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Eagles schedule preview: Rams show what a difference a year makes

A year ago this game would have been highly anticipated

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Our penultimate installment of previewing the Eagles schedule takes the Eagles back to Los Angeles in Week 14 to face the Rams.

Lost: WR Kenny Britt, S TJ McDonald

Added: LB Connor Barwin, RB Lance Dunbar, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB Kayvon Webster, T Andrew Whitworth, WR Robert Woods

Drafted: TE Gerald Everett, WR Cooper Kupp, S John Johnson, WR Josh Reynolds, LB Samson Ebukam, DT Tanzel Smart, FB Sam Rogers, DE Ejuan Price

Why they’ll lose to the Eagles

Because the Rams have been bad for years and while instant turnarounds happen, it’s hard to see it happening with this team. In two of their four wins last year, they scored 9 points. Jared Goff was terrible last year, and he’ll probably continue to be terrible. In the last 20 years, Goff’s 63.6 passer rating was 15th worst among rookies (minimum 200 attempts), and of QBs who had a passer rating under 70, only Donovan McNabb and Matthew Stafford turned out to be starters.

Usually when QBs who were taken in close order play each other, it’s a notable game. Philip Rivers loves playing against the Giants and has played great against them. Andrew Luck vs RGIII made some waves for a preseason game. We love to wonder what could have been. 2016’s 1st overall pick will face 2016’s 2nd overall pick, both of whom were traded up for. Last year this would have been a game people were looking forward to. Goff was so bad last year that it’s sapped the excitement out of it this year.

Goff’s struggles aren’t entirely his fault though—he’s got nothing to work with. His leading receiver, Kenny Britt, is gone. In his place is Robert Woods, who will have a career high in receiving yards if he gains 700. Tavon Austin is a good player in theory, in reality the only worthwhile season of his career saw his rushing yards (434) nearly match his receiving yards (473).

Todd Gurley had a good rookie season, but with defenses loading up to stop him in 2016, he was one of the worst starting running backs in the league. He was 5th in attempts and 40th out of 42 qualified running backs in yards per attempt. If Goff can’t get on track, it should be more of the same.

In an offensive league, the Rams don’t have one. Nor do they have much of a defense, finishing around or below average in just about every meaningful statistical category. The Rams had nothing they could hang their hat on in 2016 that you can point to and say will be the foundation of the 2017 team. Except punting. They were pretty good at that, and had a lot of practice.

Why they’ll beat the Eagles

Because the Rams finally got rid of Jeff Fisher, so they almost certainly got better by default. Sean McVay was a very good play caller in Washington, he should be able to get more out of his young offensive core simply by moving them out of the stone age. The Rams scored in the single digits five times last year, that’s unlikely to happen again. If Goff takes a big step, Woods and Austin show their potential and then Gurley bounces back thanks to defenses not keying on him, the Rams offense can win some games. It’s a low probability that all those things happen at once, but you can get into the Hall of Fame batting .270 if you hit enough home runs.

It’s also possible, and more likely, that the Rams make serious improvements on defense. Wade Phillips has been one of the best defensive coordinators for years, and the Rams wouldn’t be the first defense he’s turned around in his first year (though at 70 you have to imagine it would be his last). Aaron Donald is a great player and Phillips has some parts to put around him in Connor Barwin, Michael Brockers, Trumaine Johnson, and Alec Ogletree.

For the Eagles, this is the second straight west coast game for them (and second game in Los Angeles), travel fatigue could be an issue, especially on a slightly shorter week since the previous game in Seattle is scheduled to be a Sunday Night, though flexing out is a possibility.


Who wins the Eagles-Rams game?

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