Injury-ridden Philadelphia Eagles still can exploit the Seattle Seahawks

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Despite a bevy of injuries, the Philadelphia Eagles can still exploit the Seattle Seahawks in several key areas in their Wild Card Sunday matchup.

Here they are; for the third consecutive season, the Philadelphia Eagles are in the playoffs vying with 11 other franchises for football glory. This season, however, the Birds path to the postseason has been unlike any other.

Dog masks, Meek Mill verses and “double-doinks” aside, the spark that Greg Ward Jr., Boston Scott and (of course) Carson Wentz continued to ignite into a seemingly crumbling Eagles offense has been both inspiring and unexpected as ever.

However, the playoffs are just different. The Eagles will have to turn the page from competing against below-average NFC East squads to facing off against a Seattle Seahawks team that was inches away from winning arguably the toughest division in football.

This currently constructed Eagles team has a few ways it can exploit the Seahawks this weekend, and thus do what was unthinkable a month ago: win a playoff game.

Control the clock

When January and February football rolls around, game intensity rises to another level. It seems as if each play matters a little more than usual, and by extension, points are a little harder to come by.

Fewer points lead to a greater emphasis on long, arduous drives. If the Eagles are going to knock off the Seahawks, they will need to keep MVP candidate Russell Wilson off of the field.

The Eagles have the exact formula to do so.

This season, Philly finished the regular season fourth in the NFL in total first downs with 354. Conversely, the Seattle defense finished the season 26th in total first downs allowed with 346.

There are many reasons why the Eagles could have so many first downs this season, including the absence of their primary deep threat DeSean Jackson. Less big plays mean more long drives with several first downs.

If the Eagles can utilize their strengths at running back and tight end to orchestrate long drives and keep Wilson off of the field, Philly has a great chance of advancing to the divisional round.

How Philadelphia Eagles can move the ball

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There are a few statistical weaknesses the Eagles can target in order to rack up first downs and move the ball against Seattle.

The Seahawks defense finished the regular season with the fifth most YAC allowed in the NFL.

Because the offensive personnel of Philly is built to utilize the short passing game, YAC is paramount. It’s possible the Eagles will run several pass plays that began completed inside the first down line, with extra chunks of yardage needed to move the chains.

In addition, the Eagles backfield is stocked with two shifty running backs in Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. The two could feast Sunday, as the Seahawks defense ended the year with 131 missed tackles: the fourth-most in the NFL.

If Sanders or Scott can get in open space, YAC and missed tackles could turn short screens and swing passes into game-breaking plays.

Sanders and Scott aren’t just shifty: they are riding hot streaks.

Per the Eagles website, Sanders now holds the Eagles record for most rushing yards (818), yards from scrimmage (1,327) and all-purpose yards (1,641) by an Eagles rookie all-time.

Meanwhile, Scott is fresh off a three-touchdown performance in the Eagles’ Week 17 win over the New York Giants, earning him NFC offensive player of the week honors.

The grass isn’t always greener

Some may think a 9-7 record heading into the playoffs is less to be desired. However, football is all about matchups and catching fire at the right time. Seattle’s current situation isn’t the most desirable either.

While the Eagles closed the regular season on a four-game winning streak (albeit all against the NFC East), the Seahawks closed their season losing three out of their last four games, including a heartbreaking loss by inches against the San Francisco 49ers.

In addition, the Seahawks have lost more than just games, they have also lost players to injury.

Notably, running backs C.J. Prosise and Chris Carson were both placed on IR late in the season, opening the door for veteran running back Marshawn Lynch to return as aid for the Seattle backfield.

A battered running attack is just what the doctor ordered for Philly; the Eagles have allowed the third-fewest total rushing yards in the NFL this season.

Not only did Seattle struggle to close the 2019 regular season, but their recent playoff history is worth considering.

Since their infamous loss in Super Bowl XLIX to the Patriots, the Seahawks are 2-3 in the playoffs, with the two wins coming on an improbable missed field goal against the Minnesota Vikings and over a Detroit Lions franchise that has had its fair share of postseason demons.

Plus, Seattle has lost its last three road playoff games.

The Philadelphia Eagles path to the postseason has been largely imperfect, with several bad losses in the regular season. However, these Seahawks aren’t flying to Philly without obstacles of their own.

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This sets up for an enthralling 4:40 PM Battle of the Birds Sunday afternoon.