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What to watch for in Seahawks-Eagles NFC clash

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There's a lot riding on Sunday's NFC clash between the Seahawks and the Eagles.

With Arizona reeling, the NFC West is wide open. As Gregg Rosenthal pointed out in this week's look at the NFC playoff picture, that means the winner of the Seattle-Philadelphia tilt will join Green Bay as the favorites for the two NFC playoff byes.

Here's what we're watching for as Pete Carroll's Super Bowl champions travel to the City of Brotherly Love to take on Chip Kelly's Eagles:

1. After a mid-season lull, a healthy Seahawks defense is once again channeling its dominant 2013 form. Kelly acknowledged Thursday that the Legion of Boom will be the best secondary the Eagles face all season. The Seahawks are coming off back-to-back games without allowing a touchdown, the first defense to accomplish that feat this season. They are now first in yards allowed, surrendering just 12 more per game than last year's historically great unit. With Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell healthy, this is once again the NFL's premier defense.

2. That stalwart defense will be tested by a high-octane Eagles offense averaging roughly one less turnover and six more points since Mark Sanchez took the reins from Nick Foles. In fact, the only offenses averaging at least 30 points and 400 yards this season are Andrew Luck's Colts, Aaron Rodgers' Packers, Tom Brady's Patriots, Peyton Manning's Broncos and Sanchez's Eagles. Getting rid of the ball faster and showing excellent pocket movement, Sanchez has been a clear upgrade on Foles. He's completing 74 percent of passes to top receivers Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews, compared to Foles' 56 percent.

3. While Russell Wilson's underwhelming wide receiver corps has garnered negative press, it's the offensive line that has been a bigger problem. That presents a problem against an underrated Eagles front seven that features Connor Barwin, the NFL's hottest pass rusher. Don't overlook the hogs up front, as defensive end Fletcher Cox is enjoying a Pro Bowl season.

4. For all the mid-season handwringing over LeSean McCoy, he's averaging more rushing yards per game (103.3) since right tackle Lane Johnson returned in Week 5 than he did in his 2013 career year (100.4). After upping that average to 144.5 over the past two weeks, it will interesting to see if he can sustain that success against a Seahawks run defense that has improved with the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and the resurgence of veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams.

5. Jordan Matthews has been one of the NFL's hottest receivers since Sanchez took over, posting over 100 yards more than the next-closest slot receiver during that span. He's on pace for 72 receptions, 914 yards and nine touchdowns, which would be the best season by an Eagles rookie since Bill Groman in 1960. Bigger than the average slot receiver, Matthews has a better chance of beating the jam against Seattle's physical defensive backs.

6. Carroll had high praise for Kelly this week as a master innovator, but later insisted his team has no concerns about the Eagles' fast-paced offense. It will be interesting to see which side wins the tempo battle.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews a busy Week 14 schedule and recaps the Cowboys' win over the Bears. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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