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Eagles vs. Rams predictions: Birds need to bounce back, but it’s a tall order

Before the season, this looked like a win for the Eagles. After Sunday's loss to Washington, it's hard to know what to expect.

Jared Goff leads a run-heavy Rams offense into Sunday's game at the Linc.
Jared Goff leads a run-heavy Rams offense into Sunday's game at the Linc.Read moreJae C. Hong / AP

After a shocking second-half implosion against a Washington team considered among the worst in the NFL, the Eagles want to (need to?) bounce back in their home opener against the Los Angeles Rams.

They get Lane Johnson and Miles Sanders back Sunday, maybe a few other key players.

Here is how our beat writers see this game unfolding:

Les Bowen

Don’t have a great feel for this one. It’s easy to see why the Rams are slight road favorites; they won at home against Dallas last weekend, while the Eagles were imploding against Washington, which observers feel is going to be the worst team in an unimpressive NFC East.

Getting back Lane Johnson and Miles Sanders, presumably, changes the equation for the Eagles offense. You’re going to read a lot about Aaron Donald this week, and deservedly so — he’s a great player, facing an offensive line that could hardly have been worse at Washington. But the Eagles have faced Donald before, and survived. (With Brandon Brooks at right guard, and yes, that IS kind of a big deal.)

I’m looking for something to hang my hat on here in predicting an Eagles victory. I’m gonna go with Carson Wentz cutting down drastically on the mistakes, and on a Rams offense that prioritizes the run game — 40 rushes against Dallas — not being able to do all that much against an Eagles defense that absolutely can stop the run. The pass rush has to be a little better than last week, probably. Brandon Graham needs to clear the concussion protocol. It would be nice if Derek Barnett could suit up and provide a boost.

» READ MORE: Birds' Eye View podcast: Stopping Aaron Donald a tall order for Eagles' battered O-line

Am I confident the Eagles will win? Hardly. But I think they are almost in a must-win spot, as silly as that seems in Week 2, with games at San Francisco, at Pittsburgh, home against the Ravens, home against the Cowboys, home against the Seahawks, at Green Bay and at home against the Saints over the ensuing 11 weeks.

Prediction: Eagles 16, Rams 15

EJ Smith

There’s reason to believe the Eagles are in store for a regression to the mean after last week’s debacle. Carson Wentz hasn’t had consecutive multiple-interception games since his rookie season, and he frequently follows up shabby performances with better ones. Still, I’m skeptical of the Eagles' chances in this one.

I said going into the season opener that Washington’s defensive line is talented. I said the group, lined with first-round picks, would keep Washington in games that it otherwise had no business being in. Everywhere else, Washington is a lackluster football team. The Eagles are about to face a much better defensive secondary to go along with another talented defensive front. The Rams offense is better at basically every position, and I don’t believe that’s hyperbole. While the Eagles secondary looked solid against Washington, the Rams' passing game will be a much stiffer test.

» READ MORE: Birds' Eye View podcast: What went wrong against Washington

The Eagles, trying to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole, will be the team with the greater sense of urgency. I usually put significant stock in that urgency advantage, especially considering the Birds are at home, but I struggle to see this team plugging all the holes that led to last weekend’s loss.

If I’m wrong, it’s because the return of Lane Johnson, Miles Sanders, and Derek Barnett made enough of a difference to vastly improve things, but the trio of starters, all of whom missed most or all of training camp, will likely need some time to knock off the rust and play at a high enough level to truly cure the Eagles' ills.

Prediction: Rams 24, Eagles 17

Paul Domowitch

I had this as a win going into the season. But the Eagles' second-half collapse against Washington last weekend has made me rethink my pick and my life.

The Rams are flying across the country and the Eagles can only hope the trip really, really tires out Aaron Donald, who is the closest thing to an unstoppable force as there is in the NFL right now.

The Eagles are getting running back Miles Sanders and right tackle Lane Johnson back this week, which should be big boosts to their offense. They blew a 17-0 lead last week by turning the ball over and giving Washington a truckload of short fields and not running the ball enough.

I know Pederson and his army of offensive assistants have these shiny new Lamborghinis at wide receiver that they want to send down the field a lot. But for this week at least, with Donald on the other side of the line, I think they need to park the Lamborghinis and roll out the Crown Vic and go to a shorter, simpler game plan that will help improve the odds of Wentz making it to Monday with his collarbone and other vital body parts in tact.

Wentz, of course, needs to do a better job of helping both the team and himself out by getting rid of the ball when he’s under duress. The good news is most of those eight sacks Sunday weren’t a case of the line getting physically manhandled. Most of them had to do with missed or poorly executed assignments or Wentz hanging on to the ball too long.

If the Eagles can establish the run, if they can be productive on first and second down and stay out of a lot of third-and-longs, if they can jump out to another fast start, they can win this game. If there were 70,000 screaming Eagles fans at the Linc on Sunday, I probably would’ve taken the Eagles by a field goal. But there won’t be.

Prediction: Rams 20, Eagles 17

Jeff McLane

I just can’t see the Eagles going 0-2. Yes, Sunday’s loss was bad, about as bad as it’s been during the Doug Pederson era. But there were multiple injuries, especially on the offensive line, and I think that needs to be emphasized. Carson Wentz had a bipolar game, but he’s never carried a subpar performance into another week. I think he rebounds, and I think Pederson can scheme up a more modest game plan that actually establishes the run and utilizes play action.

Miles Sanders should help. He will get his carries, but I’d expect the Eagles to have a couple of pass plays at the ready that will exploit the mismatches he creates as a receiver. Aaron Donald can be a handful. The Eagles have done a solid job of neutralizing the Rams defensive tackle in previous meetings, but that was with Brandon Brooks at right guard. Nate Herbig or Jack Driscoll could be red meat for Donald. But the return of Lane Johnson at right tackle should settle the line down. The Eagles have won considerably more with Johnson than without. They are 36-17 with him in the lineup, 6-12 without.

I also like the Eagles' matchups on the other side of the ball. I think Nickell Robey-Coleman can cancel out, or at least slow, slot receiver Cooper Kupp. Los Angeles went heavy on the ground in last weekend’s win over the Cowboys, but the Eagles have long been stout against the run. The linebackers will have to be on their toes to not fall for all of Sean McVay’s pre-snap and post-snap diversions, but I think the big boys up front should create enough havoc for the back end to clean up.

Ultimately, I’m not a Jared Goff believer. He’s a fine quarterback, but when pressured, he struggles to hit receivers downfield. Jim Schwartz had his number in the last meeting, and that was without Darius Slay at cornerback. I think the Eagles could coast.

Prediction: Eagles 27, Rams 20