Carson Wentz was the second overall pick in the 2016 National Football League draft. Selected by the Philadelphia Eagles, the North Dakota State University alum was the favorite to win the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in his second season, a year in which he positioned the Eagles for the top seed in the NFC playoff field.
Last year, the Eagles opened the postseason with a second straight postseason appearance and beat the Chicago Bears on the road before being edged in the NFC Divisional round by the New Orleans Saints. During Wentz’s four seasons with Philadelphia, the team has advanced to the postseason three times and won the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
With that as a backdrop, would you be surprised to know that Wentz will play in his first postseason game today?
That’s right. While Wentz was having a spectacular season in 2017 and had the Eagles atop the NFC standings, he was injured in December and replaced by veteran Nick Foles. It was Foles that guided Philadelphia through the final weeks of the 2017 campaign, and he who led the Eagles to their only Super Bowl win in franchise history.
Last year, again Wentz was injured during the regular season and Foles was behind center for the team when they both beat the Bears and got eliminated in New Orleans.
Today, at home against the Seattle Seahawks, Wentz will have his initial playoff action and challenge a veteran quarterback of postseason play, Russell Wilson. The Seahawks veteran field general has twice led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, winning the title to conclude the 2013 campaign and falling just short in a heartstopping loss to the New England Patriots the following year.
The Eagles won the NFC East title with a Week 16 win over the Dallas Cowboys and a playoff clinching victory last week over the New York Giants on the road. While Philadelphia was locked in a battle with the Cowboys in what many considered the weakest division in football, the other two teams in the NFC East, the Giants and Washington Redskins, earned high draft picks for their 2019 regular season efforts, and the Cowboys didn’t end the season with a winning record, one game back of the Eagles.
Contrast that weak division with the challenges the Seahawks faced while playing out of perhaps the strongest division in all of football, the NFC West. The West is home to the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams and the top seed in the playoffs this year, the San Francisco 49ers.
The Seahawks pinned the Niners with their first loss of the season in tenth week action and briefly held, by virtue of that win giving them the tiebreaker edge over San Francisco, the top seed in the conference.
The Seahawks also beat the Eagles earlier this year, 17-9, at Lincoln Financial Field. The Seahawks also have a better record this year than the Eagles, but because Philadelphia won the weak East while the Seahawks finished behind San Francisco based on falling one-yard short last Sunday night in their regular season finale against the 49ers, the Eagles host today’s matchup. Because it is the division winners without a bye that host the four Wild Card games, the Seahawks therefore take their 11-5 record on the road today to meet the 9-7 Eagles.
The Seahawks also share the best road record in football with seven wins in eight games.
What all that history doesn’t reveal is two things likely to dictate today’s result in Philadelphia. First, both the Seahawks and Eagles come into this game with injuries crippling their chances on both sides of the ball. And second, while the Seahawks lost three of their final four games to surrender the NFC West, the Eagles swept their final four games to earn a trip to the playoffs.
The Seahawks have an edge at quarterback with Wilson, but the Eagles are the more motivated team and in all likelihood will make Wentz’s first playoff encounter a successful one.
Qoxhi Picks: Philadelphia Eagles (+1½) over Seattle Seahawks