Week 13 is when the season really begins for the 10-1 Eagles. Leading the NFL in wins and expectations too, Philly will finally face a pair of playoff contenders in back to back weeks in the Seahawks and Rams. How Philly plays on the road against these teams will define whether they are truly a Super Bowl front-runner or just an um-and-coming wannabe.
Here are three things to watch for Sunday Night when things kick off at 8:30 p.m. on NBC:
Clean things up
In their dominating 31-3 win against the Bears last week, a few things were overshadowed by the victorious performance of the team as a whole. Most important of these is four fumbles and 11 penalties in the game. Obviously they weren’t costly in the standings as Philly won handily. But in a place like Seattle, turnovers and penalties could be a death sentence.
“I wanted to make sure that they understood not only the positive that came out of this past game and these past few weeks,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “As we go down the stretch, and we get into these playoff-type atmosphere football games, particularly this week on the road, that we have to take care of the football. You can’t fumble it four times and give it up three. Penalties at this stadium are going to hurt you. It hurt us last year. We can’t do it.
Strike the Seahawks
Just like in recent weeks against the Cowboys (no Sean Lee or Ezekiel Elliott), Cardinals (No Carson Palmer or David Johnson) and other teams, the Birds will get quite the break against the typically intimidating Seahawks defense. The Legion of Doom will be without Richard Sherman and Cam Chancellor in their secondary, offering an opportunity for Carson Wentz to attack through the air much more aggressively than he otherwise would. However, Seattle does still have Earl Thomas at safety to contend with.
“You really have to be aware of where he’s at and where he lines up,” Pederson said. “Carson has to do a great job with his eyes this week, but that guy has taken over that leadership role with Richard out and Kam out.”
Wild out west?
The Eagles, if they aren’t Thursday night (with a Cowboys loss) can become NFC East champions by beating the Seahawks. But more than that, the next two games against Seattle and Los Angeles will give Philly it’s first playoff-like test against two likely playoff teams. There is a lot to get distracted by — be it scoreboard watching or spending nine days on the west coast between games. Philly has to stay on task.
“We’ll take care of next week next week,” the coach said. “I have addressed with the team that we’re staying out there and all that kind of stuff, but it’s my job to make sure that they stay focused on Seattle and we’ve got to take care of business against a good football team, and keep it simple that way.”