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Seahawks-Eagles: 3 key matchups to watch in Week 12

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The refreshed Seahawks will return from their bye week and head to Philadelphia in Week 12 to take on the 5-5 Eagles, a matchup that has produced some excellent battles in recent years. Seattle, fresh off their biggest win of the season, will have the chance to effectively sound the Liberty Bell death knell on Philadelphia’s season. After being flexed out of Sunday Night Football, the Seahawks will have the chance to extend their winning streak in 10 AM kickoffs, as well. To accomplish both of those items, these matchups should prove crucial for Seattle.

Jadeveon Clowney vs Andre Dillard

In Week 10, Clowney delivered his biggest game of the season in the Seahawks’ biggest game yet; though it wasn’t unexpected, it came at the perfect time. In Week 12, Clowney will have a superb chance to build upon his strong showing, and in the process, derail the Eagles’ attack.

Derailment is exactly what Philadelphia underwent in Week 11, when right tackle Lane Johnson exited the game, and it’s become a constant issue. In Wentz’s career, his passer rating drops nearly 20 points when Johnson isn’t in the game compared to when he is:

That proved true after Johnson’s untimely exit against the Patriots, as Wentz saw his performance drop over the rest of the game: His completion percentage went from 67 percent to 43; his passer rating 104.9 to 61.3. Worse, Wentz was sacked five times after Johnson’s exit. Enter Clowney, assuming he plays after a foreboding injury status update Thursday. (It’s worth noting, upon Johnson’s exit in Week 11, it was Halapoulivaati Vaitai who came in, not Dillard. The rookie is expected to start in Week 12, however.)

Seattle’s one-man wrecking crew has saved his best football for the second-half of the season throughout his career, and 2019 is shaping up to be the same. Jarran Reed began to resemble the ‘18 version of himself against the 49ers, and both players will benefit massively from the uptick in form for both. That should continue against the Eagles, as Clowney and the rest of the defense benefit from Johnson’s absence, and Dillard’s insertion into the lineup. One of the safest prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft, Dillard has struggled in limited action as a rookie, averaging a blown block in pass protection every nine snaps. That should give Clowney at least four clean looks at Wentz, and as we saw in his last game, he hardly needs that many chances to swing a game.

Seahawks’ defense vs Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert

The nature of Ertz and Goedert’s usage, and their importance to the Eagles’ offense, makes it impossible to boil this down to just a player or two. Ertz is used as a vertical threat, as often as he works across the field, while Goedert is used largely up the seam—but will even take screen passes and similar short patterns to create after the catch, as he did last week. The two tight ends combine to form Philadelphia’s most dangerous, and reliable, pass catchers.

The Eagles, who run 12 personnel (1 RB 2 TEs) far more than the rest of the league (42 percent of offensive snaps), have had to lean on Goedert and Ertz even more this season, as the receivers around them have battled injuries, drops and poor performances. On the season, the two tight ends have combined for 37 percent of Philadelphia’s receptions, 41 percent of their receiving yards and 38 percent of touchdowns through the air. Their importance should be heightened even further this week, with Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery on the injury report, and DeSean Jackson on injured reserve. This comes a week after Eagles receivers combined for six catches and 75 yards in what was their third most productive game since Week 2. Simply put, the focus for Seattle must be on defending the best tight end duo in the league.

Bradley McDougald’s best game of the season coincided with Quandre Diggs’ first start, and that should be of huge importance in this matchup. Not only can McDougald stick with Ertz on his devastating slants over the middle, but he can carry him up field, as well. (Just as importantly, that will save the Seahawks from depending on Mychal Kendricks to do so.) While Goedert will prove a tricky matchup up the seam, as Mark Andrews was in Week 7, Diggs will at least stop him from getting over the top should he beat K.J. Wright and Kendricks vertically.

Great players produce regardless of matchup, and Ertz and Goedert are great players. With the volume they will see, production is inevitable. However, Seattle’s well equipped to limit the damage the duo will inflict.

Tyler Lockett vs Avonte Maddox

After years of exploitation in their secondary, Philadelphia has seemingly finally found a solution on the back end, and that is one that features the sophomore Maddox in the slot. In six games in 2019, Maddox has shown the quality he had as a prospect, giving up seven yards per target on a 54.8 completion percentage, and is yet to allow a touchdown on the season. A 93rd percentile athlete, Maddox shares similar qualities to former Seahawk Justin Coleman: Quick-twitch athleticism to stick in coverage over the middle of the field, and the burst to close on separation.

Lockett matched up against one of the league’s best slot corners in Week 10 and it resulted in his quietest game of the year, a three-catch, 26-yard outing in limited action. A scary injury puts his status in doubt for Sunday, but every expectation has been that he will play. Lockett has seamlessly stepped into the role of number-one receiver for the Seahawks in 2019, and is as sure of a result when targeted as any receiver in the NFL. Seattle will need Lockett back in form and producing in Week 12 to come out of Philadelphia victorious.