When the LA Rams and Philadelphia Eagles chose their quarterbacks with the first and second picks of the 2016 NFL Draft, both franchises were hopeful that they would ascend to the top of the NFC. Nineteen months later, not many people could have predicted just how close these two teams are in Week 14 of the 2017 season. Since the beginning of the year, the Eagles’ and Rams’ offenses have scored the exact same number of points, and the defenses are separated by a single touchdown.
Philadelphia Eagles (10-2; 1st in NFC East)
Yards per Play: 5.7 (7th in NFL)
Yards per Play Allowed: 4.9 (3rd)
Yards per Rush Attempt: 4.6 (4th)
Yards per Pass Attempt: 7.2 (11th)
Points per Game: 30.1 (1st)
Points per Game Allowed: 17.9 (6th)
Los Angeles Rams (9-3; 1st in NFC West)
Yards per Play: 5.9 (5th in NFL)
Yards per Play Allowed: 5.3 (16th)
Yards per Rush Attempt: 4.0 (16th)
Yards per Pass Attempt: 7.8 (3rd)
Points per Game: 30.1 (1st)
Points per Game Allowed: 18.5 (7th)
** Stats courtesy of: TeamRankings.com
Following last week’s loss to the Seahawks, Doug Pederson elected to keep the team on the West Coast to prepare for the Rams. The Eagles set up camp in Anaheim and have been practicing at Angel Stadium this week. That area hasn’t been affected by the California wildfires, but the Rams were forced to cancel their normal practice on Wednesday. Air quality in the area is supposed to see significant improvement on Thursday, and the Rams are expected to return to their normal routine with no anticipated changes to Sunday’s game.
No. 1 vs. No. 2
Although Philadelphia was disappointed by last year’s 7-9 season, most Eagles fans walked away at the end of the year with confidence that they had a franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz. LA didn’t really share that same sentiment. Jared Goff appeared in seven games, completed 54.6-percent of his passes, and turned the ball over nine times compared to five touchdowns. What a difference a year (and a new coach) can make. Goff is completing 62.2-percent of his passes and is on pace to throw for over 4,200 yards this season.
The Rams defense has name recognition, but through the first three-quarters of the season, they haven’t played at an elite level. Aaron Donald has eight sacks and three forced fumbles. Robert Quinn has 5.5 sacks, including two last week at Arizona. Wentz will need to know where those two guys are at all times, but the Eagles need to be aggressive in attacking the rest of the Rams’ defense. They rank No. 16 in the league in yards per play allowed. They rank No. 30 in yards per rush allowed (4.7) and No. 27 in rushing yards per game allowed (122.8). The Cardinals had more yards, more first downs, and more time of possession last week against Los Angeles. If Arizona’s offense (without Carson Palmer, Adrian Peterson and John Brown) can do that against the Rams, the Eagles should find success.
He’s Going Left
Running back Todd Gurley has been a fantastic compliment to Goff’s aerial attack this season, but as the week’s go on, a pattern is developing. The Rams are struggling to run to the right side of their offensive line. NFL Savant gives a breakdown of LA’s success rate when running to the left, versus the right. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth has missed a total of two games since the start of the 2009 season. When running behind him, the Rams average 6.2 yards per carry. When running behind the right tackle, the Rams average 2.5 yards per carry.
Minnesota Says Hi
There’s no such thing as an “acceptable loss” in the NFL, but most Eagles fans were able to stomach last week’s defeat at Seattle. That was a desperate Seahawks team, at home, at night, and they played well. But now the Eagles find themselves in a “must-win” situation regarding the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Look at Minnesota’s remaining schedule. The Vikings are road favorites at Carolina, then play Cincinnati’s injured reserve squad, then the Packers and the Bears to finish the season. Barring a surprising upset, that certainly looks at-worst like a 3-1 finish for Minnesota. Philadelphia doesn’t have any wiggle room. If the Eagles drop this game, they could potentially end up tied with New Orleans and LA at 10-3.