PHILADELPHIA (AP)The Philadelphia Eagles have been playing must-win games for a month to get to this point.
Now, it’s win or go home.
The Eagles (9-7) will host the Seattle Seahawks (11-5) in an NFC wild-card playoff game Sunday after winning four straight games to secure their second division title in three years.
Pressure won’t be new. Many players on Philadelphia’s roster faced it during the 2017 Super Bowl run. For the new guys, they got to experience it throughout December when one loss in any of the last four games would’ve cost the team a playoff berth.
”The last month, they have been playoff-type games for us,” coach Doug Pederson said. ”This team is battle-tested that way and we prepare that way.”
While the Eagles claw their way into the playoffs, the Seahawks enter on a two-game losing streak. Seattle would’ve clinched the NFC West and secured a home game this weekend with a win in Week 17 but lost 26-21 at home to the 49ers.
On the bright side, the Seahawks were better on the road this season, going 7-1. They beat the Eagles in Philly, 17-9, on Nov. 24.
”They finished great,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of the Eagles. ”They know us. We know them. We game plan all over again and they do, too.”
Russell Wilson is 4-0 against the Eagles, including a win in Seattle over the eventual Super Bowl champions in December 2017 when Philadelphia came in at 10-1.
Carson Wentz will make his first career playoff start after missing the Super Bowl run because of knee surgery and last year’s wild-card win due to a back injury.
”We know what’s on the line and to some extent we’ve kind of felt that way the last few weeks,” Wentz said. ”We’ve kind of had our backs against the wall. It’s a one-game season, we’re excited for it. It’s going to be a fun one.”
The return of playmaking safety Quandre Diggs is a big boost after the Seahawks lost several players to injuries the past few weeks. Diggs suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 15 but expects to play. The arrival of Diggs in a midseason trade from Detroit bolstered the secondary and seemed to solidify the defense. With Diggs on the field, Seattle was able to play more aggressive in coverages and when it brought pressures. In five games, Diggs has three interceptions, a forced fumble and a touchdown.
”The moment he got here he picked up the defense really, really quick,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ”Started making checks really fast, understanding what checks we were making really, really fast. He’s a really smart, intelligent dude who knows how to play the game of football at a really high level.”
The Eagles finished Week 17 missing seven starters on offense. Wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks won’t be back. Running back Miles Sanders (ankle) is expected to return. Tight end Zach Ertz (ribs, back) and right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle) are uncertain. In their absence, the Eagles relied on five players off the practice squad who’ve been cut 18 times in their careers. Running back Boston Scott, tight end Josh Perkins and wide receivers Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett and Robert Davis combined for 16 catches for 255 yards, 54 yards rushing and four TDs against the Giants.
Wilson has been sacked 26 times in the past seven games, including a season-high six times by the Eagles in the first matchup. Not surprisingly, his passer rating in those games is just 90.7 and his yards per attempt is just 7.2. Protection has been an issue for Seattle and is likely to remain that way. Center Joey Hunt has played well since starter Justin Britt was lost for the season to a torn ACL, but Hunt is undersized and has been bullied at times. He’ll go against five-time Pro Bowl tackle Fletcher Cox. Left tackle Duane Brown is expected to miss the game after minor knee surgery a couple of weeks ago. George Fant played well in Week 17 but starting Fant prevents Seattle from using him as an extra tight end in a formation that’s been productive this season.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has played 2,420 consecutive snaps since the start of the 2017 playoffs and also plays on special teams. Jenkins led the Eagles with 80 tackles, forced four fumbles and had 2 1/2 sacks. He plays everywhere on defense, in the secondary at linebacker in some formations.
Seahawks kicker Jason Myers was 23 of 28 on field goals, including 17 of 17 from inside 40 yards. He made 40 of 44 extra points. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott was 22 of 26 on field goals, missing four in the final five games. He was 35 of 37 on extra points.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.
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