Before the news about Carson Wentz’s back, I was trying to talk myself into taking the Eagles and the points. Maybe the Eagles could run the ball against a defense that hasn’t been good against the run, make it a low-scoring game, stay within a touchdown, bow out of playoff contention kicking and scratching.
But if Wentz isn’t going to play, scratch that. Back to reality: nothing good is going to happen to the Eagles this season. That is truly the “new normal.”
This could be another nationally televised humiliation in one of the worst seasons a defending Super Bowl champion has ever produced.
Prediction: Rams 32, Eagles 13.
Yes, the Eagles won a Super Bowl with Nick Foles last year. But Foles had the luxury of three regular-season games to shake off the rust. This time around, he’s going to have to make do with three days of first-team practice reps.
Can the Eagles fly out to L.A. and beat the Rams on Sunday night? Hey, anything is possible.
If they can run the ball effectively and control the clock, if Isaac Seumalo can somehow keep Aaron Donald from abusing Foles, if the Eagles can rediscover the third-down mojo they had in the playoffs with Foles, if the defense can put a muzzle on Todd Gurley a little earlier than they did Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday, if they can force some turnovers the way they did against the Cowboys, if tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert can wreak havoc on the Rams’ defense, sure, they can pull off an upset.
But that’s an awful lot of ifs.
Prediction: Rams 37, Eagles 20
The Eagles were dealt another injury blow this week and will be without quarterback Carson Wentz, who has a fractured vertebra. Nick Foles has proven that he can step in and lead, but historically it was has taken a few games for the backup to get into a rhythm. He did enough to guide the Eagles past the Rams a year ago in Los Angeles after Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury. But this year’s team is nowhere near as complete as last year’s.
The playoffs are still a possibility, especially the wild card. The Eagles have plenty to play for. But the 11-2 Rams may be out of their league. They lost at the 9-4 Bears on Sunday, 15-6, and for the first time this season were held under 23 points. But even great teams have off weeks, and the Rams are unbeaten at the Coliseum and are averaging 38 points a game at home.
Quarterback Jared Goff has been excellent in his third season, but offensive-minded coach Sean McVay is the genius behind the Rams offense. He uses tempo to keep defenses off balance, and he has assembled a collection of skill position players who are interchangeable and thus more difficult to stop. Todd Gurley is one of the best running backs in the NFL, but receivers Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods already have over 1,000 yards receiving apiece.
Los Angeles’ defense has top-tier talent, and maybe the top of the heap with defensive tackle Aaron Donald. But it has given up its share of yards (19th overall in the NFL) and points (18th). Opposing offenses are picking up 4.8 yards a rush. The Eagles have needed balance to help their struggling unit, but they can’t get bogged down on the ground if they are to keep pace with the high-flying Rams.
I think the Eagles have some heart left. Aside from the Saints game, each of their losses have been by one score. But the loss of Wentz, even if he had been playing at less than 100 percent, will hurt, and the Rams are just too explosive.
Prediction: Rams 30, Eagles 20
This is not a game to overthink. The Rams are the superior team this season, they’re playing at home, and the injury-ravaged Eagles will now miss Carson Wentz. This is no slight on Nick Foles, who earned the Super Bowl MVP, but there’s a reason the Rams are a double-digit favorite.
Can the Eagles win? Sure, if everything breaks right, they run on the Rams, and they keep Todd Gurley in check. But the Rams are better on both sides of the ball, with elite talent and enough roster depth that the Eagles don’t have much of an advantage. You can find possible weaknesses with the Rams run defense (a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry) and quarterback Jared Goff looked susceptible to the Bears’ pressure in Sunday’s loss. I don’t see that hurting the Rams against the Eagles.
The Eagles' lack of depth on the defensive line will be apparent when the Rams use tempo to their advantage. The Rams are creative with how they use their three-receiver sets, but my guess is they will find ways to isolate Brandin Cooks to exploit the Eagles' vulnerabilities with the deep ball. And good luck figuring out how to stop Gurley.
On offense, the Eagles won’t put too much on Foles. Josh Adams needs to have a good game on the ground, and I’d look for the Eagles to use a quick reads so Foles isn’t sitting long in the pocket. A quick start is crucial, but elusive, for the Eagles. Look for the Rams to take an early lead, the defense unable to stop the big plays, and the Eagles' wild-card hopes taking a major hit.
Prediction: Rams 38, Eagles 17