On paper, this game looks like a mismatch, with the Rams favored by 13 points as of Saturday morning. While the Philadelphia Eagles are the defending Super Bowl champions, this team is a shell of last year's Lombardi Trophy winners. Add to that the fact the game is in Los Angeles and that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is not expected to play because of broken vertebrae and we have the makings of what could be a blowout victory. However, this is the NFL, and there are no "gimme" games. As a Rams fan, there are some concerns about the Eagles game. The offense was just awful last week against the Chicago Bears, with Jared Goff throwing four interceptions and the offensive line physically overpowered up front. Just expect for the Los Angeles Rams to win this game. However, if for some reason they do not it could be a sign that there are real problems with the Rams. Even a Rams win with another mediocre showing by the offense would be cause for great concern
Rams Offense vs. Eagles Defense
Jared Goff comes into this game with a sterling passer rating of 101 and fourth in the league in passing yardage, and while the last couple of games may have put a dent in his MVP candidacy, he is still having an outstanding season. He was a little off the last two weeks with a win over the Lions and downright awful in last week debacle at Soldier Field. Is there something wrong with him? Our guess--and that is all it is--would be no. As bad as the Detroit Lions were overall, coached by Matt Patricia, the former New England Patriots defensive coordinator, and they are capable of pulling the upset, with wins this season over the Patriots, Carolina Panthers, and the Green Bay Packers.
Last week's loss to the Bears was much worse for Goff, but after all, they are one of the league's elite defenses, and while I hate to use the weather as an excuse, I think it made a difference. Also, while Goff was terrible, he did not get much help from his O-line. The other factor was the Rams difficult decision to virtually ignore Todd Gurley and the running game and become one-dimensional. Those things need to change this week, or it could be a case of ''Los Angeles, we have a problem." As banged up as the Eagles are, they still have one of the league's better defensive lines, with Micheal Bennett, Fletcher Cox, and Brandon Graham. The Rams know Bennett well from his days in Seattle, and while he may be getting a little long-in-the-tooth by NFL standards, he can still play. Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein will draw the duty of containing Bennett, and that matchup is a big key to the outcome of this game. The Rams also need to control Fletcher Cox, who may be the best defensive tackle not named Aaron Donald in the NFL.
Of course, one of the best ways to tamp down a pass rush is with a strong running game, especially with an offense like the Rams that uses much play-action in the passing game. I expect a big day from Todd Gurley, both running and receiving. The Eagles' secondary, meanwhile, has been ravaged by injury. The Rams should be able to throw the ball downfield, assuming Goff has the time to throw. If the Rams do not put up at least 30 points in this game, expect disappointment.
Rams Defense vs. Eagles Offense
Carson Wentz is not expected to play for Philly in this game, but I am not at all sure a healthy Nick Foles is not more of a threat than the banged-up version of Wentz we have seen in 2018. We will never know what you are going to get with Foles, he is capable of being very good, awful and just about anything in between. The Eagles have one of the league's best tight ends in Zach Ertz, who already has over 1,000 yards receiving. He is the NFC version of Travis Kelce, and that could be a problem for a Rams defense which has had problems with tight ends this season. Kelce racked up 127 yards against the Rams in the shootout win over the Chiefs last month, and George Kittle of the Niners and ex-Ram Jared Cook of Oakland also had big days against the Rams, albeit all in losing efforts. However, I guess that Philly will try to do what most Rams opponents have tried to do this season and that this goes "ground and pound." With the loss of running back Jay Ajayi, the Eagles have mostly turned to Josh Adams as their "bell cow" back, and he has been solid if not spectacular. 35-year-old Darren Sproles is also back from a hamstring injury and has scored touchdowns the past two weeks since his return. Those guys together don't equal one Jay Ajayi, but the Rams defense has had its problems against the run this season. If the Rams can break out early on offense and get a decent lead, it would help. Philly may try running at outside linebacker Dante Fowler, who is a better edge rusher than run defender. Also, wonder if the Eagles will copy the Bears in triple teaming Aaron Donald. You would think devoting three guys to Donald would open things up for Ndamukong Suh and Micheal Brockers of the Rams, but that did not happen last week. Suh and Brockers need to step up if that happens on Sunday night.
Lost in all of the hysteria among Ram fans over the loss to the Bears was the fact the Rams pass defense was pretty good in that game, holding Chicago quarterback Mitch Trubisky to an abysmal 33.3 passer rating. That is one more reason why to expect the Eagles to go smashmouth in this game, although alike I said earlier, Foles is capable of getting hot.
Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein missed a rare field goal against the Bears. Nobody is perfect, and that will not happen often. Holder (and Rams punter) Johnny Hekker took the blame for the miss, which probably was one of the turning points of the game. Hekker, meanwhile, channeled his inner quarterback (a position he played in high school) in converting a fourth down on a fake punt. Overall though it was not a great night for the Rams special teams. I expect better this week.
The Rams should win this game and snap a five-game losing streak against the Eagles. A Ram victory and a Chicago loss would clinch at least the number two see in the playoffs, meaning a first-round bye and the right to host a second-round playoff game. I was concerned by what I saw in Chicago last weekend, although I think some of the ''The Rams have been exposed" talk is way over the top. New Orleans Saints, New England, and Kansas City Chiefs have all had bad games in recent weeks, it happens. Having said that, if the Rams lose this game, it will raise some serious questions about their status as one of the league's elite teams. I don't think that will happen.