Football fans if you remember the movie Rocky IV where Rocky Balboa went over to Russia to fight Ivan Drago, get ready for a trip down memory lane Sunday night at CenturyLink Field. The Seattle Seahawks (7-4) and the Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) are both having seasons like that movie right now. Seattle is a rare underdog at home and they are like Rocky as the Seahawks are the wounded animal trying to avoid a two-game deficit in the NFC West. Philadelphia, is like Drago right now as the Eagles have won nine straight games and are firing on all cylinders as a football team. These two teams met last season in November with the Seahawks defeating the Eagles 26-15 in Seattle.
The Seahawks slept-walked their way to a 24-13 win over San Francisco last Sunday down at Levi’s Stadium. Russell Wilson was efficient in the passing game, completing 20 of 34 attempts for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Eddie Lacy ran for 46 yards on 13 carries to lead a running attack that generated 90 yards on the ground. On the defensive side of the ball, things went pretty smoothly as the 49ers were never really a threat to score more than 20 points against Seattle. Carlos Hyde was held in check as he finished with just 47 rushing yards on 16 carries. Overall, the defense should at least have a little bit of confidence heading into this showdown against Philadelphia.
It has been a tremendous run for the Eagles since losing in Week 2 at Kansas City. Last week, Philadelphia annihilated Chicago 31-3 in a game that was not even that close. Carson Wentz continued his MVP-caliber season by completing 23 of 36 passes for 227 yards and three more touchdown passes. LeGarrette Blount led a punishing running attack with 97 yards. It’s the balance of this offense which makes them tough to consistently stop. Defensively, the Eagles limited the Bears to 140 total yards of offense.
Philadelphia at Seattle
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 3 at 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel NBC
Spread: Philadelphia -6.0
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' defense vs. Carson Wentz
This is going to be a fun battle as the front seven of the Seahawks is going to come out and play inspired football on the prime-time stage as an underdog. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are going to be extremely important factors on Sunday night. If they can keep Wentz in the pocket and not let him get out on the edge with rollout passes to Zach Ertz and the rest of their playmakers, that should help Seattle's cause. Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson also are going to need to win at the point of attack to Wentz uncomfortable in order to have a chance of slowing him down. Wentz leads the NFL with 28 touchdown passes and has thrown at least two in every game but two. He's also fared very well when teams have blitzed him, as his mobility in the pocket and athleticism (253 rushing yards, 4.6 ypc) allow him to extend plays similar to his counterpart on Sunday night, Russell Wilson.
2. Seattle passing game vs. Eagles' secondary
For the Seahawks, their wide receivers have to find a way to get separation against cornerback Ronald Darby, and the rest of the Philadelphia defensive backs and linebackers. Doug Baldwin has been able to break off some big catches in recent weeks and he will need to find a way to get one or two of those in the first quarter. It will be huge for Seattle to hit on some explosive plays as it will keep the rest of the Eagles' defense honest. Bottom line, you know that Philadelphia is not going to respect the running game of the Seahawks. Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson need to complement Baldwin in the passing game, as offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is going to spread the field whenever he can.
3. Philadelphia running game
One great way to take the 12s out of the game and negate the crowd noise at CenturyLink Field is to control the line of scrimmage by running the ball effectively (and causing havoc at the point of attack on the other side). The Eagles enter this game second in the NFL in rushing offense (147.5 ypg), behind only Jacksonville. They are averaging 4.6 yards per carry and should be primed and ready to attack Seattle early on Sunday night. The Seahawks need to make a stand early to try and take LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi out of the game plan, but also need to be wary of Wentz moving the chains with his legs. If Seattle can make Philadelphia more one-dimensional it will improve the home team's chances of slowing down the league's top-scoring (31.9 ppg) offense.
This should be a fiercely contested game as the Seahawks still have a lot of pride and are only a game behind the Rams in the NFC West race. As for Philadelphia, the Eagles have to keep the foot on the gas pedal as the Minnesota Vikings are right on their tails in the race for home-field advantage in the NFC. So, look for this game to have multiple swings of momentum just like the Rocky IV movie. However, unlike Hollywood, where Rocky won the fight, the Eagles will be the villain like Drago and win a close game to move on to 11-1 on the season. On the other hand, the Seahawks will really have their backs against the wall entering the final four games of the regular season.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Seahawks 24
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.