December 08, 2017
There are a lot of different storylines at play on Sunday, when the 10-2 Eagles visit the 9-3 Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in what will likely be the biggest game of Week 14.
Not only will the game feature a matchup of two of the top teams in the NFC, it will also be the first head-to-head matchup between Rams quarterback (and former No. 1 overall pick) Jared Goff and the guy who was picked right behind him, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Then there's the whole Eagles-practicing-in-LA angle, as well as the comparisons between the two upstart teams' young coaches, Doug Pederson and Sean McVay.
But perhaps the most interesting angle is something I came across earlier on Friday while rounding up the experts' picks from around the country. It came from NFL.com's Elliot Harrison, and really put into perspective just how rare this matchup will be:
This is the first time since the AFL-NFL merger that two teams tied for the league lead in scoring (30.1) will play each other. [NFL.com]
That's pretty cool, but it doesn't necessarily mean you should expect a ridiculously high-scoring affair, as both of these teams also have defenses ranked in the top 15 in the NFL – and in the case of Jim Schwartz's Eagles defense, they're ranked third in total yards and sixth in points allowed.
In other words, expect a tight game on Sunday, one in which almost anything can happen.
TV: FOX | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Rams (-2) | TOTAL: 48 (via Bovada)
Earlier on Friday, we took a look at what other local and national writers are predicting for this one. You can check that out, here.
The Eagles will try to make this a grind it out rushing attack game, as the Rams' biggest weakness is defending the run. The Eagles have a significant advantage on the ground, while I don't see a big difference in these two teams through the air.
I admittedly do not feel great about this game. It seems like a good opportunity for a bounce back, but you think back over the last month or so and there have been a fair amount of slow starts against good and bad completion alike. Playing with fire on a weekly basis will eventually come back and burn you.
But given their performance so far this season, I think Pederson, Wentz and the gang deserve some benefit of the doubt to prove they can bounce back. Wentz sailed a couple potential touchdowns against Seattle, and with the stakes for this game what they are I believe he’ll come out ready to put those in the rearview mirror.
And besides, this could end up being a borderline home game for the Eagles. The network broadcasting the game is hiring Rams fans to show up for pre-game, for crying out loud. If the Eagles can’t get a win in that soft on an environment, we’ll be asking a lot of uncomfortable questions next week.
It wasn't easy to pick the Eagles in this one, especially since I picked them a week ago and was wrong. But before the team embarked on this current two-game swing out west, I was fairly confident that they would return to Philly on Monday with a 1-1 record in those two games. It just turns out that I picked the wrong game.
Had the Birds won in Seattle, their inevitable reality check would've come this week in L.A. against the Rams. But since that wasn't the case, I think its safe to say the Eagles will bounce back this week at the Coliseum, which will likely be filled with more fans wearing midnight green than blue and gold.
I don't believe the Rams defense will be good enough to keep the Birds high-flying offense in check, so the real matchup in this one will likely be between the Eagles defense and the Rams offense. And while Goff and Wentz will be getting most of the headlines, the real difference-maker on Sunday could be Todd Gurley, who is currently on pace for over 2,000 yards from scrimmage this season.
One way the Eagles offense can help limit Gurley's damage is by getting an early lead and forcing Goff to throw on them, something they were unable to do against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. If the Eagles can keep him in check –that's easier said than done – they should have a good chance at beating the Rams.
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