Seahawks Insider Blog

Earl Thomas to play, Russell Wilson vs. Carson Wentz in Seahawks’ primetime showdown with Eagles

Earl Thomas’ holdout reached its 17th day with fines for skipping mandatory offseason and preseason practices now at $1,239.000.
Earl Thomas’ holdout reached its 17th day with fines for skipping mandatory offseason and preseason practices now at $1,239.000. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

SEATTLE Seattle’s rain has stopped on game day, and the forecast is for cool-but-dry weather for the soaring Philadelphia Eagles and Seahawks Sunday night at CenturyLink Field.

The Eagles (10-1) are going for their franchise-record 10th consecutive victory. The Seahawks (7-4) are going for a win that would U-turn their season that so far has been most notable for the losses of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril to season-ending injuries.

The Seahawks are hoping this game comes down to their best player against Philadelphia’s best. That’s what I wrote about in my game advance for Sunday’s News Tribune.

The Seahawks made a roster move on Saturday. They put reserve linebacker Josh Forrest on injured reserve. There was no corresponding move to replace him.

With Chancellor out for the year but not on injured reserve yet, the Seahawks essentially are not using two spots on their 53-man active roster.

Seattle has been hard up against the league’s salary-cap limit for weeks. That’s why the team waived future Hall of Fame pass rusher Dwight Freeney and replaced him with practice-squad wide receiver David Moore, to save a little more than $200,000 over the last month-plus of this season. Players on IR still get paid and count against the cap, so IR moves don’t clear cap space the Seahawks already don’t have to add sign more players.

Earl Thomas is listed as questionable but coach Pete Carroll said Friday his three-time All-Pro free safety “is fine” to start again Sunday. In fact, all the players the Seahawks listed as questionable are expected to play.

A Seahawks win would put them into the sixth position among the six seeds that will eventually qualify for the playoffs in the NFC. That’s because Atlanta (7-5) lost at home to Minnesota (10-2) Sunday.

SEAHAWKS GAMEDAY

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-1) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (7-4)

Sunday, 5:25 p.m., Century Link Field

Line: Eagles by 5½.

TV: Ch. 5 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM

The series: The Eagles have lost five of the last six meetings back to 2005. Three of those games were in Seattle, including Philadelphia’s only win in that span, 26-7 on Nov. 2, 2008. The Eagles lost at CenturyLink Field last season 26-15 in late November. Russell Wilson became the first Seahawks quarterback to catch a touchdown pass, on a trick play from Doug Baldwin, and the Eagles with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz had just 165 total yards through three quarters. The two Seahawks to whom Wentz threw interceptions that day, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, are out injured for the rest of this season.

SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY

Russell Wilson goes MVP on ‘em: As well as the Eagles are playing and as brilliant as Carson Wentz has been, the Seahawks believe their best player is better than Philadelphia’s best player. Russell Wilson has accounted for 86 percent of Seattle’s yards, leads it in rushing, The Seahawks have scored just one touchdown this week not accounted for by Wilson—way back in week four on a touchdown run by J.D. McKissic. Yet Wilson is going to have to be even more wondrous in escaping sacks and making playground plays—maybe the best he’s been—to beat a swarming Eagles defensive front that should enjoy a large advantage over Seattle’s offensive line.

Get to Wentz with four: To help their patchwork secondary the Seahawks have dropped seven into coverage often and relied more on their front four to get pressure on quarterbacks in the two games they’ve played without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. With rookie Shaquill Griffin back from a concussion to start again at right cornerback, look for Byron Maxwell to start at left cornerback instead of Jeremy Lane. The more Michael Bennett, Frank Clark and Sheldon Richardson can get through an Eagles offensive line that has three potential Pro Bowl selections, the more Griffin, Maxwell and fill-in strong safety Bradley McDougald can get help underneath in coverage, particularly against Eagles tight end and leading receiver Zach Ertz.

Start fast. For a change: Last week’s 24-6 game at lowly San Francisco was 7-6 into the third quarter. Philadelphia has beaten its last seven foes by an average of 21.3 points per game, and its point differential of plus-160 is one of the league’s five largest since 2010. The Eagles have outscored teams 78-18 in the first quarter. That’s twice as many points as Seattle has scored in the first period. The Eagles are not used to close games. Wentz hasn’t had to play in one on the road since his week two loss at Kansas City way back on Sept. 17. The Seahawks need a couple touchdowns in the first half to play this game their way, instead of Philadelphia’s.

The pick: Seahawks, 23-21. This is all on Wilson. He’s going to have to win this by himself. At the very end of an almost desperate Seahawks effort that may feel like a champion’s last stand, Seattle’s best player is better than Philadelphia’s best player.

PRIME NUMBERS

SEATTLE

No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year

3 Russell Wilson QB 5-11 215 sixth

If SEA pulls this off, he had the game of his season. If he has the game of his already-brilliant season, his MVP candidacy rockets.

30 Bradley McDougald SS 6-1 215 fifth

Chancellor’s sub has to cover, contain TE Zach Ertz so Earl Thomas can continue to play rover over the top.

7 Blair Walsh K 5-10 175 sixth

It may come down to him. That’s been a bad deal for SEA lately. Started 12-13 on field goals, has gone 6-11 since.

PHILADELPHIA

No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year

11 Carson Wentz QB 6-5 237 second

2016 2nd-overall pick’s been better faster than Eagles probably even planned. Not just a great arm. He can run, too.

86 Zach Ertz TE 6-5 249 fifth

10 catches, 103 yards last weekend for PHI’s leading receiver. SEA’s had issues in coverage vs TEs for years. And that was with Chancellor in there.

91 Fletcher Cox DT 6-4 298 sixth

Powerful. Potentially lethal to SEA’s iffy O-line. Often plays on left side, which means he will often be an issue for SEA rookie RG Ethan Pocic.

gregg.bell@thenewstribune.com; @gbellseattle

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