PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 25: Running back LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on September 25, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
If the Eagles plan to make a miraculous swing past the Giants and Cowboys to make the playoffs, they'll need to make drastic improvements right away, as the similarly battling Seahawks host the club's Week 13 matchup on Thursday night.
After seemingly restoring hope for a late-season turnaround, the Eagles turned in a sloppy performance against the Patriots in Week 12, dropping the team to 4-7 after 11 games. The passion Philadelphia had against the rival Giants a week earlier seemed to disappear, and while New England was expected to pose a challenge from the start, Tom Brady and the Pats were practically flawless against a clearly unprepared Eagles team. Back at the bottom of the NFC East division, the Eagles somehow still have a shot at rebounding, but if they plan to make a miraculous swing past the Giants and Cowboys to make the playoffs, they'll need to make drastic improvements right away, as the similarly battling Seahawks host the club's Week 13 matchup on Thursday night.
Seattle hasn't been much better than the disappointing Eagles this year, but dealing with a short week of preparation and flight to CenturyLink Field after a crushing loss to New England likely won't be easy. The Seahawks have recently found success on the ground with Marshawn Lynch, but their passing game and offensive line have been erratic for much of the season. Starting signal-caller Tarvaris Jackson, who was acquired in free agency this year, has flashed his athletic ability at times, but thrown more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (9), though his receiving corps hasn't been too much of a help, either, whether due to injuries or poor performances. Seattle's defense has also been part of the team's problem, ranking in the bottom half of the league in terms of total yards and points allowed.
In a battle of underperforming NFC franchises, the Eagles will look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, and while that's been said for the last few weeks, a loss against Seattle would almost certainly prevent the Birds from making the postseason. With eight losses, the Eagles would need an immense amount of help from their rivals and also win the remaining four games on their schedule, which would hardly be a simple task if the team's unable to top the Seahawks. The game might not be a thriller, but it could have serious playoff implications, as Seattle also finds itself competing for one of the conference's Wild Card spots. Perhaps more importantly for the Eagles, the nighttime showdown could allow the players and coaches to prove they're better than they've appeared in this rocky season.
As Week 13's Eagles-Seahawks game approaches, here are a few key questions and players to watch:
Eagles-Seahawks Key Questions:
- Can Vince Young maintain consistency at the head of the Eagles offense? It's looking like Michael VIck will be absent from the starting lineup for a third consecutive game. If this week's matchup were on Sunday, the veteran might have been able to suit up after missing the last two games because of broken ribs, but Vick hasn't taken a single practice rep in two weeks, leading to a strong belief that Young, a former starter for the Titans, will get the call against Seattle. As the leading QB vs. New York in Week 11, he stood out in the fourth quarter and delivered a victory, but his 400-yard effort against New England wasn't without its noticeable mistakes. Posting a consistent performance could be key for Young if he ends up starting against Seattle.
- Will the Eagles' coaching staff take advantage of LeSean McCoy vs. Seattle? As odd as it sounds, the coaching staff has been hesitant to hand the ball to McCoy in recent weeks. The league's leading rusher with over 1,000 yards through just 12 games, the former second-round draft pick has arguably been the offensive centerpiece since taking over as a full-time starter, but has been limited in carries as of late. For whatever reason, McCoy received just six first-half touches against the Patriots when the Eagles had the lead, prompting criticism of the offensive play-calling. Getting McCoy the ball and taking advantage of his abilities could be key for the Eagles against the Seahawks' defense.
- Can the Eagles overcome a short week of practice and a lineup devoid of several starters? One of the less-discussed factors that could affect the Eagles against Seattle is the team's limited preparation time. Letting alone Philadelphia's demoralizing blowout loss to the Patriots on Sunday afternoon, the team has still had just three days to get ready for an away matchup with the Seahawks, who have historically been tough hosts due to their location and home-benefiting stadium. The Eagles will also likely be without the services of Michael Vick, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie due to various injuries.
- WR DeSean Jackson: With Maclin likely out another week, Jackson will need to step up on offense for Young.
- WR Riley Cooper: Likely to see a lot of time with Maclin out, Cooper will have a chance to follow up a solid outing vs. New England in Week 12.
- DE Jason Babin: A former Seahawk himself, Babin could be the key to giving the Eagles' defense pressure.
- MLB Jamar Chaney: Against Marshawn Lynch, Chaney could be the Eagles' most important run defender.