The Wildcard Weekend finale is set for today as the (9-7) NFC East winning Philadelphia Eagles take on the (11-5) Seattle Seahawks (4:40 PM ET Sunday on NBC).
One of them will advance to the divisional round where a meeting with the winner of the New Orleans Saints/Minnesota Vikings game awaits.
Winning the Division Matters
It looks like the NFL saved the best . . . well, maybe not the best. Winners of the NFC East, the Eagles enter the postseason as the least impressive division winner this side of the New England Patriots, who lost their wildcard weekend opener on Saturday. As a whole, the East was the NFL’s worst division in years, producing just one team over .500. That would be the Eagles, who by nature of winning the division find themselves the host of this Sunday’s game. It sounds pretty unfair that the nine-win team is hosting the 11-win one but if anyone knows what it feels like to be in the Eagles’ position, it would be the Seahawks.
In 2010, the first season for the Seahawks under former USC coach Pete Carroll, Seattle won just seven games. But as it would turn out that year, seven wins was enough to lead the Seahawks to an NFC West title. Much like the Eagles on Sunday, this meant that Seattle hosted a playoff game, doing so against a Saints team that had four more wins than the Seahawks did on the regular season.
New Orleans also happened to be the defending Super Bowl champions. Despite the odds being stacked against them, Seattle, at home, defeated New Orleans by a final of 41-36. It was an improbable outcome and one that likely wouldn’t have been possible had the Seahawks been on the road.
Moral of the story, winning your division matters because it guarantees you a home playoff game. In the postseason, home field advantage can never be understated.
War of Attrition
Ah injuries. It’s an unfortunate reality of a 16-game NFL season. You’re going to get banged up by the time the playoffs arrive. It happens to every team. For both the Eagles and Seahawks, that attrition has been taken to an entire new level.
In week 17 of the NFL season, the Eagles and Seahawks combined to start 16 players who hadn’t been on the week one roster. This included third stringers, practice squad players and guys signed to replace those third string guys who also got injured (here’s looking at you Seattle running game). If all 16 miss the playoffs as well, it will be the most combined week one starters to miss the postseason since 1970.
On Saturday, the full and final injury reports were released. Still out for the Eagles is Nelson Agholor, who hasn’t played in several weeks with a knee injury. Prior to his absence, on the depth chart, Agholor was the top wide receiver as both DeSean Jackson (week 2) and Alshon Jeffrey (week 10) have been out for some time.
Also on the IR for the Eagles are right guard Brandon Brooks, defensive tackles Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, offensive tackle Jordan Mailata, defensive end Joe Ostman, running backs Darren Sproles and Corey Clement and cornerback Ronald Darby. Also out for the Eagles on Sunday is offensive lineman and top Carson Wentz protector, Lane Johnson, whose absence will certainly be felt. One man who will play for Philadelphia on Sunday is Zach Ertz, who somehow avoided being sent to the injured list despite bruised ribs, a bad back and reports of a lacerated kidney. Ertz is tough but he’ll certainly be watched closely to see just how many snaps he’ll play.
Out for Seattle are left tackle Duane Brown, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and wide receiver Malik Turner. They join running backs Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and CJ Prosise, wide receiver Josh Gordon, tight end Will Dissly, center Justin Britt, offensive lineman Ethan Pocic, defensive tackle Al Woods and safety Tedric Thompson, all of whom are on the IR or suspended list. Left guard Mike Iupati and wide receiver Jaron Brown are also questionable to play.
As a result of the injuries, which have pretty much plagued these two rosters, especially Philadelphia, from the beginning of the season, a bunch of no names have had a chance to play meaningful snaps in the NFL.
Replacing Agholor as the number one is Greg Ward, who is flanked in the receiving corps by JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Robert Davis and Deontay Burnett. It is okay to ask who, as even Eagles fans needed a crash course on this unlikely band of misfits.
For the Seahawks, the trio of backs being out is what hurts Seattle the most as when the Eagles and Seahawks met earlier this season, in a game where Seattle won 17-9, Penny burned Philadelphia for 129 yards and a touchdown. Carson had over 1,200 yards on the year and Prosise, as well, has hit Philadelphia for big gains in the past. The team will turn to their fourth back, the returning Marshawn Lynch. While Lynch’s name carries weight as most fans will remember just how good Beast Mode could be, he’s now 33 and has played just one game in the last year-and-a-half. How much gas is left in that tank remains to be seen. Seattle’s next man up is a sixth round rookie, Travis Horner, who played well in the season finale, but isn’t playoff tested.
Our Preview’s Seattle Seahawks vs Philadelphia Eagles Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
Much has changed since the last time these two teams met in week 12, but it has not been for the better. As the injuries have piled up, Seattle and Philly found themselves in dire straits. As the Seahawks went from potential top seed in the NFC to limping into the playoffs, the Eagles won four in a row, needing every last one of those wins just to reach the wildcard round. Albeit against inferior competition.
With the injuries affecting just about every position on the field, there is one that remains the same for Philadelphia and Seattle and it’s that position as well as coaching, that will determine which team advances to the divisional round. In week 12, Eagles QB Carson Wentz and Seahawks QB Russell Wilson played to about even. On Sunday, it will be the play of both men that makes the difference.
Wilson enters with a ton of postseason experience while Wentz, despite his team making the playoffs in three of his four seasons, will be making his postseason debut. Wentz has never shied away from the big stage but there is certainly some pressure on him as he’ll have his playoff debut in the same stadium where a statue of Nick Foles stands outside as a monument to the Eagles’ first and only Super Bowl victory. Wentz knows that, the city knows that. This is his time and entering wildcard weekend, he has looked slightly more the part than Wilson.
So now this preview comes to its Seattle Seahawks vs Philadelphia Eagles predictions for this final NFL playoffs game. If you are having a bet with one of our recommended list of top online U.S. sports betting sites, here are our picks:
- Today’s line is just one point in favor of the Seahawks and ‘pk’ (ie: no spread) with some bookies. 1pt is always a tough spread to bet if you are going with the favored team but in this case, we are putting our chips on the Eagles. Bet on Philly +1pt @ -110 with Bovada or BetOnline.
- As for the total points that could be scored, go over 45pts @ -110 with Bovada, 5Dimes, Intertops or BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.