PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Somehow, someway the Eagles find themselves not only in the playoffs, but hosting a wild card game. The 9-7 Birds welcome the 11-5 Seahawks to town again.
Seattle grounded the Eagles, 17-9, in Week 12. Since then the Birds rattled off four straight wins — thanks to brilliant play from Carson Wentz and an upstart group of unheralded players — to win the NFC East.READ MORE: Suspect In Allentown Shooting Found Dead In New York City, Police Say
However, the Seahawks are not the 4-12 Giants, the 3-11 Redskins or even the 8-8 Cowboys.
Can the Eagles continue their run against Seattle? Our football experts give their predictions.
This will be Carson Wentz’s first-career playoff game. Considering how well he has played the last month, do you have any concerns about him performing in the playoffs?
Sports Director Don Bell: Absolutely. Wentz was amazing in December with 1,509 yards, 10 touchdowns and one pick (on a Hail Mary). He was steady during their four-game winning streak, but playoff football has a different rhythm to it.
After watching Nick Foles during back-to-back postseason runs, can Wentz keep his adrenaline in check during the early stages of the game? In his first 10 pass attempts in games this season, Wentz is completing just 60% of his passes with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Deep breaths, bro.
Sports Reporter Lesley Van Arsdall: No concerns about Carson playing under the spotlight in the biggest game of his career — he’s proven he can handle the pressure. Ball security is still the one area I’m worried about. He’s been better lately, but Carson cannot afford to relapse into his earlier season turnover troubles.
Reporter Pat Gallen: Slight concern. Any time it’s your first playoff game, there will be jitters — hell, there SHOULD be. It’s the biggest game he’s been a part of. Obviously, it helps that he’s played in some games recently that have had a playoff feel with the Eagles’ backs against the wall. And Carson has performed well in those games.
Hopefully, he looks at it this way — you’re playing with house money. The Eagles should not be where they are. Play like you have nothing to lose! If Carson and company do that, I think they can get a win.
Reporter Dan Koob: Nope, Carson has proven over the last month he’s locked in even with an entirely different supporting cast. Seattle’s defense shouldn’t scare you. Carson will be greeted by an injured, West Coast team traveling across country. What more can you ask for?
Sports Producer Andy Wheeler: I really don’t at this point. He’s been playing great and doing it with practice squad guys. I’m totally comfortable with him, his future and all of it. Getting Wentz some playoff experience is a fantastic way to advance his experience and there is absolutely no downside. If he plays poorly, it gives him something to work on. If he plays great, it builds his confidence. I think he’ll continue to do very well.
Boston Scott stepped up with three huge touchdowns in the Birds’ division-clinching win over the Giants. Given all the Eagles’ injuries, who has to step up this week vs. the Seahawks?
Bell: The easy answer is Wentz, but we’re not here to do easy. So I’m going with the offensive line. Brandon Brooks is the highest-paid guard in NFL history and he’s out with a season-ending shoulder injury. A high ankle sprain has kept right tackle Lane Johnson out since Week 14 and his status is in doubt. So right guard Matt Pryor and right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai could be forced into action once again. Keep in mind, Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney missed the first meeting and could fight through a core injury to create problems for the Birds.
Van Arsdall: The offensive line. They’re still dealing with injuries and have risen to the occasion lately, but protecting Carson Wentz will be key on Sunday. The Seattle defense will look to rattle Wentz early and often. The battle up front will be one to watch on Sunday.
Gallen: Probably Boston Scott again. It’s difficult leaning on multiple players who were recently on the practice squad just a few weeks ago, but they have no choice. If Miles Sanders is limited or out, then it’s Scott who has to have a big day. They have no one else.READ MORE: Second Person, Jonathan Martinez, Dies After Feb. 26 Whitehall Township Walmart Parking Lot Double Shooting
Koob: Matt Pryor. The Birds need either Miles Sanders, Zach Ertz or Lane Johnson to be available but they just can’t sustain any more injuries. Pryor stepped in after Brandon Brooks went out and played really well and helped solidify the interior of that line. The depth has been tested — and passed — but at some point, the dam will break if the cart keeps coming out.
Wheeler: Everyone. One of the things that stands out the last few weeks is that everyone is pulling in the same direction. Everyone is doing whatever they have to do to get a positive result. As we’ve seen before, everyone being on the same page is the only way to win it all. So EVERYONE has to step up to get it done.
Russell Wilson is 4-0 in his career against the Eagles, including a 17-9 win at the Linc in Week 12. What do the Birds have to do defensively to tame Wilson?
Bell: They have to employ a disciplined pass rush by keeping contain on the edges and with the defensive tackles staying in their lanes and in front of Wilson. Yup, easier said than done. But that’s the game plan. Oh, and their corners have to cover two to three seconds longer than usual. Piece of cake. #sarcasm.
Van Arsdall: Taming Wilson may be almost impossible. But, IF you can force him to make mistakes, that could be key. Wilson has only thrown five interceptions all year. A big day for the defensive secondary would be a huge step in a winning direction. A bad day by the secondary could be disastrous.
Gallen: To tame Wilson, the secondary has to play one of its best games of the year, similar to what they did in Week 12 when these teams went head-to-head. Russ will get out of the pocket on occasion and he will make you pay more often than not. Limiting big hits on broken plays is a big key for the Eagles, and that all comes back to the coverage. They’ll probably spy on Wilson most of the time, but keep an eye on him when he’s flushed and rolling.
Koob: The Eagles did a great job against Wilson six weeks ago. Seattle basically won the game on a flea-flicker and a missed assignment on a long Rashaad Penny touchdown. Keep him in the pocket, limit the number of extended plays.
Wheeler: The Seahawks’ running game is suspect at this point, but to give themselves a chance, the Eagles have to keep Wilson in the pocket. They can’t let him run around or he will burn them at some point. Keep him in the pocket, take away the big play and they just may have a chance.
Bell: If you take a closer look at the Eagles’ eight-point loss to the Seahawks, you’ll notice they should have lost by 20. There were some uncharacteristic drops by DK Metcalf and Seattle’s receivers. Russ also missed a wide-open target in the end zone. However, both teams are different since November. The Hawks have lost three of four while the Birds have won four straight. Mojo matters. The Eagles win 23-20.
Van Arsdall: Eagles squeak by with a 27-24 win.
Gallen: Deep breaths, Eagles fans. Eagles win 21-20.
Koob: The Eagles will win this game. The Seahawks’ identity hasn’t changed with season-ending injuries to running backs Penny and Chris Carson. Wilson is incredible, yes, but the Hawks are still the third-heaviest run team in the NFL and have lost three out of four coming in, including a terrible loss to Arizona. They are who they are.
Eagles 26, Seahawks 23
I’ll take it a step further. I think the Green Bay Packers are frauds. If the Eagles win and somehow end up going up to Lambeau Field in the divisional round, the Eagles will beat them, too.MORE NEWS: What Flyers Fans Can Expect Sunday When Wells Fargo Center Welcomes Fans Back After Nearly A Year
Wheeler: A win. Eagles win by 10. Call it 20-10.