After a disappointing week 1 loss to the Washington Football Team, the Eagles are looking to bounce back in week 2 against a strong Los Angeles Rams team. The Rams are coming off a week 1 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, holding their high octane offense to just 17 points, and only three in the entire second half.
It’s hard to label this week 2 matchup as a ‘must win’ for the Birds, but it’s certainly a game that will define the early trajectory of this team. Going down 0-2 is essentially a death sentence in the NFL. Since 2007, 98 teams have started their seasons 0-2, and only 12 (12.2%) have rebounded to make the playoffs. Doug Pederson has never started a season 0-2 (he’s never started a season 0-1 for that matter), so expect his guys to come out ready to play in this one.
There are a handful of things to breakdown as we look forward to this week 2 contest, so let’s jump right in.
Coaching Matchup: Pederson vs. McVay
This’ll be the third time these two have gone head to head, and Pederson holds the 2-0 lead over McVay. There’s no question both of these guys are great head coaches; they’ve both had tremendous success early in their tenures, they’re both offensive master minds and they both bring a unique brand of NFL offense to the table. But the edge has to go to Pederson here.
Despite holding the 2-0 record over McVay, Pederson always seems to rally his team when the chips are down. McVay has never really displayed this capability throughout his three-year stint in LA. Their Super Bowl appearances are a prime example of this. Against the NFL’s best dynasty, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, one coach rose to the occasion with a backup quarterback at the helm, while the other looked completely outmatched.
Like I said, this isn’t a ‘must win’ game for Philly, but their backs are already against the wall here. Constantly trying to climb back over .500 after an 0-2 start is never ideal, and I’m sure Pederson has emphasized that to his team this whole week at practice.
For as much blame as Carson Wentz got for last week’s loss, Pederson deserves a good portion of that blame as well. He failed to make timely adjustments and he didn’t put his players in a good position with his play calling throughout the game. That has to change this week, and I believe it will. Pederson is smart enough to learn from the mistakes he made in week 1.
QB Matchup: Carson Wentz vs. Jared Goff
While these two teams have faced off twice already since these quarterbacks have been on the roster, this will technically be the second time these two have actually faced one another. Wentz was hurt the last time the Eagles played the Rams in 2018.
Wentz and Goff will get compared as long as they’re both starting QBs in the NFL, that’s typically what happens when you see signal callers go first and second overall in the NFL Draft. Despite both of these guys having great success throughout their four year careers, they still have a lot to prove this year. We already know some of the question marks surrounding Wentz; will his fumbling issues ever go away? Is he capable of fixing some of his mechanical issues?
Goff has faced issues in his career too. Aside from his stellar 2017-’18 run, he hasn’t consistently played at an elite level, and the Rams fan base isn’t too high on him either. Seeing both Wentz and Goff duke it out should be an exciting matchup to watch and it should give us a clearer picture of where both of them are at in their NFL careers.
I still believe Wentz is the superior quarterback, Goff is just a little more accurate with the football. Wentz has showcased the ability to lift others around him, while Goff has never really reached that level, he’s always had the better set of skill position players around him, and he may have the better offensive line heading into this matchup.
Having both Lane Johnson and Miles Sanders back (hopefully) should provide Wentz with enough fire power to bounce back from his abysmal second half performance in week 1.
Key to success on offense: Don’t let Aaron Donald wreck the game plan
Aaron Donald is going to have his moments in this game, there’s really no way to neutralize this guy. Having Lane Johnson back (again, hopefully) should help a bit, but Donald will be matched up with Jason Kelce and our guards, Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig, for the most part. Simply put, the offensive needs to play better, or this is going to be a long season.
The key to somewhat containing Donald is going to be a steady dose of the running game, which should be much more effective if Sanders is back in the lineup. The Rams gave up 138 yards on the ground in week 1, with a yards per carry average of 5.0.
There’s two key reasons why a heavy emphasis on the run is important this week. One, the Rams love to play ball control offense. They held onto the ball for about 11 more minutes than Dallas did in their week 1 game. Controlling the ball and putting together 10+ play drives en route to the end zone will throw the entire Rams offense off rhythm and force them to play catch up. Two, getting into favorable downs and distances with runs on first down will allow Doug Pederson to open up his playbook much more than he did in week 1.
One of the main reasons we saw Doug resort to the same type of long developing passing plays over and over again in week 1 was because of their lacking run game. When you’re in a second and five or six, running a play action pass is way more effective than trying to do it on second and long when your rushing attack has been anemic all game.
The Rams have lost a bevvy of starters along their defensive front. They lost linebackers Dante Fowler, Corey Littleton and Clay Matthews this offseason, and starting LB Travin Howard is on IR. The Eagles running game should come alive this week, and they’ll need it to if they don’t want Donald absolutely wreaking havoc.
Slowing down Sean McVay’s offense
While the Eagles defense finished week 1 with the No. 1 overall unit in terms of total yardage allowed, it’s hard to say if they’re legit. We’ll have a much clearer picture of what this defense actually is after the Rams game Sunday.
McVay won’t throw a ton of different concepts at you as a play caller. Ideally, he wants to pound you to death with his zone running scheme and then run play action out of that. But he a solid set of skill players, from wideouts Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, to tight end Tyler Higbee. So if McVay has to resort to his short to intermediate passing game, he’ll do it.
Jared Goff is really solid when he gets into a solid rhythm with his receiver. He didn’t have a very good outing in week 1 however, throwing for 275 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a QBR of 46.6. The Cowboys didn’t do anything to really throw him off either, they only recorded one sack and three QB hits. Goff just wasn’t that good.
The defensive line is going to need to step up big time in this one. Getting Derek Barnett back should give a boost to the pass rush, along with Brandon Graham hopefully being able to go. Josh Sweat had the best performance of any of the Eagles lineman in week 1, finishing the game with three tackles, one sack, two QB hits and a forced fumble. Look for him to get a bigger role in week 2 with Vinny Curry out. Fletcher Cox, on the other hand, had the most disappointing performance along the defensive line.
Cox finished with just two tackles, no sacks and no hits on the quarterback. That needs to change against the Rams. If Cox is able to control the line of scrimmage, disrupting the running game as well not allowing Goff to step up in the pocket, it’ll help everyone else along the line. He’s going to play a huge factor in the outcome of this game, so hopefully he bounces back from that weak performance last week.
The Eagles cannot afford starting the season 0-2. With the handful of starters coming back from injury, and hopefully a week good preparation learning from their glaring mistakes last week, Doug Pederson should absolutely be able to take this win over McVay and improve his record against him to 3-0.
Aside from Aaron Donald, the Rams did not look like an elite team last week against Dallas. They’re going to have trouble stopping the run all year on defense, and Jared Goff still has to prove he’s the face of this franchise in the post Todd Gurley era. The Eagles have the ability to exploit their weak run defense with Miles Sander and Lane Johnson back in the lineup, and with Barnett back at defensive end, this defensive line should be able to disrupt what McVay wants to do offensively.
I think the Eagles pull this one out and avoid the dreaded 0-2 start. Eagles win 24-16.
Predictions from the Full Scale writers:
Mike Bednarek: 27-20 Rams
Tyler Grace: 24-20 Rams
Ryan Haynes: 24-21 Eagles