Statements get made, stands are taken.
The Seattle Seahawks are going to do both on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Beating the team that has the best record in the league would certainly make a statement. More than that, it would show that the Seahawks are not just ready, but capable of making one of the December runs that has defined this team under coach Pete Carroll.
It’s what happened in 2012 when a Seattle team that was 6-5 after 11 games closed the season with five straight wins, scoring 150 points in a single three-game span. It happened again in 2014 when the Seahawks won their final six regular-season games, giving up seven points or fewer in the final five games to go from a 6-4 team that was in distinct danger of missing the playoffs to finishing 12-4 with the top seed in the NFC playoffs.
Philadelphia is a whole different cut of meat, though. The Eagles have won eight straight games. They’ve scored the most points of any team in the league and they’ve allowed the third-fewest. They’ve got a defense that has allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league and is tied for the sixth-most sacks.
They look an awful lot like the team the Seahawks were back in 2013 when they had a second-year quarterback and were running roughshod over the rest of the league. Seattle won 10 of its first 11 games that season just as the Eagles have this year behind quarterback Carson Wentz.
That’s what makes Sunday’s game so exciting. On one side there is an Eagles team that is atop the conference and has a chance to clinch the division title with a victory. But of Philadelphia’s 10 wins, a road victory against Carolina is the only one over a team that currently holds a winning record. This game isn’t a gut check for Philadelphia so much as a test of the Eagles’ bona fides. Are the Eagles a top-tier Super Bowl contender or a team that’s happened to win a lot of regular-season games against mediocre opponents?
For Seattle, it’s different. This won’t be a test to see if the Seahawks are ready so much as an indication of whether they’re still capable and a victory over Philadelphia would make a statement that the Seahawks are going to take a last stand.
The Seahawks win if … they score a touchdown on their opening possession. That’s something that hasn’t happened in any of Seattle’s past 24 regular-season games. Philadelphia scores an average of 7 points in the first quarter, most of any team in the league. The Seahawks averaged less than half of that, ranking 20th in the league in first-quarter points. But Seattle ranks No. 1 in fourth-quarter points. The key for the Seahawks will be to keep the Eagles from running away with the game early, and against the league’s highest-scoring team, the best defense is going to be a capable offense.
The Eagles win if … they take the ball away from Seattle. Philadelphia has lost just once this season. That was against Kansas City in Week 3. It was also the only game in which the Eagles did not force a turnover. The Seahawks don’t have to be perfect on offense to win this game. They can’t give the ball away, though.
Prediction: Seahawks 31, Eagles 27.