Game Preview: Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles

The Hawks travel to the "City of Brotherly Love" in the hopes of continuing the second longest winning-streak in franchise history, while the Eagles try to get back to .500 and bolster their fleeting playoff hopes.

What: NFC inter-divisional battle
When: Monday, December 5th, 6 p.m. (PST)
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Weather: 40 degrees, rain/snow showers


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Eagles Key Players:

RB Brian Westbrook: Westbrook is the best player on a depleted offense. When the Eagles took the field for training camp, Westbrook appeared to be the third option on the offensive side of the ball, but when WR Terrell Owens took himself out of the lineup with bad behavior and QB Donovan McNabb left for the season with a sports hernia injury Westbrook became the main weapon for head coach Andy Reid and his offense. Westbrook has been a workhorse the past four weeks and hit the century mark for the first time last Sunday with 120 yards on the ground. He leads the Eagles with 600 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while also leading the team with 56 receptions for 578 yards and four more touchdowns. He isn't a big back, but he can stop and start on a dime and when he's in the open field, he's almost impossible to bring down. He can't hold up for a whole season getting 35 touches a game, but if the Eagles pick and choose their spots with him, he could be a deciding factor in whether or not the team heads to the postseason.

TE L.J. Smith: Smith ranks second on the team with 51 receptions and does a good job of stretching the middle seam when he's asked to do that. He isn't a stellar blocker, but he's good enough to get the job done. He is athletic and a calming presence on the Eagles offense. McNabb loved to use him on third downs and whoever the quarterback is for the remainder of the season, will need to make more use of the sure-handed veteran.

DE Jevon Kearse: Because of his reputation, Kearse draws attention from offensive coordinators every week. He leads the Eagles with 6.5 sacks and also has 31 tackles and five passes defensed. He had his best game of the season last week against the Green Bay Packers posting nine tackles and numerous quarterback pressures in the Eagles 19-14 win. Kearse still has good speed off the edge and is a relentless pass-rusher. He's improved his play against the run, but that area of his game is still a weak point.

LB Jeremiah Trotter: Trotter has a big body (6-1, 265) and plays big…every week. Trotter leads the team with 88 tackles and has posted one sack, one interception and eight passes defensed. While he comes out during most passing downs, he isn't a huge liability in coverage. He's a sure-tackler, wears his heart on his sleeve and is one of the emotional leaders of the team.

FS Brian Dawkins: A perennial Pro Bowler, Dawkins continues be a playmaker in the secondary. He has one interception, is second on the team with 15 passes defensed and an incredible four forced fumbles. Dawkins, much like Trotter, is an emotional player who the other players feed off of. He has a nose for the ball and always seems to make a play when the team needs it most.

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Key Matchups:

Seahawks RT Sean Locklear vs. Kearse: After facing off against Leonard Little, Bryant Young and Michael Strahan on three consecutive weekends, you would think that Locklear could catch a break – no such luck. Kearse isn't as quick as he used to be when he was younger, but he's still a force off the edge that offenses must contend with. Locklear held his own against Strahan last week, but got help from FB Mack Strong and tight end Ryan Hannam. He needs to control Kearse by himself, so the Seahawks will have a full compliment of targets for QB Matt Hasselbeck

Eagles secondary vs. Hasselbeck: Hasselbeck has been solid so far this season and he's getting better as his wide receivers get healthier. Even though number one wideout Darrell Jackson is still a week or two away from playing, Bobby Engram, Joe Jurevicius and D.J. Hackett have been more than adequate. Jurevicius has been Hasselbeck's go-to guy and Engram has continued to be a consistent threat on third downs. Dawkins must do his best to read the complex routes the Seahawks offense runs and not let Hackett, the Seahawks' only deep threat, to get behind the secondary. Without star CB Lito Sheppard in the lineup, the Eagles will have to rely on more zone coverage to match-up against the Seahawks potent passing game.

Westbrook vs. Seahawks LB Lofa Tatupu: Tatupu is a real contender for the defensive rookie of the year and he's been a stabilizing force in the middle for the Hawks defense. Last week he had the best game of his young career, posting 13 tackles against the Giants. Westbrook is almost a Tiki Barber-clone and he might be faster than the veteran from New York. The key for Tatupu is to not let Westbrook get into open space and force the Eagles into third-and-long situations.

Eagles QB Mike McMahon vs. Seahawks secondary: Marcus Trufant and Andre Dyson will be manned up on receivers far-below talent-wise than what they've faced so far this season. Without a big-play threat the Seahawks will be able to play tighter zones allowing their safeties to support the run and be in blitzing position in long-yardage situations. McMahon is athletic and must be contained, but he struggles to read coverages and he isn't very accurate. If the Hawks can disrupt his rhythm they have a good chance of forcing at least two or three turnovers from the young signal-caller.

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News and Notes: Hasselbeck is third in the NFC with 2,606 yards; Seahawks offense still ranks first in the NFL with 386.1 yards per game; RB Shaun Alexander needs 161 yards for his second consecutive season with 1,500 yards rushing; Jurevicius is third in the NFL with 7 touchdowns; DT Rocky Bernard is tied for first among defensive tackles with 8.5 sacks; Seahawks can clinch their second-straight division title and third consecutive playoff appearance with a win; Eagles WR Reggie Brown ranks second among NFC rookie receivers with 305 yards receiving; Smith ranks sixth among tight ends with 51 receptions; DE Trent Cole's five sacks are tied for second among rookies; Eagles lead series 6-3 and have won the past two.

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Injuries:

Seattle:
OUT: CB Kelly Herndon (knee); S John Howell (hamstring); WR Darrell Jackson (knee); LB Jamie Sharper (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Bryce Fisher (foot)
PROBABLE: DT Chartric Darby (knee); WR Joe Jurevicius (illness); LB D. D. Lewis (knee)


Philadelphia: QUESTIONABLE: G Artis Hicks (knee); DT Sam Rayburn (shoulder); LB Dedrick Roper (elbow/hamstring)
PROBABLE: K David Akers (hamstring); RB Lamar Gordon (concussion/ankle); RB Reno Mahe (back); TE Stephen Spach (foot)


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Prediction: Philadelphia 24 – Seattle 21

Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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