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Three Eagles numbers that matter for the Rams game

Previewing this week’s matchup.

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NFL: Denver Broncos at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a look at three numbers that matter as the Philadelphia Eagles prepare to play the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14.

30th - Where the Rams rank in opponent rush yards per attempt (4.7).

No matter how you slice it, the Rams are not good at defending the run. Just look how they rank in some key categories.

Opponent rushing yards per attempt — 30th (4.7)

Opponent rushing yards per game — 27th (122.8)

Rush defense DVOA — 21st

When asked if the run defense stats were flawed at all, Rams writer Joe McAtee from Turf Show Times assured us they were not. Here’s what McAtee had to say in a conversation with BGN Radio on Friday.

No, I’d say the stats are pretty on point. I mean, the talent level in the secondary is off the charts. They’ve got some incredibly talented secondary [players], across the cornerbacks and safeties. So obviously teams are going to lean into the run in the first place, even with Aaron Donald up front. What’s been troublesome is the play of the linebackers. Both starting outside linebackers — Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin, who’s probably still injured this week — just haven’t been that good in the run […]

Then on the inside, Mark Barron’s done a phenomenal job. Obviously, as a transitioned safety out of Alabama, you expect run defense skills not to be an issue there. It’s really been Alec Ogletree, who’s a converted outside linebacker, who moved inside because he had the football intellect to be able to handle the signals and the calls for the defense, but maybe doesn’t have the skills to play run defense on the inside of the 3-4.

And so because of that, along with an issue on the final defensive end spot across from Aaron Donald, it’s just not a run defense. And they struggled along with it last week against Arizona for a couple drives where Kerwynn Williams, of all people, started carving them up. I think every team has issues. You can’t have a team with 53 Pro Bowlers, and I think that’s the biggest Achilles heel overall for the Rams right now, along with the lack of collective experience coming on the back of a decade of a poorly run franchise, is that technically the biggest issue they’ve got is defending the run.

Running the ball effectively will be critical to an Eagles victory today. The Rams’ run defense is the most vulnerable aspect of the team that can be exploited.

The good news for the Eagles is that they can run the ball well. Philadelphia ranks seconds in total rushing yards with 143.3 per game and fourth in rushing yards per attempt with 4.6.

If there was ever a game to lean heavily on Jay Ajayi, it has to be this one. In four games with the Eagles, the Jay Train has gained 229 yards and one touchdown on only 29 carries. That’s good for a whopping 7.9 yards per attempt.

Leaning on the run helps the Eagles in several ways.

One, it takes some pressure off Carson Wentz. The second-year quarterback struggled with accuracy issues against the Seahawks. He could stand to benefit from effective play-action calls.

Two, it potentially lessens Aaron Donald’s impact as a pass rusher. Donald is a monster. Running the ball means fewer opportunities for him to create havoc and sack Wentz. The Eagles can run away from Donald if they need to.

Three, it allows the Eagles to keep Sean McVay’s high-scoring offense off the field. This clock-controlling strategy was used when the Eagles played the Falcons last season. Atlanta’s offense was historically great in 2016, but Philadelphia was able to hold them to their worst offensive performance in part thanks to being able to pound the rock.

Run the ball against the Rams, Doug Pederson.

2.5 - The amount of seconds per snap Goff has spent in the pocket. More than any other quarterback in the NFL.

This stat comes from @JB_Long, who also notes that all 20 of Goff’s touchdown passes have come with him throwing from the pocket.

It doesn’t take a genius to point out that the defense really needs to rush the passer. But that’s especially true this week against a dangerous Rams offense.

Last week’s matchup was a tough one for the Eagles. Normally, Philadelphia is really good at generating pressure. According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles actually lead the league in pressuring quarterbacks. But against Seattle, the Eagles’ pressure was negated by Russell Wilson’s uncanny mobility.

The Eagles won’t be facing that same challenge this week. Goff is much less mobile than Wilson. He’s also prone to hold on to the ball; only four quarterbacks take longer to throw the ball. And all of those quarterbacks (Tyrod Taylor, Wilson, Jacoby Brissett, DeShone Kizer) have mobility to extend plays in a way that Goff doesn’t.

Philadelphia’s defensive line is the strength of Jim Schwartz’s unit. They need to have a really big game against a good Rams offensive line. Los Angeles ranks eighth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate and 10th in PFF’s pass block efficiency. The Eagles have played well against good o-line this year, however.

Look for the Eagles’ stout run defense to limit Todd Gurley’s impact as a rusher. His receiving ability is still a concern, but if the Eagles can force the Rams to be one-dimensional, they’ll give themselves a chance to get to Goff over and over.

It’s worth noting that Goff has small hands for a quarterback. He could be prone to getting strip-sacked by this Eagles defense.

96% - The Eagles’ chances of landing a first-round bye if they beat the Rams, per FiveThirtyEight.

If the Eagles LOSE to the Rams, however, their chances drop down to a mere 40%. That’s a 56% swing. Everyone already knows this is a big game, but the numbers put things into context.

If the Eagles beat they Rams, they’ll be up two games on both the Saints and Rams (three and four seeds) with only three games remaining. Philadelphia’s last three games include: at New York Giants, versus Oakland Raiders, and versus Dallas Cowboys. With that schedule, clinching a bye shouldn’t be very difficult.

The Eagles still have a chance at landing the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC Playoff Picture. If the Eagles beat the Rams AND the Vikings lose to the Panthers today, Philly would be back in first place. From there, the Eagles would only need to win two out of their last three games in order to clinch home field advantage throughout the post-season.

So, yeah, today’s a big opportunity for the Birds! Don’t mess it up, guys.

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