The Philadelphia Eagles are hitting the road for a long trip to the West Coast.
No suntan lotion required; it’s all business.
First up is a tough game at Seattle (7-4) on Sunday. The Eagles will then spend next week practicing in California before they play at the Los Angeles Rams (8-3).
“I’m focused on Seattle,” coach Doug Pederson said Friday, sounding a lot like Bill Belichick. “We’re just going to get on a plane and go to LA and we’re going to practice like normal out there. It’s like going to Lehigh (University) for training camp. We do it 100,000 times. I don’t want to talk about it, obviously, and I’m focused on this game, and I want to make sure our team is focused on this game.”
The Eagles (10-1) need a victory to clinch the NFC East title because Dallas (6-6) kept its division hopes mathematically alive by defeating Washington on Thursday night.
Winning the division crown is only the first step. Securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is No. 2 on the list. Capturing the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first team in franchise history is the ultimate goal.
“Obviously it’s one of our goals to win the NFC East, but the bigger message is you’re still playing and fighting for home field,” Pederson said. “The Eagles have also won a bunch of NFC East titles here, too. We’re proud of it. It’s a tribute obviously to the players, but there’s something bigger out there that we strive for.”
After dominating opponents the last four games — a 23-point margin was the smallest — the Eagles will face difficult tests against the Seahawks and Rams before they return home to prepare for a third straight road game at the Giants on Dec. 17.
Russell Wilson presents unique challenges for the league’s top-ranked run defense because he’s a scrambling quarterback who can make big plays with his arm and legs.
“Russell has a little bit of magic up his sleeves and that’s a team that’s real gritty and tough, and they always find a way,” defensive end Chris Long said. “We’ve got to know the environment we’re walking into, a good football team with a tradition of winning and obviously a real dynamic quarterback.”
The defense fared well against a similar quarterback, Cam Newton, in a 28-23 win at Carolina in October. Newton threw for 239 yards and ran for 71, but had three interceptions.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz compared Wilson to Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton.
“He can run the designed quarterback runs, the zone reads, the keepers and things like that, and then he can also just create something off schedule,” Schwartz said. “But he can threaten inside the pocket. He can threaten outside the pocket. But probably the thing he’s most dangerous in is threatening by running. He threatens the whole field.”