Back in Week 12, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks traveled to Philadelphia and defeated a wounded Eagles team 17-9, improving their record to 9-2 on the season.
Fast forwarding to this upcoming Sunday, despite dealing with a litany of injuries themselves, the Seahawks will again be in the City of Brotherly Love favored to advance to the divisional round. As of this posting, they were a 1.5-point favorite, which is understandable given their 7-1 road record this season.
“Traveling has been something that we’ve really taken great pride in this year and we’ve done it really well,” coach Pete Carroll said on Monday. “We don’t have any hesitation going on the road. I don’t know how everybody else does, we play about as well as you can on the road.”
As Carroll noted, the Seahawks have been at their best playing away from Seattle this year. While the team uncharacteristically went a pedestrian 4-4 at CenturyLink Field this year, they finished 7-1 on the road, including picking up wins in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.
But despite what odd makers believe and the success of Carroll’s team playing in hostile environments, winning on the road is far more difficult in the playoffs than the regular season, especially when considering Seattle’s poor record in rematches over the past two seasons.
This season, the Seahawks lost all three of their final NFC West games against the Rams, Cardinals, and 49ers, dropping each of those games in the past four weeks to stumble into the playoffs with a 11-5 record. They weren’t much better in that regard last year, losing their second matchups against the Rams and 49ers.
Most importantly, Seattle also lost a rematch in Dallas during the wild card round in January, going one-and-done in the playoffs for the first time under Carroll. Adding that loss to the equation, the Seahawks have gone 1-6 in rematch games over the past two years, with the lone win coming against the Cardinals last December.
What explains this dismal record facing an opponent a second time in the same season?
While it could be a coincidence, these struggles coincide with the arrival of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., who were hired before the 2018 season. It is certainly possible other teams could be doing a better job game planning for the second matchup.
It could also boil down simply to the fact that in the ever-competitive NFL, beating the same team twice is challenging and it’s even tougher against familiar divisional foes. Looking back at earlier years in the Carroll era, the Seahawks have had their issues with the Cardinals and Rams later in the season and also lost playoff rematches to the Panthers and Falcons in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Comparatively speaking, this year’s Eagles squad is far more banged up than the Cowboys were at this time a year ago. Dallas still had Dak Prescott under center with Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and Amari Cooper at receiver behind a talented offensive line. Defensively, the Cowboys were close to full strength as well.
Meanwhile, with star receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Desean Jackson on injured reserve, Carson Wentz has been completing the bulk of his passes to undrafted players such as Greg Ward and Deontay Burnett. He’s also been taking snaps behind an offensive line missing right tackle Lane Johnson and things only look worse now that Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks has been ruled out for the year.
Yet, with injuries ravaging the roster, Philadelphia enters the playoffs hot with three straight victories to capture an NFC East title and looks to be playing with improved confidence on both sides of the ball.
If there’s one advantage the Seahawks could have entering this rematch, it’s that they already won at Lincoln Financial Field. Last year, they beat the Cowboys at home in the regular season. In 2016, they also beat the Falcons at home. Both of those rematches in the playoffs came on the road in unfamiliar territory.
“It does help,” Carroll said when asked about playing in Philadelphia earlier this year. “It certainly does help just because we’ll be comfortable the setting and the environment and all of that. The weather will have its play on this thing as well. It was a nasty day when we played. Probably more than anything.”
Unless the No. 6 seed Vikings somehow upset the Saints and reach the NFC Championship game, the Seahawks won’t be playing at home again this season, so they’ll need to continue being road warriors to make a deep postseason run. At the same time, they’ll also have to overcome their issues winning rematches, as they’ve played every NFC playoff team except the Packers.
Starting in Philadelphia, Carroll is confident his team will be able to get the job done in both aspects and anxiously awaits to see how far Seattle can go this postseason.
“Hopefully, that will end up being in our favor as we go after it because there’s a chance we might have to be on the road as far as we go. We’ll see. If that happens, we’ll be ready.”