The Eagles were brought back down to Earth this past Sunday as they suffered their first loss in nine weeks to the Seahawks. After almost a week to digest the loss, I view this game as a learning experience for a young Eagles’ team. They were riding the high of a 9-game winning streak and seemed almost untouchable with the way they were dismantling teams. Not only did us fans feel this way, but I’m sure the players felt it as well.
This loss was necessary in a sense, I’d rather see the team be humbled now during the regular season than wait until the postseason where they would have to live with a defeat for the entire offseason. With the personnel and leadership in place, I have no doubt this team will come out motivated and hungry for a win.
This week, the Eagles are matched up against another NFC power in the Los Angeles Rams. It should be noted that they aren’t favored to win this game, after opening as favorites. This is the first time since week 6 that they haven’t been favored to win a football game. After just one loss, some people have already begun to lose faith in the Birds. But this is nothing new for us Eagles’ fans. We’ve endured far worse to jump to any kind of ridiculous conclusions after one loss – a loss to a perennial NFC powerhouse I might add. The Rams are a great football team, but it seems like people have suddenly forgot how good this Eagles team is. There’s a lot to talk about for this week’s matchup so let’s jump right into it.
- Wentz vs. Goff.
One of the biggest storylines coming into this game, if not the biggest, is the Wentz and Goff matchup. Both quarterbacks were drafted one and two in last year’s draft and both are in the midst of stellar seasons. Here’s a quick comparison:
As you can see, it’s hard to say which one’s better – their numbers are close in nearly every category except touchdown passes. However, the stats don’t tell the full story, and if I had to chose between the two I would go with Wentz in a heartbeat. There’s no bias behind that choice either, Wentz is just a better quarterback than Goff in today’s NFL. He does things that I’ve never seen any other quarterback besides Aaron Rodgers do. That ridiculous 60-yard bomb off his back foot to Nelson Agholor against Seattle was a prime example of that. Wentz clearly has the athletic edge over Goff. Not to mention, Goff has benefited greatly from the offensive system put into place by first year Head Coach Sean McVay. It’s a perfect system for Goff, he’s not asked to do anything out of his comfort zone and he can turn around to hand it to the NFL’s leading rusher, Todd Gurley, whenever he needs to. Wentz on the other hand makes everyone around him better and allows Pederson’s system to reach its full potential, rather than being boosted by the system and the players around him like Goff. And unlike Wentz, Goff isn’t even the most dangerous weapon on his offense. The key to stopping the Rams’ offense is keeping Todd Gurley in check, their offense runs through him. With the Eagles, their offense clearly runs through Wentz. They spread the ball around to so many different weapons that it’s hard to key on anyone else other than #11. If Wentz can get going early and get a few scores, it’ll be a long day for the Rams’ defense.
- The Rams’ Front-7 Could Pose Problems.
The Rams have one of the best front-7’s in all of football. Led by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, this defensive line has caused chaos all year for opposing offensive lines. While the Eagles’ offensive line has been great this season, they did struggle against the Seahawks this past week – giving up three sacks along with 12 QB hits on Wentz. Vaitai, who has been solid in Peters’ absence thus far, was responsible for two of those sacks. I’m sure the Rams will look to exploit him just like the Seattle did. LA has one of the smartest defensive coordinators in the game in Wade Phillips, whose known to blitz heavily. They have 38 sacks on the season, good for 3rd best in the NFL. Their defensive line is by far the best part about their defense, and it’s imperative the Eagles find a way to protect Wentz.
Another way to help keep this pass rush at bay would be establishing the run game early. The key to the Eagles’ offense has always been balance, and when they’re balanced they’re a very hard team to beat. If they can get the running game going and utilize the play action pass game, that’ll go a long way in slowing down the Rams’ pass rush. This should be a focus of the Eagle gameplan, with the Rams near the bottom of the league when it comes to stopping the run. They allow an average of 122 on the ground per game, which ranks 27th in the NFL. The Eagles are undefeated this season when rushing for over 120 yards, making the ground game possibly the biggest key to this game. If they get it going early and often, it would be the reason we leave LA with a W.
- The Eagles Need to Contain Todd Gurley.
Like I said earlier, the Rams’ offense runs through Todd Gurley. He’s the NFL’s leading rusher this season and also a dual threat coming out of the back field. Gurley has 939 yards on the ground with an average of 4.21 and 8 touchdowns. He also 48 receptions for 563 yards along with an additional three touchdowns. Behind Le’Veon Bell, he’s the best dual threat running back playing right now, making him the Ram’s most dangerous weapon by far.
The Eagles still boast one of the best rush defenses in the league despite giving up 100 yards last week. And due to that I still believe they’ll be able to hold Gurley in check on the ground, especially if they jump out to an early lead. What scares me more so about Gurley is his receiving ability out of the backfield.
The Rams are the best team in the NFL when it comes to throwing screens, and that’s all thanks to their new Head Coach Sean McVay. They average 9.7 yards on screen plays which only trails the Washington Redskins, McVay’s former team. If the Eagles jump out to an early lead the Rams will be forced to throw more than they’re accustomed to. If they’re forced to throw it more, the Eagles will likely blitz more, and in that case the screen game will be wide open for the Rams. I suspect Jim Schwartz is aware of this, and will have either Kendricks or one of the safeties act a spy on Gurley. If whoever that player is can keep his damage to a minimum on Sunday then they’re chances of winning increase immensely.
- Last Week’s Loss Will Propel the Eagles to a Victory.
Last week’s game against the Seahawks should be all the motivation the Eagles need to come out fired up against the Rams. After one loss in nine weeks, the national media has seemingly forgotten how dominant this team has been all season. As I mentioned at the beginning, the Eagles aren’t even favored to win this game. With such a young and inexperienced team last week’s game should serve as a stepping stone for the Eagles. It was the first time a lot of these players have every played in a playoff atmosphere like that. It was also the first time all season they’ve faced a legit franchise quarterback.
This week, the game won’t be played in front of the loudest fans in the NFL, in fact it will probably be played in front of mostly Eagles fans. They’re facing a young quarterback who’s a statue in the pocket to go along with a first year Head Coach who hasn’t coached in many big games.
This game is huge for both teams, and both will come out with something to prove. I can’t wait to see it all unfold Sunday afternoon – it should be a good one. My prediction for the game is 24-20 in favor of the Eagles. If they come out and play with the swagger and dominance that we’ve come grown accustom to seeing this year then they should have no trouble jumping back into the win column.