The Seahawks (7-4) host the Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) in an NFC clash with big playoff implications for both teams. Seattle is trying to keep pace in a tight NFC West battle with Los Angeles, while the Eagles are kicking off a two-game West Coast trip that could determine if they finish the season as the NFC's No. 1 seed. To learn more about Seattle's Week 13 opponent, we reached out to someone who knows both teams well, The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia, who before returning to Philadelphia to cover the Eagles, spent two seasons on the Seahawks beat for ESPN:
Q: Obviously there's a lot that goes into it, but what are a few of the biggest reasons the Eagles have gone from 7-9 in 2016 to looking like the league's best team this year?
Kapadia: The biggest reason is Carson Wentz. He's made a big leap in his second year, and the coaches have put a lot more on his plate. Wentz controls the game quite a bit at the line of scrimmage, changing plays based on the look of the defense. He's been a very good decision-maker (28 touchdowns, five interceptions) and can make plays with his legs. Wentz has made everyone around him better.
Q: On a related note, how much different is Carson Wentz compared to the rookie who came to CenturyLink Field last season?
Kapadia: The biggest difference with Wentz is directly connected to the weapons around him. The Eagles added wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the offseason, and he's started to come on strong (five touchdowns in his last four games). Nelson Agholor, a former first-round pick, really struggled last year but has bounced back and been one of the more productive slot receivers in the NFL. Last year, Wentz struggled to get anything going downfield, but the Eagles have been much better at producing explosive plays in the passing game this season.
Q: The Eagles have shown they're one of the league's elite teams, but how big of a test is this upcoming two-game stretch at Seattle and at Los Angeles after playing four of their last five at home?
Kapadia: It's a huge test. Their most impressive win of the season came at Carolina, but overall, the Eagles have had the fifth-easiest schedule. Russell Wilson is the best quarterback the Eagles have faced all season, and while the NFC East is pretty much wrapped up, the team knows how valuable home-field and a bye can be. The next couple of weeks will be telling. The Eagles will play the Seahawks, fly to southern California, spend the week there and then play the Rams in Los Angeles.
Q: It would appear the Eagles are strong across the board on both sides of the ball. If there's a weakness Philadelphia could be worried about against Seattle, what would it be?
Kapadia: Their strengths on both sides of the ball are up front with the offensive and defensive lines. Offensively, the Seahawks could look to attack their left tackle, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who is filling in for an injured Jason Peters. Defensively, Eagles corners Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby have played really well, but they'll be tested by Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett.
Q: Knowing both of these teams as well as you do, what are one or two matchups that you think could make the biggest difference in the game?
Kapadia: The battle between the Seahawks' defensive line and the Eagles' offensive line is going to be fun to watch. Michael Bennett will likely get matched up often with right tackle Lane Johnson and right guard Brandon Brooks -- both of whom are playing at a high level. The Eagles also have a lot of respect for Sheldon Richardson and Frank Clark. Whichever team wins that matchup up front could gain an edge. On the other side of the ball, I think it's all about explosive plays. The Eagles are tied for the fewest explosive pass plays (20-plus yards) allowed, and we know Wilson is a master at getting the ball downfield. That will be a big key as well.