
Veteran defensive end Brandon Graham leads the Eagles with seven sacks.
Still, the defense has struggled to keep things close in the fourth quarter the past two games — defeats against the Giants and Browns.
Sunday, after the Eagles closed to two points early in the fourth quarter, the Browns had back-to-back scoring drives to put the game away. That first drive featured a 54-yard run by Cleveland’s Nick Chubb, who bounced off several attempted tackles to set up a touchdown.
“When it was all said and done at the end of the day, gave up a touchdown there and that was a real back-breaker for us, and we’ve got to do better,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Tuesday, via PennLive.com.
Yes, they are in first place
At 3-6-1, the Eagles are, if you can believe it, in first place in the NFC East, just ahead of the New York Giants, the Washington, D.C., team and the Dallas Cowboys — all 3-7.
The Eagles have the best chance to win the division — at 35%, per FiveThirtyEight.com — which would mean they would get to be at home for another wild-card playoff game.
There’s a lot of football left to play, of course, but it’s not all that far-fetched to think the Seahawks might have to travel back to Philadelphia come January. Yet again.