Overview; This is probably the marquee game in the NFL this weekend, and a potential NFC title game preview to boot. It pits the two highest scoring offenses in the league--in fact the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams have scored exactly the same number of points. It also will showcase some of the league's elite players. Todd Gurley vs Jay Ajayi/Legarette Blount. Aaron Donald vs. Fletcher Cox and, of course, it also matches the number one overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft (Rams quarterback Jared Goff) and the second overall pick ( Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz).
ToddAarAaronRams Offense vs Eagles Defense
The Eagles reportedly will be going all-out to shut down Rams running back Todd Gurley, both as a runner and a receiver, then take their chances that Goff can't beat them without Gurley being the engine that drives the car, or in this case, the offense. Of course, shutting down Gurley is easier said than done, especially since I'm not convinced that the Eagle linebackers can cover him as a receiver. There is also the little matter of the Rams receiving corps. Sammy Watkins has been looking more like the guy the Rams thought they were getting from Buffalo recently. He is an elite talent. Cooper Kupp leads all NFL rookie receivers, and has a chance to break the team record for rookie receiving yards, currently held by Eddie Kennison. Josh Reynolds has been slowly seeing more action, Tavon Austin is one of the fastest men in the NFL..could this be his breakout game? Yeah, I know I seem to ask that every week, but the guy is just too talented to keep not producing. Then there's Pharoh Cooper. What he does as a return man shows how dangerous he can be in the open field. There is even a possibility Robert Woods may play this week, though I have my doubts. He was leading the team in receiving yards when he hurts his shoulder against the Vikings a couple of weeks ago. Eagles comes into this game ranked 16th in the league in passing defense, and there are those who think their secondary overall isn't ''all that." We may find out if that is true in this game. Of course, the Eagles front seven is no walk in the park. A big concern is defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Philly's answer to Aaron Donald. Cox is scary good (though not quite Donald in my opinion), and if he is in Goff's face all day that will be an enormous problem. Defensive end Brandon Graham comes in with 8.5 sacks, and the Eagles as a team are averaging 2.8 sacks per game, seventh in the league. One of the keys to the Rams offensive success this year has been the play of the offensive line, both in opening holes for Gurley and protecting Goff. How well they do those things this week may determine who wins this game.
Rams Defense vs Eagles Offense
The Eagles have a two-headed monster at running back with Ajayi and Blount, and they will be trying to take advantage of a Rams defense that comes in ranked 27th against the run. Another concern for the Rams is the health of Alex Ogletree, who suffered an elbow injury in the win over the Cardinals last week. He is the Rams signal caller on defense and a major factor in this unit. At last report he was listed as questionable for this game. If he can't go Bryce Hager, who did a decent job last week against Arizona Cardinals, will replace him. Hager isn't bad, but there is a reason Ogletree is the starter. Inside linebacker Mark Barron is also listed as questionable, and if both Barron and Ogletree are out, that could be a huge problem. My guess is that both will play. Former Eagle Conner Barwin is out again for the Rams at outside linebacker, but rookie Samson Ebukam played very well last week. He doesn't have Barwin's all around football skills, but he is a freakish athlete who presents a different set of challenges and I don't think the Rams lose much with him in there. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is an MVP candidate who can beat you with his arm or his legs. Let's hope he becomes well-acquainted with Aaron Donald on Sunday. Wideouts Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor are both excellent, and stopping this group will be the Ram defense's biggest challenge this season. Tight end Zach Ertz was in concussion protocol at last report, and his status for the game is questionable. The good news for the Rams is that defensive mastermind Wade Phillips has had a week to game plan for these guys. The bad news, aside from injury concerns, is that the Eagle offense is really, really good. Even last week, when they were held to ten points by the Seattle Seahawks, a key fumble deep in Seattle territory and a series of other miscues were major factors.
The Rams special teams are the best in the NFL in my opinion, and they played a huge role in last week's win over Arizona. A blocked field goal by Micheal Brockers and a 70-yard punt by Johnny Hekker out of his own end zone were crucial plays, and Arizona also had a missed extra point. Greg Zuerlein also missed an extra point--proving nobody is perfect--but he was money on field goal attempts, as he usually is. Don't be surprised if this game comes down to a late field goal attempt by Zuerlein, who is a threat from 55 yards plus.
We have the two highest-scoring teams in the NFL squaring off in this one, and I think the final score will reflect that. This game will be a shootout between two of the games young guns at quarterback, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they both go over 300 yards passing on the day.
Rams 34 Eagles 31