Richard Sherman Seattle Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) reacts after recording an interception against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at Levi's Stadium Reuters/Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Halfway through the 2014 season, it looked like the Seattle Seahawks (8-4) might not even have a chance to defend their title in the playoffs. Much has changed heading into their Week 14 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles (9-3), as last year’s champs are, once again, playing like an elite NFL team.

The Seahawks had an impressive win on Thanksgiving, going on the road and beating the San Francisco 49ers, 19-3. Seattle looked just as good the previous week, defeating the Arizona Cardinals, who held the league’s best record, by the same score.

Allowing just six total points in their last two games appears to have marked the return of the best defense in football. Seattle has struggled at times this year, surrendering 30 points to two teams, as well as giving up four touchdowns in a loss to the St. Louis Rams. Now, a rejuvenated unit travels to Philadelphia, ranking first in total defense, just like it did in the last season’s Super Bowl run.

“I believe this team is on the rise,” Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said, via the team’s official website. “We’re looking really good. We’re playing together as a unit, we trust in each other. We’re on the rise.”

Seattle’s vaunted “Legion of Boom” didn’t live up to the hype in the early part of the season, but that’s no longer the case. Only the Kansas City Chiefs allow fewer passing yards per game, and a now-healthy secondary has helped the Seahawks win five of their last six games. The return of safety Kam Chancellor has made a significant difference, and cornerback Richard Sherman stepped up on Thursday with two interceptions.

Philadelphia might have as good of a chance as any NFC team to find success against Seattle’s defense. The Eagles were just as impressive on Sunday, scoring 33 points in Dallas to take control of the NFC East. Mark Sanchez had, arguably, his best game of the season, completing a season-high 69 percent of his passes and avoiding throwing an interception.

Sanchez will look to put up big numbers against a strong pass defense for the first time since taking over for Nick Foles. In his three wins as a starter, the quarterback has taken on teams that rank No.20, No.23, and No.26 in opponents’ passer rating. Sanchez started for the Eagles in a 53-20 loss when they visited Green Bay, who allows a sixth-best passer rating.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson might be playing his best football of 2014. He’s registered passer ratings of 98.2, 121.6 and 118.7 in his last three games, while totaling 179 yards on the ground. Wilson threw for over 200 yards in each of his last two games, after having not done so in four straight contests.

The Eagles rank fourth in points per game (31.3), and Chip Kelly’s offense has been extremely consistent. Starting two different quarterbacks, Philadelphia has never failed to score less than 20 points in a game this year.

If Philadelphia can’t dominate offensively, though, they usually come up short. The Eagles are undefeated when scoring at least 27 points, but they’ve lost all three games when failing to reach that mark. Seattle hasn’t allowed 27 points since their Week 7 loss to the Rams.

Sunday’s contest could determine the No.1 seed in the NFC. The Seahawks trail the Cardinals, Eagles and Packers by one game for the best record. However, they own the tiebreaker over Green Bay and have one game remaining with Arizona.

At home, the Eagles are a slight one-point favorite, according to Las Vegas betting odds. The over/under is 49 points.

PREDICTION: Seattle over Philadelphia, 23-17