Don’t count the hungry Eagles out against Seattle

On Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles travel across the country to face the heavily-favored Seattle Seahawks. But, one of the Seahawks’ weakest points, their offensive line, could create the perfect storm if The Eagles front-seven dominate.

In 2016’s Pro Football Focus’ preseason rankings, the Seahawks offensive line ranked dead last in the NFL. This could create chances for an opportunistic Eagles defensive front. A good point of reference is Week 9 when the Seahawks hosted the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. Seahawks Offensive Line Coach Tom Cable stated that of the 10 run plays that were called, seven included mistakes. Like the Eagles, many fans and analysts didn’t expect the Bills to compete. However, Buffalo dominated Seattle’s offensive line in the running game. The Seahawks rushed for 33 yards on 12 carries for a 2.8 average per rush. With Bennie Logan back, the Eagles’ defensive front is back to where it was before they defeated the Minnesota Vikings.

Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz will need all the help he can get Sunday. The Seahawks secondary is anchored by three All-Pros—Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Richard Sherman. The Eagles will need to establish the running game so they can win the time-of-possession battle and dictate the pace of the game.

How can Philly compete?

The Seahawks, per Football Outsiders, currently rank 23rd in the NFL in rushing offense. Until C.J. Prosise’s explosion on Sunday night, the Seahawks had endured crippling injuries to Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael. Meanwhile, the Eagles rank first in the NFL in defense DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). If looking for further explanation, check here. Essentially, the Eagles have quietly become one of the NFL’s best defenses. And, Seattle’s leading rusher to date, Michael, who is 19th in the NFL with 469 rushing yards was waived Tuesday. The combination of Prosise’s performance Sunday and Rawls’ return from injury inclined the Seahawks to make the move. Yet, Cable’s comments from the Bills game still resonate.

The Seahawks were able to average 3.7 yards per rush for 976 yards against the New England Patriots. But, the Patriots rush defense is ranked 14th in the NFL as they average allowing 101 yards rushing per game. Their recent trade of Jamie Collins may have granted them a pick for a player they likely wouldn’t have re-signed, but Collins’ absence has left a void in the Patriots defense that the Seahawks took advantage of. That being the case, The Eagles defensive front is healthier and has been far more productive than the Patriots’. Brandan Graham has quietly become one of the most disruptive defensive ends in the NFL and has five sacks.

What does it all mean?

Consider how the Eagles made Matt Ryan uncomfortable and created more third and long situations than it did third and short ones. This is often the difference between winning and losing. Third down conversions often dictate the outcome of the game. With Graham, Logan, Fletcher Cox and Connor Barwin attacking a Seahawks line that has been suspect to this point in the season, the Eagles may be able to make Russell Wilson uncomfortable. The problem is that Wilson is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the NFL and tends to play his best when he roams behind the line of scrimmage with his feet, allotting time for his receivers to get open. However, Jim Schwartz rotates his defensive front as much as anyone and, because of this, the Eagles have seen players like Marcus Smith, Vinny Curry and Beau Allen make key contributions throughout the season.

On Sunday, the Eagles head to one of the most hostile environments in the NFL. But if their offensive and defensive lines can influence the game, the Eagles could legitimately compete. Often teams are vulnerable after big wins in primetime, and the Seahawks could be susceptible to a loss after their grueling cross-country trip to Foxborough in Week 10.

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