The 6-7 Eagles will play at the 11-2 Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. Here are a preview, prediction, individual matchups to watch, and keys to the game.
When Eagles run the ball
The Eagles’ running-back corps took another hit Sunday when Corey Clement went down with a knee injury, though that probably will impact the pass game more than the run game. The Eagles ran just 48 plays Sunday, tying their season low. Only 14 of them were run plays, despite the fact that they gained 32 yards on their first four carries.
Rookie Josh Adams, who had 22 carries against the Giants and 20 against the Redskins, had just seven against the Cowboys, four of which came on the Eagles’ first possession (for 30 yards). He’s averaging an impressive 5.0 yards per carry and 5.1 on first down.
In last year’s 43-35 win over the Rams, the Eagles rushed 32 times and controlled the ball for more than 39 minutes. Despite having Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh in the middle of their line, the Rams are allowing a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry. The Bears rushed for 194 yards on 35 carries against them Sunday in their 15-6 win, and controlled the ball for nearly 37 minutes.
When Eagles throw the ball
Carson Wentz is dealing with back issues and likely will sit out Sunday’s game. He’d be replaced by Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, who hasn’t played since Week 2. Foles struggled in his two early-season starts. He had a 78.9 passer rating, threw just one touchdown, and averaged only 5.5 yards per attempt in a win over Atlanta and a loss to Tampa Bay. Tight end Zach Ertz is third in the league in receiving with 98 receptions. With Foles at QB, the Eagles might run a few more RPOs than they did with Wentz.
The Rams have given up 27 TD passes, fifth most in the league. But they’ve given up only two and have four interceptions since cornerback Aquib Talib’s return from an ankle injury two games ago. The Rams have given up 50 completions of 20 yards or more, just one fewer than the Eagles. DT Aaron Donald will be a difficult challenge inside for left guard Isaac Seumalo. Donald has a league-leading 16 ½ of the Rams’ 34 sacks.
When Rams run the ball
At 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, Todd Gurley is a rare blend of speed and power. He rushed for 1,305 yards and 13 TDs last year when he was the league’s offensive player of the year, and is second in rushing this season with 1,203 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was held to 28 yards on 11 carries by the Bears on Sunday. That was his lowest rushing total since his rookie season.
For whatever reason, the Rams aren’t running the ball nearly as much as they did earlier in the season. They have a 32.5 run percentage in their last five games, compared to 48.4 in their first eight.
The Eagles are 28th in opponent rush average (4.9). Last weekend, they gave up 5.9 yards per carry to Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys in the first half, but held them to 2.7 in the second half. Thirteen of the Cowboys’ 22 second-half carries gained 3 or fewer yards. First down has been a problem for the Eagles. In their last eight games, they’ve allowed a league-worst 6.42 yards per carry on first down.
When Rams throw the ball
Jared Goff’s passer rating (101.2) is just a point below Wentz’s. He’s fourth in yards per attempt (8.59) and eighth in touchdowns (27). Goff had four interceptions and no TDs and completed just 45.5 percent of his passes in Sunday’s 15-6 loss to the Bears. The week before vs. Detroit, he completed just 51.5 percent of his attempts. He has completed just 7 of 17 third-down passes in the last two games.
The loss of productive slot receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) was a big blow to the Rams, who use “11’’ personnel almost exclusively. Robert Woods, who leads the team in receptions with 71, has been taking most of the slot snaps, with Brandin Cooks (66 catches, 15.9 yards per catch) and Josh Reynolds on the outside.
Gurley is one of the league’s top pass-catching RBs. He is averaging 10.3 yards per catch, with 49 receptions. The Eagles’ injury woes in the secondary are well-documented. Their front four must get pressure on Goff, but their stamina will be tested by the Rams’ frequent use of tempo, which restricts substitutions.
Jake Elliott has made 20 of 24 FG attempts, including 11 of his last 12, but had a costly PAT miss in Sunday’s OT loss to Dallas. P Cam Johnston is second in the league in both gross (48.4) and net (42.9) average. He has put 10 of his last 18 attempts inside the 20. Darren Sproles has averaged 8.1 yards on seven punt returns since returning from injury. With Corey Clement, Shelton Gibson likely will handle kick returns.
The Eagles are sixth in punt coverage (6.5) and 24th in kickoff coverage (23.7). But just 14 of Elliott’s kickoffs have been returned, fourth fewest in the league.
Rams PK Greg Zuerlein has missed just three of 24 FG attempts. He’s made 9 of 11 from 50-plus yards the last two seasons. Johnny Hekker is one of the league’s top punters. He’s had just 10 of 35 punts returned. PR JoJo Natson, who averaged just 2.4 yards per return with the Jets last season, is averaging 12.3 this year with the Rams. Their coverage teams have struggled. They’re tied for 24th in punt coverage (9.0) and 22nd in kickoff coverage (23.5).
Foles hasn’t played since Week 2. A rusty quarterback in a must-win game never is a good thing. The Eagles are last in the league in first-quarter scoring with just 28 points. The Rams are fourth with 77. Jared Goff has a 115.9 first-quarter passer rating with six TDs, one interception, and a 73.4 completion percentage. So the Eagles had better be ready to rumble. Oh, and the Rams are 6-0 at home and averaging 37.7 points.
Rams 37, Eagles 20
Eagles LG Isaac Seumalo vs. Aaron Donald: Donald is the best interior lineman in the league. Seumalo has his work cut out. ADVANTAGE: Rams
Eagles CBs Rasul Douglas, De’Vante Bausby and Cre’Von LeBlanc vs. Rams WRs Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds: Douglas is coming off a solid game against the Cowboys. The Eagles need to keep the Rams’ receivers in front of them and limit the YAC. ADVANTAGE: Rams
Eagles TEs Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert vs. LB Cory Littleton and S John Johnson: The Eagles used “12” personnel on more than half their snaps vs. the Cowboys. Ertz is third in the league in receptions. ADVANTAGE: Eagles
Be better on third down: The Eagles converted just 1 of 9 third-down opportunities vs. Dallas and allowed the Cowboys to convert 10 of their 19 third downs. That can’t happen against the Rams.
Dust off the RPOs: Nick Foles was very successful with RPOs during the playoffs last year. They haven’t used them as much with Carson Wentz at quarterback. But they could help the Eagles and Foles neutralize Donald and Suh.
Early to Gurley: Last week, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys averaged 5.9 yards per carry in the first half, but only 2.7 in the second half. The Eagles can’t afford to spot Todd Gurley two quarters before they slow him.