By Kevin McGuire
The Philadelphia Eagles decided to stay on the West Coast for a week to prepare for their second-straight game against an NFC West contender on the road. After dropping a Sunday night game against the Seattle Seahawks, the Eagles know they must clean up their act in order to avoid back-to-back losses. This week, the Eagles face the Los Angeles Rams, the leaders of the NFC West. The Rams also trail the Eagles by one game in the NFC standings, which means the stakes for this weekend’s game cannot be overhyped.
After losing a game back in Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs on the road, the Eagles ripped off nine straight wins. If Philadelphia can do that again, the Eagles will be celebrating a Super Bowl victory (and going 2-0 to start the 2018 season). But first, the Eagles have to tackle one of the other great surprise teams in the NFL this season.
Here’s a look at the Rams coming into this game.
Like the Eagles, the Rams have had a major step forward in the win column this season. After winning just four games a year ago, the new-look Rams with first-year head coach Sean McVay have already more than doubled their win total from a year ago (4-12). The nine wins this season is already the most wins the Rams have had in a single season since going 12-4 in 2003.
The Rams have won two straight games against the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals. After Sunday’s games, the Rams maintain a one-game lead on the Seahawks for top of the NFC West.
Rams on Offense
The Eagles defense will be put to the test against the NFL’s top-scoring offense. The Rams average 30.1 points per game this season. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff has been impressive in his first full season as a starter, too. Goff has passed for 3,194 yards and 20 touchdowns, making for a terrific matchup of the top two picks in the 2016 NFL Draft with Carson Wentz. Running back Todd Gurley has also had a solid year with 939 yards and eight touchdowns. Sammy Watkins has scored a touchdown in four of the last five games and will remain a threat in the passing game along with Robert Woods, assuming Woods is able to return from a shoulder injury.
Rams on Defense
The Rams have the NFL’s 15th ranked defense, allowing 334.0 yards per game. Scoring on the Rams is also a challenge, as they only give up 18.5 points per game. The Eagles are just ahead of the Rams in that category, allowing 17.9 ppg. Could this turn into a defensive struggle?
Rams Players to Watch
Jared Goff, Quarterback: It will be impossible to ignore the quarterback comparisons this week. Goff was the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, followed immediately by Wentz to Philadelphia. This will be the first head-to-head matchup between two quarterbacks who will be compared to each other for years to come. Wentz played all of last season, but Goff took a while to get ready to take the field. The wait appears to have been worth it for the Rams.
Mark Barron and Alex Ogletree, Linebacker: The Rams have quite the linebacker duo taking care of things on defense. Ogletree is day-to-day with an elbow injury, but the two veterans lead the Rams with over 75 tackles each this season.
The Eagles needed to get a split on the road between last week and this week in order to secure a position to be in control of their chances of getting a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. After dropping one in Seattle, the Eagles have to find a way to slow down a confident Rams offense and penetrate an improved defensive unit. Many of the mistakes and errors from Sunday night’s loss in Seattle can be corrected. Defensively, the Eagles brought good pressure on Russell Wilson last week. Do that again, and it’s unlikely Goff will be able to keep as many plays alive with his feet. That could lead to a road win before returning to Philly.