The Seahawks’ Philadelphia story has been a happy one during the Pete Carroll era.
Seattle is 5-0 in the regular season against the Eagles since Carroll arrived in 2010 and 1-0 in the playoffs, with each victory by at least eight points and four by 10 or more. Two of those wins came last year, one in the regular season and then in a wild-card playoff game, each somewhat bizarrely by the exact score of 17-9.
Monday, Seattle returns again for its third game in Philly in 53 weeks, hoping to not only extend the winning streak against the Eagles but stay on top of the NFC West. The Seahawks head there as 6 1/2-point favorites against a Philadelphia team that is just 3-6-1 but with a victory can stay atop an unusual race in the NFC East.
Here are some keys to the game:
Matchup to watch
Eagles DE Brandon Graham and DT Fletcher Cox vs. the right side of Seattle’s offensive line
Graham and Cox have been two of the most consistent defensive linemen in the league for a while and both are in the midst of really good years. Graham has seven sacks, and Cox has 4.5. Graham and Cox would present a challenge to Seattle at any time, but the Seahawks will have to go without starting right tackle Brandon Shell, who is dealing with a high-ankle sprain and was ruled out Saturday. That means the first start of the season for Cedric Ogbuehi, a first-round draft choice of the Bengals in 2015 and a veteran of 23 career starts (but none since 2017). He has 25 snaps this year. The good news is rookie Damien Lewis will return to his usual spot at right guard after playing center last week in place of an injured Ethan Pocic, who practiced fully all week after missing the past two games with a concussion and will return to his usual starting spot. But Cox will present another big test for Lewis in his first NFL season.
Player to watch
RB Chris Carson
The 2020 season has not been the year Carson hoped to have as he potentially heads into free agency as he’s missed the past four games because of a foot injury. But he’ll return Monday against the Eagles after practicing all week and he was given a clean bill of health by the team Saturday. Carson has rushed for just 323 yards and the team’s pass-happier ways also means he hasn’t had more than 80 in any game this season after rushing for 100 yards or more 12 times in 2018 and 2019. Conversely, Carson has been as effective as ever when he has played, averaging 4.9 yards per carry — which would be his career best. And Seattle’s running-game struggles without him seemed to further accentuate his worth to the team. That he missed four games doesn’t soothe the long-term concerns about his durability, instead furthering the question of how avidly the Seahawks will try to re-sign him. But Carson has six regular-season games and the playoffs to state his case while providing the Seahawks with the kind of rushing attack it feels it needs to reach the Super Bowl.
Coaching decision to watch
Though Seattle on paper featured its most balanced offense of the season in the 28-21 victory over Arizona — 31 official runs to 28 passes — the Seahawks were still aggressive throwing on first down. Of 17 first-down plays in the first half, for instance, 10 were called passes. Russell Wilson was particularly effective on first down against the Cardinals, especially early, going 5 of 6 for 52 yards with two touchdowns on first-down passes in the first half. That doesn’t include a 46-yard pass-interference penalty drawn by DK Metcalf, which occurred on first down. What Wilson also has done well this year on first down is scramble — he has 207 of his team-high 367 rushing yards this year on first downs, almost all of which came when he took off on drop-backs, averaging 8.0 yards per attempt.
When Philly won the Super Bowl following the 2017 season, Eagles coach Doug Pederson earned a reputation for embracing some new analytics, including the idea that teams should go for it more often on fourth down. Though the shine is coming off Pederson a little with the Eagles struggling, he still likes to go for it a lot on fourth down — Philly’s 19 fourth-down attempts are tied for the third-most in the NFL. The Eagles, though, have converted just seven, or 36.8%, which ranks 27th in the league. Seattle has converted the same amount of fourth downs as the Eagles but on 10 fewer attempts, a percentage of 77.8 that is tied for the third-best in the NFL. However, Seattle has allowed 9 of 16 fourth downs to be converted this year, 56.25%, 18th in the NFL. And opponents have converted nine of the past 12 dating to the opener against Atlanta, though the Seahawks got a big fourth-down stop in the form of Carlos Dunlap’s sack on Arizona’s final play.
Player who could surprise
Kicker Jason Myers
Myers has somewhat quietly put together one of the best kicking streaks in team history, having made 23 consecutive field goals in the regular season dating to a game against Tampa Bay on Nov. 3, 2019. That includes having made all 12 of his attempts this year. After hitting two against Arizona to pass Stephen Hauschka (22 in 2013), Myers’ streak is the second-longest in team history behind Olindo Mare’s 30 in a row in 2009-10. Myers, though, missed two field goals in the playoffs last year, including a 35-yarder at Philly, where the winter conditions can make kicking tricky. The forecast for Monday calls for a high of 62 and rain, with wind up to 17 mph.
7.21 and 4.99
Those numbers represent the Seahawks’ and Eagles’ yards per pass attempt. Seattle’s is eighth best in the NFL and Philly’s second worst, and few other numbers better illustrate the difference between the teams. Seattle is able to gain yards in chunks behind Wilson’s connections with Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and the Eagles have one of the NFL’s least imposing receiving corps with only Travis Fulgham (31st) rated by Pro Football Focus among the top 100 receivers in the league this year. Eagles fans don’t need reminding that Philly took Stanford’s JJ. Arcega-Whiteside with the 57th overall pick in 2019, seven spots before Seattle drafted Metcalf. Arcega-Whiteside, currently on the COVID-19 reserve list, has just two catches this season and 12 in his career.
The final word
Seahawks 26, Eagles 19
The Seahawks have lost their past three road games, and although the Eagles have won only three games all season, Philadelphia’s defense and offensive rushing attack are just good enough to cause Seattle problems if the Seahawks start slow. But Seattle’s defense is rounding into form at the right time, and Wilson showed against Arizona the rumors of his demise were vastly overstated. There figures to be some nervous moments, but Seattle should come away with the victory.