NFC Wild Card Matchup:
Seattle Seahawks (13-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
Sunday, January 5, 01:40 PM PST (NBC)
The Seattle Seahawks came literally within inches of staying home for this weekend. But considering the cliché that this is a game of inches, the Clinch by an Inch sent the Seahawks over to Philly. The Eagles, similarly, clinched a playoff appearance in the last week of the season. These two NFC Wild Card teams face off in a game that could go either way. How do the Seahawks win? The Eagles? Let’s see the keys to victory for both squads on Sunday. If you want to know how I think this will play out, check out our Wild Card Round predictions article.
How the Seattle Seahawks Win
Important Player: Travis Homer
The Seattle Seahawks, like the rest of the NFC West, love to Establish the Run. Only the 49ers and the Ravens rushed the ball this season more times than the Seahawks. It’s the heart and soul of their offense. That, and Russell Wilson BS. Now, the Seahawks have the shell of the player formerly known as Marshawn Lynch, and Travis Homer to carry that load (pun intended). Homer played exceptionally well for the Seahawks in week seventeen, and if Pete Carroll didn’t have brain worms, they would have won that one. The brain worms came in the form of giving Marshawn Lynch 12 carries when Lynch spent the last game in Oakland doing shots in the parking lot. Should Carroll get his brain right and give Homer a ton of carries, the Seahawks can come home with a victory. You know, the thing he didn’t do last week that put them in this position.
Important Position Group: Wide Receiver
The Seahawks want to run the offense through the running game, but that means going through Travis Homer and 2019 Marshawn Lynch. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will mean the difference between a win and a loss for the Seahawks. Throughout the season, Lockett led the two in targets, but he hasn’t been the same since his scary injury against the 49ers. Now, it’s rookie D.K. Metcalf’s turn. He turned 12 targets into 6 catches for 81 yards and a score last week against the 49ers. Lockett chipped in 6 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown last week, as well. The Eagles have a dreadful secondary, so this is a matchup to exploit for Wilson.
Important Statistic: Interceptions
Carson Wentz threw multiple interceptions in two games this season. The Eagles lost both games. I only took one math class in college, and the teacher was so bad he told us to just do our best on the finals. But even I know the math on this one. Two interceptions from the Seahawks already made the difference in this matchup back in November.
How the Philadelphia Eagles Win
Important Player: Carson Wentz
Here are three facts that are all true. First, the Eagles drafted Carson Wentz to start at quarterback for them four years ago. Second, the Eagles made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons (and won a Super Bowl). Third, this is Carson Wentz’s first playoff game. Wentz dragged the Philadelphia offense to the playoffs, throwing for over 300 yards and two scores a contest in the last five games of the season. He did this while throwing to guys like Deontay Burnett, Derek Morgan, and Greg Ward. The middle guy is actually Shemar Moore’s character on Criminal Minds, but you probably just nodded right along with that sentence, which underlines the decimation of the Eagles’ receiving corps.
Important Position Group: Tight Ends
Zach Ertz spent all week nursing two ailments. His cracked ribs aren’t so bad, but his lacerated kidney garners concern. Especially if you don’t have fava beans and a nice chianti. Either way, Ertz is padded up and will make a go of it. One misplaced Seattle tackle could still end his day, and if it does, then it’s Dallas Goedert time. The duo garnered an insane 222 targets this season. That also represents over 36% of Carson Wentz’s targets, far more than any other tight end duo in the league. The Seahawks cannot defend tight ends in the slightest. Seattle allowed the second-most TE catches per game this season, and on a catch rate in the 70s. It’s bleak, and the Seahawks’ inability to defend tight ends is key to a potential Eagles victory.
Important Statistic: Explosive Plays Allowed
Only the Raiders allowed more 40+ yard passing plays than the Eagles this season. While the Raiders allowed one per contest, the Eagles nipped at their heels, allowing 15 such plays in 16 games. The Eagles also ranked in the top third of the league in 20+ and 40+ yard rushing. Overall, the Philly defense gives up big plays between mostly stifling defense. Their 4.1 yards per carry allowed is among the lowest in the league, and their yards per target is in the bottom half of the league. They stop the short plays but long shots leave them vulnerable.