Los Angeles Rams vs. Philadelphia Eagles Preview
Overview: This is a challenging game to predict for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, is the Eagles team that we saw lay an egg in Washington last week really who they are? The eight sacks they gave up on Sunday is not going to win very many games. Meanwhile, the Rams are coming off a strong performance against a Dallas team that many consider a Super Bowl contender. But they are concerns for Los Angeles at inside linebacker, where they have to tackle better. And while placekicker Sam Sloman settled down after missing an early field goal, some of his low trajectory kicks are still a concern.
Rams Defense vs. Eagles Offense: Job one for the Eagles protects quarterback Carson Wentz from Rams d-lineman Aaron Donald; it will not be easy. While Donald only logged one sack against the Dallas Cowboys, he was in their backfield all night long and treated Cowboys All-Pro guard Zach Martin like a rag doll on more than one occasion. Perhaps I should say "Martin and friends," because AD received double-teamed, not that it slowed him down much. The Rams tend to move Donald around a lot, but Philly's big concern will be his battles with right guard Nate Herbig, who cannot expect to contain AD with one-one-one very often. Nobody can do that regularly, so we can expect the Eagles to double-team and perhaps even triple-team AD. The Eagles do have an excellent center in Jason Kelce, who will be in charge of making sure the O-line knows what the plan is upfront. They also get Lane Johnson back at right tackle, whom they didn't have last week. The Eagles have had great success in containing Donald, holding him without a sack the last three times these teams met. If they can neutralize him again Sunday, they have an excellent chance to win, but that is easier said than done.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz needs to do his part by getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible, something he failed to do last week.
A big test for the Rams containing tight ends Zack Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Ertz is one of the league's best tight ends, and Goedert is not far behind him. The Rams inside linebackers, Micah Kiser and Troy Reeder, are not necessarily great in coverage. Expect to see more ILB Kenny Young, probably a better cover defender, on Sunday in Philly. Don't be too surprised if safety Taylor Rapp, who lost his starting role by Jordan Fuller, lines up at ILB as well. Fuller and fellow safety John Johnson may get into the coverage as well, depending on how Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley decides to play it. Philly runs many 12-personnel sets, and how successful the Rams are at containing Ertz and Goedert could be critical to this game's outcome.
Last week, the Rams got the fair play out of OLB Leonard Floyd, who had a sack and several pressures the previous week. He hadn't had all that much success against Lane Johnson when Floyd was with the Bears, but he gets another crack at it on Sunday. If Floyd can win his one-on-one battles against Johnson (who is returning from injury), it would help free up Aaron Donald and Micheal Brockers and generally support the Rams defense pressure, Wentz.
Another matchup that needs to be of some concern is Jalen Ramsey vs. Eagles wideouts, DeSean Jackson and rookie Jalen Reagor. Expect Ramsey and fellow Rams corner Troy Hill to be one-on-one with the Philly wideouts on a lot of the time on Sunday. They need to hold their own to allow the defense to scheme effectively against the Eagle tight ends.
Edge: Rams (assuming Aaron Donald wreaks his usual havoc)
Rams Offense vs. Eagle Defense: The Rams did a great job last week of neutralizing a strong Dallas defensive front. They did it by much-improved offensive line play, a lot of quick passes, and a strong running game. They will need to do so again to win on Sunday.
The Philly front four, in general, is among the league's better units.
Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox may be the best defensive tackle not named Aaron Donald. The Rams offensive line will need to keep him under control. If we see the Rams O-line play like they did last week against the Cowboys, they have a good chance. If they regress to the unit that we saw in most of 2019, Rams fans could get ugly.
One surprise for the Rams in week one was the emergence of running back Malcolm Brown, who notched over 100 yards running and receiving last week. Is Brown "the guy' for the Rams in 2020, or were they riding with the hot hand? That remains to become the question. Rookie running back Cam Akers was so-so last week, showing flashes but not putting up great numbers overall with only 39 yards rushing. The third running-back in the Rams expected "three-headed monster," Darrell Henderson, saw limited action, with three carries for 6 yards. In Henderson's case, the lack of action could result from limited snaps in practice due to a hamstring injury. The Rams would like more production from Akers and Henderson than they got last week, but if Brown can keep playing well, it may not matter all that much.
It was good to see the Rams get back to a more balanced attack last week, with the ground game doing enough to set up the play-action pass. The Rams offense (minus Todd Gurley) that we saw in 2018, rather than the pass-happy "Mike Martz 2.0" version that often took the field last season.
A couple of other noteworthy matchups when the Rams are on offense will include Rams slot receiver Cooper Kupp versus former teammate Nickell Roby-Coleman and wideout Robert Woods versus Eagles corner Darius Slay. The Eagles also want to keep tight-end Tyler Higbee from exploding like the last five games last season. Linebacker Nathan Gerry calls the Eagle defensive signals and has the assignment of keeping an eye on Higbee, who is emerging as one of the league's better pass-catching tight ends.
If the Rams O-line can keep Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and company in check and open some holes in the running game, Los Angeles should score some points in this game. If not, the Rams may be looking at a road loss. We'll check the box for the Rams, but not by much.
Special Teams: As we mentioned above, Sam Sloman made us a little nervous last week with the low trajectory on some of his kicks, even though he only ended up missing one. He also seemed to lack distance on his kickoffs. He may be fine, but with Philly having a week to study the game tape, it's a concern.
Johnny Hekker remains probably the best punter on the planet, but...
Final Prediction: This game is challenging to predict and will reflect in the betting odds. Some oddsmakers have Philly favored by roughly 1.5; others are picking the Rams by the same margin.
Even though we checked the box for the Rams in two out of three categories, there is no definitive edge on either side of the ball. But we are a Rams page, so that we will hope for the best
Rams 30, Eagles 28