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What To Watch In The Seahawks' Week 15 Game vs. The Eagles

Players, matchups and storylines to watch when the Seahawks host the Eagles on Monday Night Football.

What to Watch - Week 15

As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted this week, it's essentially playoff time for a team that needs to finish the season on a hot streak in order to make the playoffs. And the Seahawks know that starting a winning streak won't come easy this week with the 10-3 Eagles coming to town. Both teams are looking to get back on track, with the Eagles losing two in a row and Seattle losing four straight, meaning the stakes are high for both teams on Monday Night Football.  

"This is a great matchup for us," Carroll said. "It's about as fun as it's going to get. There is so much at stake from this point forward. There is so much, with five other teams that are vying for this spot. It's a run to the finish, we'll see who wins the race. It's exciting and we have to make the most of it and be attuned into it. Everybody is well aware, we haven't missed that point from the other night, so everybody knows what's going on. We have to put together a great week to prepare and make sure that we get this done. It's going to be a great challenge, this is a fine football team with a winning mentality and all of that, but that's the kind of challenges we have to take on to get there."

Here are five things to watch when the Seahawks host the Eagles on Monday night.

1. For the second week in a row, who starts at QB for the Seahawks?

As was the case last week, the Seahawks head into an important game with starting quarterback Geno Smith listed as questionable. Smith missed last week's game due to the groin injury he suffered in practice last Thursday, and while he was able to practice this week, being listed as limited all three days, Smith will again be a game-day decision, Carroll said.

"He made it through the week," Carroll said. "He made it through with the work that he's done. He's still questionable and we'll wait and see what happens on gameday… He was able to do stuff. He threw the ball all week."

If Smith can't play, Drew Lock would start for the second straight week, and if that were to transpire, he should benefit from the experience he gained starting against the 49ers last week, a game that saw him throw for 269 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions under pretty challenging circumstances given the opponent and the fact that Smith's injury happened relatively late in the week.

"It's hugely valuable," Carroll said of the experience Lock got last week. "We've talked all about it, hung out just talking about what the experience was like, and how he feels differently, so if he's called on, he'll be in just a clearer mindset because of what he went through. It was a very difficult game, a challenging game last week, and he made it through it. He handled it really well and came out of it with a clear mind and all, so that's only going to be beneficial for him."

2. Who stands out in meeting of former college teammates and friends DK Metcalf and A.J. Brown?

Before A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf were two of the NFL's top receivers, they were teammates and close friends at Ole Miss, both eventually becoming second-round picks in the 2019 draft. And before that, they were rivals as two of the top players in Mississippi, Metcalf at Oxford High and Brown at Starkville High.

After pushing each other to be better in college—both credit the other with making them better—both have gone on to become key parts of their respective offenses, and both could be big factors in Monday's game.

"He was always a better route runner than me," said Metcalf this week. "And he always caught the ball naturally. That's something I always tried to do better than him, I always admired how he did that. I just tried to copy him and do everything that he did but put my own spin on it. A.J. is the ultimate competitor, one of my good friends and I definitely would not be in front of you all today if he wasn't my teammate. Just hats off to him and congratulations to everything he's done since he's got in the league."

Metcalf has enjoyed plenty of success against the Eagles in the past, catching 10 passes for 177 yards in a 2020 meeting, and seven catches for a Seahawks postseason record 160 yards and a touchdown in wild card win in Philadelphia the year before. And more relevant to the current game, he's been productive of late, scoring five touchdowns in the last four games, and gaining 94 or more yards in three of the last five games, including 134 yards and three touchdowns two weeks ago in Dallas.

Brown, meanwhile, ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,258, fifth in receptions with 90, and is tied for sixth with a group that includes Metcalf for receiving touchdowns with seven.

"He's a monster of a player," Carroll said. "He's such an adept catcher, great catching range and the hand-eye stuff is as good as you can get, and then he's got the big physical makeup too that adds to it. It's really hard to get into his space, because he's such a powerful guy, and they really go to him, he's all over it. He's got 90 catches at this point. In all situations, he's the star guy and the guy to go. He's highlight worthy, he's worthy of it all. He's really something."

3. Can Seattle's defense cut back the explosive plays allowed?

There were plenty of positives for Seattle's defense last week, which forced five punts, including two three-and-outs, and had two takeaways against arguably the best offense in the NFL.

Those positives, of course, were overshadowed by the big plays Seattle allowed, with the 49ers piling up 12 explosive plays, including gains of 44 or more yards on all four of their touchdown drives. The Eagles have plenty of weapons on offense, and rank in the top 10 in scoring, total yards and rushing yards, so if Seattle is going to put together a better performance on offense, stopping big plays would be a great place to start.

"Collectively we got to continue to help them, help our guys with coaching those small details better of what we have to do schematically to be better so those things don't happen, helping those guys understand," said defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt. "Obviously execute better. It goes all the way around for those things to get fixed. Explosive plays obviously have been a big talking point for us. It's been that way. It's unfortunate those happened. We just continue to work to make the corrections collectively in the meeting room."

4. Can the Seahawks offense take advantage of opportunities on third down?

Third down has been a problem for Seattle's offense for much of this season, with the Seahawks converting at a 33.3 percent rate, which ranks 27th in the NFL. There have been good moments, including a season-best 9 for 14 performance two weeks ago in Dallas, but overall one of the biggest problems Seattle has had on offense is just staying on the field long enough.

"A week ago we did it," Carroll said, referencing the Dallas game. "It's going to be the factor in our success on offense. It's going to be a factor for sure. We've got to get around 50 percent of those things. It could mean two more plays a game, two more conversions a game, three more. That's what you're talking about. Two or three plays a game that make the difference in those numbers. It just seems like when you're hitting around 50 (percent), the ball is really going, and we're moving, and things are happening. That's what we're shooting for."

If ever there were a game for the Seahawks to get back on track on third down, it might be this one. While the Eagles boast plenty of talent on defense, particularly up front, they have had a hard time getting third down stops, allowing a league-worst 48.1 percent conversion rate. It has been an even bigger struggle of late for Philadelphia, which has allowed opponents to convert at a 61.2 percent mark in the last three games.

5. Do the Seahawks have an answer for one of the NFL's most automatic plays.

Call it the Tush Push, call it the Brotherly Shove, whatever you call the Eagles' short-yardage play, which resembles a rugby scrum more than a traditional football play, Philadelphia's version of a quarterback sneak has been nearly unstoppable the past two seasons.

After the Eagles began using the play regularly last year, turning third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 plays into near gimmes, other teams have tried to incorporate their own version of the play this season, and none have made it look nearly as automatic as the Eagles.

"When I first realized how dominant of a play it was a year ago, I went right into the mode of, 'This could change the game.' This play could change the game," Carroll said. "They've pretty much owned this thing, they've done a great job with it and have a 90% conversion when they do it, and almost unstoppable. It's something to be challenged though, because it's a different phase of the game. It doesn't mean that it's wrong, it's just new, it's just innovative and all of that. They've done a great job to get that done, and they've crossed over to the world of rugby. It's a cool compliment to that beautiful game as well, but we're in it. We've got to compete with it and try to figure it out."

The Seahawks will spend extra time trying to figure out how to defend the Eagles' short-yardage specialty, but as linebacker Bobby Wagner noted this week, the best solution is to keep them out of situations where they can use the play.

"I think we've practiced it a lot just because the teams over the years saw how successful it's been, so you saw other teams try to do it, but nobody has been able to do it as well as they do it," Wagner said. "You're mindful of it, but they're not doing the tush-push on first-and-10 or second-and-nine or third-and-nine. They're doing it in third-and-one, second-and-one, short yardages. You just have to make sure you get them out of those positions."

The Seahawks and Eagles face off on Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. Kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Eagles.

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