The Seahawks head to Philadelphia this weekend following their bye week and are looking to improve upon an 8-2 record that has them right in the playoff hunt. The Eagles, meanwhile, are trying to bounce back from a loss that dropped their record to 5-5, a disappointing start to the season for a team that was considered one of the top NFC contenders coming into the year.
If the Seahawks are going to improve upon their perfect road record on Sunday, these are three key matchups that could make the difference when they face the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field:
1. Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox vs. Seattle's interior offensive line.
The Seahawks for the most part did a good job of protecting Russell Wilson and of running the ball against one of the league's best defensive lines in a Week 10 win over the 49ers, but when the 49ers did get pressure on Wilson, it tended to come not off the edge, but from the interior pass rush. And on Sunday the Seahawks' interior line trio of D.J. Fluker, Mike Iupati and Joey Hunt will face another tough test in the form of All-Pro and Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
Cox, a first-team All-Pro in 2018, got off to a slow start in 2019 after missing training camp and the preseason while recovering from foot surgery. Cox has been getting healthier as the season has gone along, and it's no coincidence that his improvement has coincided with the Eagles defense playing some of its best football over the past three games. Yes, the secondary getting healthy has also been a factor, but the presence of a healthier Cox along with the rest of a strong defensive line has made the Eagles again into one of the league's top defensive teams over the past three weeks.
Like Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Cox is the kind of player who can wreck a play without recording a stat, creating chances for teammates to make plays while fighting through a double team, so his 2.5 sacks, 19 tackles and two forced fumbles only begin to tell the story of how he can impact a game. And of course Cox is just part of why the Eagles have become one of the NFL's better defensive teams of late, allowing a total of 44 points in their past three games.
"They have a lot of talent and a lot of veterans too, guys who really know what they're doing," Wilson said. "I think about Cox, I think about (Brandon) Graham, I think about (Malcolm) Jenkins—great player. I think about (Rodney) McLeod in the back end, I think about all the guys that they have with the versatility at corner. Their linebackers, even though they're young, they can really fly around and make some plays. We got to be ready to roll."
2. Philadelphia's running game vs. a stout Seahawks run defense.
The Seahawks rank a respectable 12th in the league in run defense, allowing 101.1 rushing yards per game, but lately they've been even better than that against the run. Since Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson helped lead the Ravens to 199 rushing yards against Seattle in Week 7, the Seahawks have held their last three rushing opponents under 100 yards, including limiting San Francisco's rushing attack, which ranked second in the league, to just 87 yards and a 3.2 yards-per-carry average.
"(Browns running back Nick) Chubb had some success, and Lamar had some success, but other than that I've been pretty pleased with the run defense," linebacker K.J. Wright said. "That definitely always starts up front.
"The Eagles, they have a lot of runs, a lot of runs that you don't see around the league, and they do it pretty well. So we've got to make sure our fits our correct and make sure we tackle really well. There's definitely going to be a lot of stuff you don't see too many other teams do."
It will be important for Seattle to continue playing strong defense, because the Eagles are a team that relies heavily on their running game. Injuries have been a factor at running back—starting running back Jordan Howard didn't play last week and is questionable for Sunday—but with one of the league's best offensive lines, Philadelphia will try to run the ball regardless of who is getting the carries. The Eagles are averaging 122.7 rushing yards per game, which ranks 11th in the league, but their ground game has been particularly good in wins, with the offense posting four of its top five rushing totals in victories, including totals of 218 and 146 yards in their two most recent wins. And with two of their top receivers, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, both questionable due to injuries, the Eagles could be looking to run the ball even more this week.
"You've got to get your run game going," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said on a conference call. "… It was tough to run the football (in last week's loss to New England), but it's something we have had success doing. We've got to try to get back to it."
3. Both teams' ball security vs. defenses looking to take the ball away.
A year after the Seahawks committed a league-low 11 turnovers on their way to leading the league in turnover differential, they've struggled in that department at times this season. Yes, Russell Wilson has been outstanding, not just in his production, but in how he takes care of the ball, throwing only two interceptions against a league-best 23 touchdowns, but the Seahawks have had something of a fumbling problem. After losing three fumbles in their win over the 49ers, the Seahawks have now lost 11 fumbles this season, matching their entire 2018 turnover total.
"I've got to do a better job," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I have to do a better job of setting the thing in motion and how we emphasize it. It is the most emphasized aspect of our program but, it isn't good enough. We aren't doing it well enough. Our guys aren't buying in well… Hopefully this stretch will change this. We won't have a chance. We won't have a chance if this keeps going on. You can't win like that. We were so fortunate (against the 49ers). Think how fortunate we are to win that game, that tight of a game, and kick the ball all over the field. Terrible."
One reason the Seahawks were able to survive three lost fumbles was that they forced two of their own against the 49ers, including one that Jadeveon Clowney returned for a touchdown. Seattle's defense, which has 11 fumble recoveries this season, will try to take advantage of an Eagles offense that has also struggled with ball security, losing 10 fumbles, a total only exceeded by Seattle and the New York Giants (14).
The Seahawks and the Eagles will meet this Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field for the twelfth week of the 2019 season. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.