The outcome of this evening’s wildcard round game will most likely be decided by Doug Pederson and the Eagles offense. The argument could be made that the two least talented rosters remaining in contention are indeed the Eagles and Seahawks. Injuries have hit both teams like a ton of bricks – Seattle has recently lost their top three Running Backs, their best Offensive Tackle, and plenty of other players as well. Then as we all know, the Birds are without their original trio of Wide Receivers, two of their best Offensive Linemen, a defensive starter at each level, and that doesn’t even begin to cover it!
Due to the bad luck both teams have had in terms of injuries, this game is going to be a psychological battle between two top notch coaching staffs – Each staff being led by Super Bowl winning head coaches, Pete Carroll and Doug Pederson. Every single high-level employee excels at getting the most out of their players in critical moments like this.
Besides maybe a handful of gadget plays that may be incorporated by both sides, this matchup will presumably be smash-mouth football that lacks a whole lot of finesse. Seattle’s backfield is now bulked up to run north and south with Marshawn Lynch, while Russell Wilson has created a dynamic chemistry with receivers like Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and Jacob Hollister. On the other side of things, the Eagles will look to ride the hot hands of Miles Sanders, Dallas Goedert, Greg Ward, and Boston Scott while also incorporating veterans like Jordan Howard and Zach Ertz back into the gameplan. And how will Doug do that, exactly?
Well, I expect him to keep the ground game consistent and rely on Carson to make efficient throws when needed. I am very intrigued to see what Pederson has in store for players like Boston Scott, Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert. How exactly will he use them in the passing game? All three excel on screen passes, but that stems from well coordinated blocking from the Offensive Line. With Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson absent from the lineup, will the offense find success in that department? Will Doug finally unleash a fun trick play? We’d all most likely agree that there’s no better time than now. The reality is that none of us will know the answers to these questions until the actual game is played, but that won’t prevent any speculation or curiosity.
The Seahawks defense is very strong in specific areas, but is also fairly weak in similar areas. This should come as a benefit to the Birds. For example, Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah are both quick Defensive Ends that will get very wide while rushing the Quarterback. With that being the case, the draw game should be available throughout the entire game given the Seahawks’ weaker interior Defensive Line. Seattle’s secondary also caters to the Eagles offensive unit. They are equipped with strong Corners on the outside, and have a vastly talented Deep Safety in Quandre Diggs. However, their weaker points come in the form of their Strong Safety and Nickel Cornerback. The Eagles don’t pose a deep threat to begin with and Greg Ward has been tremendous out of the slot. That should not change today. Philadelphia is going to threaten the Seahawks over the middle and I’m not completely sure that Pete Carroll’s team will be ready for it. That just so happens to bring up my final point. I think that the Eagles will exploit the hell out of “star” Linebacker, Bobby Wagner. Although highly respected, Wagner has given up nearly one thousand passing yards this season when in coverage. I expect that he’ll be given the responsibility of guarding Zach Ertz or the most threatening Running Back that lines up alongside Carson Wentz in the backfield. If Ertz is indeed truly healthy, I think he has the advantage over Wagner, as do Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. Giving Seattle’s defensive leader fits would be a tremendous strategy implemented by Doug, Mike Groh, Duce Staley, Press Taylor, and the rest of the offensive staff.
There are seemingly endless questions to be asked regarding the x’s and o’s of this matchup, and all will certainly be answered come 4:40 this evening. Both teams are so incredibly strong in certain aspects of their rosters, while being so depleted in others. This creates a wonderful mystery of which matchups will benefit one team, and which ones will benefit the other. Pete Carroll and his experienced staff are no joke, but I remain confident in the Eagles chances. If this unit underwent the proper preparation this week and Doug, Carson, and the rest of the offense successfully exploit the weaknesses, I don’t see the Eagles losing this game.