The Eagles are a very, very good team.
That much is obvious but it’s worth repeating because it can’t be stated enough how much the Rams will need to bring their A-game in order to knock off the 10-2 team. The Rams have faced three elite teams this season in the Seahawks, Vikings, and Saints. Unfortunately, they’ve lost twice. They’ll get an opportunity to take on a fourth and prove to the entire league that they belong in the NFL’s upper-echelon when they host the Eagles, and a win will keep them in contention for the number one overall seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Here are five things to know about the Eagles ahead of Sunday’s game:
The Eagles are one of only a few teams to be in the top ten in the league in both passing yards per attempt and rushing yards per attempt. They can beat you both through the air and on the ground, and try to maintain a balanced attack to keep the defense guessing. They run a lot of run-pass options where quarterback Carson Wentz can decide to hand it off or pull the ball out and throw based on what he sees after the snap. With the Rams’ rushing defense struggling in recent weeks, expect the Eagles to attempt to establish the running game early with Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement all mixing in.
Wentz Doesn’t Play As Well on the Road
Over the last two seasons, Wentz’s home/road splits have been quite stark. Wentz is a much different player statistically away from home and while he’s still been good on the road this year, he hasn’t been nearly as good as he is in Philly. Last year Wentz had a TD: INT ratio of 9:5 at home and 7:9 on the road. This year, he’s completing 63.5 percent of his passes at home and just 58.3 percent on the road. Also, his passer rating is 92.7 on the road compared to 113.2 at home. Those kind of splits must give the Rams defense hope that he might be off his game, and Wentz is definitely capable of a dud on the road despite his overall stellar season.
They Don’t Give Up Big Plays
One thing the Rams love to do on offense is challenge offenses vertically. They have by far the most pass plays of 20 or more yards of any team in the league. Unfortunately, limiting big plays is something the Eagles do very well. The Philadelphia defense has allowed the fewest 20+ yard pass plays of any defense. This matchup of competing strengths will be one of the more interesting things to watch during the game.
Zach Ertz Is Unlikely to Play
Ertz has been one of the best tight ends in the league and is one of Wentz’s favorite targets. If he is unable to play it will be a major loss for their entire offense. As of right now, Ertz seems very unlikely to play as he is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Ertz missing the game would mean Trey Burton starting at tight end. The last game Ertz missed, against the Broncos back in week nine, Burton had 41 yards and a touchdown. A young athletic undrafted player out of Florida, he’ll be a name to keep an eye on with Ertz out.
They Have Their Own Aaron Donald
Both teams have a dominant interior defensive lineman. While Fletcher Cox isn’t as good as Aaron Donald, he’s about as close as anyone else is to Donald’s status. Cox is a game-wrecker in the middle who causes havoc around the line of scrimmage and makes the Eagles defense very hard to run on. He’s graded out as the NFL’s seventh-best defensive linemen according to Pro Football Focus and can take over a game. He’ll be a handful for the Rams interior offensive line all game long and keeping him in check will be essential if Todd Gurley is going to have success on the ground.
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