GameScout: Seahawks vs. Eagles

One team stands atop the NFC, and the other is fighting for its playoff life. Of course, the surprise to the national media is that it's the 9-2 Seahawks with the pole position, and the 5-6 Eagles just hanging on. Still, the Linc is a tough place to visit, and Philly could play spoiler to a Seattle team looking to wrap up the NFC West with a win.

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Seattle Seahawks (9-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)
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GAME SNAPSHOT

KICKOFF:
Monday, 9:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/05/05
SURFACE: Grass
TV: ABC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Samantha Ryan
SERIES: 10th meeting. Eagles lead, 6-3. Philly's Andy Reid is 2-0 against former mentor Mike Holmgren, having beaten the Seahawks in 2001 and 2002, both times in Seattle. The Seahawks won the most recent meeting in Philadelphia, prevailing 38-0 in the 1998 opener. Seahawks defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes was the Eagles' head coach for that game, which marked the return of Ricky Watters to Veterans Stadium.
2005 RANKINGS: Seahawks: offense 1st (3rd rush, 11th pass); defense 26th (13th rush, 23rd pass). Eagles: offense 9th (28th rush, 3rd pass); defense 25th (16th rush, 22nd pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Eagles' offense has undergone a significant change in the past three weeks, with the offense averaging 33 rushing plays compared to an average of 18 through the first eight games. RB Brian Westbrook has a career-high 90 touches over a four-game period, and his ability to have early success on the ground is critical to getting QB Mike McMahon into the flow of the game. The Seahawks rush the passer well, but if the Eagles can run the ball and set up play-action, Seattle's secondary has been lit up the past two games. The Eagles' focus defensively has to be avoiding the big play from RB Shaun Alexander, who leads the league with 38 rushes for 10 yards or more. The Seahawks' offense has been lacking the big pass play, but as long as OTs Walter Jones and Sean Locklear hold up, QB Matt Hasselbeck will take shots against CB Rod Hood starting for injured Lito Sheppard.

FAST FACTS: Seahawks: Can clinch the NFC West with a victory or St. Louis loss. ... Alexander has converted all 12 of his third-and-1 rushing attempts. Eagles: DE Reggie White's No. 92 jersey will be retired before the game. ... Westbrook averages 5.1 yards per carry at home. ... DE Trent Cole has five sacks in his past four games.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Seahawks:

--WLB D.D. Lewis (knee) practiced on a limited basis Friday, Dec. 2, and is expected to play on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. The team has been holding Lewis out of full practices on occasion to insure his readiness for games
--DE Bryce Fisher (foot) is expected to start against the Eagles on Monday night. Should that status change, either Joe Tafoya or Rodney Bailey would start, with Tafoya probably having having the edge.
--DT Chuck Darby (knee) missed practice Friday, Dec. 2, but should start on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Darby has been listed as probable this week.
--WR Darrell Jackson (knee) did not practice. He remains out.
--LB Jamie Sharper (knee) did not practice. He remains out.
--CB Kelly Herndon (knee) did not practice. He remains out.
--S John Howell (hamstring) did not practice. He remains out.

Eagles:

--LG Artis Hicks practiced Thursday but still is listed as questionable for Monday night's game. Hicks missed last week's game with a knee sprain.
--G Adrien Clarke shared snaps with Artis Hicks on the first unit Thursday. Clarke started in place of the injured Hicks last week. Hicks practiced Thursday but still is listed as questionable.
--RB Lamar Gordon didn't practice Thursday even though he's listed as probable for Monday's game with a concussion. Eagles coach Andy Reid said Gordon is doing well and he expects him to be able to play Monday.
--CB Lito Sheppard had surgery on his injured ankle Tuesday. Sheppard had a plate and two screws put in his foot. He is expected to make a complete recovery.
--RB Ryan Moats, who got his first four NFL carries Sunday against Green Bay, is expected to get an even heavier workload Monday night against Seattle.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Seahawks:


Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren isn't buying the notion that Seattle is lucky to be 9-2 after narrow victories over the Cowboys and Giants. We maybe dodged a bullet," Holmgren said, "but you know what? We played pretty hard, and we got in position to win it and we won it."

No one cared when bad luck seemed to doom the team to losses in past seasons.

"To say that luck doesn't play a little (part), or the ball bounces your way doesn't play a part in this business, you're nuts," Holmgren said. "It happens. We've had a couple in the last couple years that were horrible losses that bounced the other way, so it's nice to go through a season where every once in a while, it kind of goes your way."

The Seahawks were not exactly inept in those critical NFC victories over Dallas and New York. Seattle put together long fourth-quarter touchdown drives in both games. "Let's give credit where credit is due," Holmgren said. "I am never going to apologize for a win, ever. I'm just not going to do it. It's too hard to win a game.

"So if you're in a position at any time in a football game to win a game, and everyone is playing on the same field, everyone is playing with the same amount of time, and you win, you win.

"How you win or what happens, heck, that's football. So, the feeling inside the locker room right now is a good one."

Eagles:

Despite Mike McMahon's low 44.7 completion percentage in his two starts, coach Andy Reid said he's seen positive things from the young quarterback. "He did some good things Sunday (in the Eagles' 19-14 win over Green Bay)," Reid said. "He had a couple of beautiful checks (play changes at the line of scrimmage). He made a great sideline throw to (wide receiver) Greg Lewis. He made some nice decisions to run.

"The only thing we need to do, and this is my job, is to get going a little bit earlier. And that's what we're working on." McMahon has struggled in the first half of both of his starts. He completed just four of 12 passes for 27 yards in the first half against the Packers, and completed just five of 15 passes for 81 yards in the first half against the New York Giants the week before.

He improved to 8-for-16 in the second half against the Packers, including three completions in four attempts on the Eagles' game-winning scoring drive. Against the Giants, he was 14-for-24 for 217 yards in the second half.

"The more I play, the more comfortable I'm going to be," McMahon said. "I just need to be a little more accurate with my throws, because we're getting people open."
One thing Reid has been very pleased with has been McMahon's ability to protect the ball. He's thrown just one interception in 67 attempts the past two weeks.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Seahawks RT Sean Locklear, who held up well but needed help last week against Giants DLE Michael Strahan, vs. Eagles DE Jevon Kearse, who ranks among the Eagles' leaders in sacks. Locklear is a solid young starter who has impressed this season against tough competition. Strahan was by far his toughest test. Kearse is no longer putting up freakish numbers, but he does have 6.5 sacks.

Seahawks WR Joe Jurevicius, coming off a two-TD game against the Giants, vs. Eagles CB Roderick Hood, who has stepped in for injured All-Pro CB Lito Sheppard. Jurevicius won't scare anyone with his speed, but he runs interior routes and quick outs very well and his 6-foot-5 frame can give DBs problems. Jurevicius is also a tough player who puts his 230-pound body to good use, casting aside would-be tacklers with a wicked stiff-arm. Hood picked off Packers QB Brett Favre to secure the Eagles' victory last week. Hood is 5-11 and close to 200 pounds.

INJURY IMPACT: The Seahawks expected to have DT Marcus Tubbs back last week and they missed his presence against the run when he was ruled out as a game-time decision. Tubbs is practicing this week and will definitely play. The continued absence of WR Darrell Jackson presents some problems against man-to-man coverage because his replacements lack the same level of speed, quickness and overall shiftiness. .


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