5 Key Matchups This Week

Warnest Contributor Andrew Pluta breaks down five key matchups for this Sunday's Eagles/Seahawks game. How will Brian Westbrook fair against the Seahawks linebackers? Can the Eagles secondary shut down Seattle's passing attack? And, can Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson keep the Seahawks run game in check? All of this and more inside...

Brian Westbrook vs. Seattle's Linebackers

While the Eagle's offense has struggled to find a rhythm week in and week out, Westbrook has played as well as any other back in the league and has carried the load more than ever. He currently ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards (901), and also leads the Eagles in receptions (62) and touchdowns (10). Westbrook should be able to find success against a Seattle defense that gives up 100.5 yards per game on the ground and has allowed 12 rushing touchdowns. Philadelphia is undefeated this season in games where Westbrook gains at least 100 yards rushing.

The Seahawk's defense features three playmaking linebackers in Lofa Tatupu, Julian Peterson, and LeRoy Hill, and they all have a knack for forcing turnovers. Tatupu leads the team in tackles with 79 and also has a sack, an interception and three forced fumbles. Hill is Seattle's second leading tackler with 64 stops so far, and he also has three forced fumbles, to go along with three sacks. Peterson, a three-time pro-bowler, is the veteran of the group and has recorded 55 tackles, along with eight sacks, four forced fumbles, and an interception.

Jon Runyan and William Thomas vs. Patrick Kerney and Darryl Tapp

Runyan and Thomas have both been fixtures on the Eagles offensive line for years and they are both still dominating tackles. Against the vaunted Patriots defense last week, Philadelphia's offense only allowed two sacks and the line gave Feely plenty of time to find open receivers. With McNabb still recovering from injuries, Runyan and Thomas will have to be prepared to play with Feely under center again and give him protection in the passing game.

With 35 total sacks so far this season, the Seahawk's defense ranks second in the league in that category, and much of the credit can go to Kerney and Tapp. Signed by Seattle as a free agent in March after a strong career with the Falcons in which he made a trip to the pro bowl in 2004, Kerney has fit right in with his new team and currently ranks second in the NFL in sacks with 10.5. He also has 42 tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception. On the other side, Tapp has shown great potential in his second NFL season after going undrafted out of Virginia Tech. Against St. Louis in week seven, he registered four sacks on the day and showed what kind of ability he possesses. Tapp has 6.5 sacks on the season, along with 33 tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception.

Lito Sheppard
Getty Images/Jim McIsaac

Philadelphia's Secondary vs. Matt Hasselbeck

Last week against the Patriots, the Eagles did a formidable job in containing Tom Brady's passing attack for most of the game. The NFL's leader in receiving yards, Randy Moss, was held to 43 yards on five catches against Philadelphia and Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown played well. Injuries have affected the secondary all season long and Brown is the only the only member of that unit to not have missed a game yet this year. While it was a strong point in the beginning of the year, the Eagles pass defense is currently ranked 22nd in the league, allowing 224.5 yards per game through the air. Philadelphia only has six total interceptions on defense so far, the fewest in the league.

Hasselbeck has put up solid number this season, despite playing without his number one receiver Deion Branch for four games. A nine-year veteran out of Boston College, Hasselbeck has thrown for 18 touchdowns this year and has completed 62.4% of his passes. The Seahawk's offense boasts talented wide receivers in Branch, Bobby Engram, D.J. Hackett, and Nate Burleson, and Seattle averages 250.5 yards per game passing. After pro bowl appearances in 2003 and 2005, and a trip to the Super Bowl two years ago against Pittsburgh, Hasselbeck has proved that he is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the NFL today.

Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson vs. Seattle's Running Game

Bunkley and Patterson both played well against the Patriots last week, recording four tackles each, and the Eagles defense only allowed New England to rush for 48 total yards on the day. Both defensive tackles have shown growth and improvement in Jim Johnson's system and Philadelphia has one of the better run defenses in the league this season, allowing an average of 93.3 yards rushing and giving up only six touchdowns on the ground.

While Seattle used to be known as a run-heavy team, they have struggled to find success through the rushing game. Shaun Alexander has missed the last three games with an injury and is having a sub-par season. He has only scored two touchdowns so far and is averaging only 3.3 yards per carry. Alexander's back-up, Maurice Morris, has filled in adequately at running back and will see some carries against Philadelphia. Morris has also only scored two rushing touchdowns, but his yards-per-carry average is higher than Alexander's at 4.2. He has had at least 75 yards rushing per game in the last three weeks.

Reggie Brown vs. Marcus Trufant

Brown has not had the breakout season many people expected from him after he recorded eight receiving touchdowns in 2006, but he has scored in two of the last three games and could be finding a groove in the Eagles offense. Last week against New England, Brown showed some chemistry with back-up A.J. Feely by catching five passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. He now has 37 catches this season for a total of 492 yards.

Trufant is Seattle's best cover-corner and the former first-round pick is part of the reason that the Seahawks have allowed only six touchdowns through the air, the fewest in the NFL. Standing 5-foot-11 and weighing 197 pounds, Trufant has the size to compete for the ball with bigger receivers and is a sound tackler. On the year, he has 58 tackles and has picked off four passes.

Andrew Pluta can be reached at ajp8231@gmail.com.

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