The Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) and Los Angeles Rams (11-2) are set to play on Sunday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In order to preview this Week 15 matchup, I reached out to our associates over at Turf Show Times. The jovial Joe McAtee (AKA 3k) took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming game. Let’s take a look at his answers.
1 - What’s your overall confidence level in this Rams team coming off that loss in Chicago?
Still incredibly high. No doubt, it was a demoralizing loss given (a) that it was essentially a playoff-caliber game and (b) we got our asses handed to us when we had the ball. And for a team and fan base that is sincerely expecting a deep postseason run, a loss to a playoff-caliber team in the fashion that we lost it certainly hurt. But the team is still 11-2, and the postseason isn’t quite here yet. So while our FanPulse results dipped in earnest for the first time all season, the sky is hardly falling.
2 - It looks like it’ll be Nick Foles starting at quarterback for the Eagles on Sunday. To what extent does Foles starting make you feel more or less confident in a Rams win?
Well, quarterback play hasn’t been a factor that’s undone the Rams this year. Mitchell Trubisky was roughly somewhere around reason #314,529 why we lost in Week 14. The bigger issues are run defense and fluctuations in our offense. So honestly, I don’t think having (clears throat) FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLES back there changes much from the Rams’ perspective.
Also, it’s pretty weird for us to be talking about Nick Foles in 2018 as Eagles and Rams blogs. Should we be talking about Sam Bradford? Or Ron Jaworski?
3 - If you had to game plan against the Rams’ defense, how would you attack them?
Run the ball. It’s the easiest way to open up the Rams, especially on the outside, as well as being able to avoid DL Aaron Donald which is something I would definitely advocate. The Rams’ weakest point for talent is across the linebacking group. The Rams tried to at least add some talent in bringing on Dante Fowler Jr.; while he has certainly helped in the edge rush over Matt Longacre, Fowler isn’t a great run-defending edge. And between Mark Barron and Cory Littleton, you can certainly have success running at them. Passing the ball can prove more difficult with Donald rushing and having recently gotten CB Aqib Talib back from injury.
4 - If you had to game plan against the Rams’ offense, how would you try to stop them?
Well, you have to defeat the Rams’ O-line. Coincidentally, the Rams’ line had their worst game of the year (by far) against the Bears last week. If you can get to QB Jared Goff without committing extra rushes to pressure, that’s a huge boost especially because it takes away the Rams’ favorite valve for dealing with blitzes: the screen. Rams Head Coach Sean McVay has used the screen game to extreme success the last two seasons to put RB Todd Gurley in space when opposing teams commit five or six guys to get to Goff. But last week, the Bears were creating pressure with just four rushers, although I suppose having EDGE Khalil Mack helps...a lot... But it also helps to make sure the line isn’t opening holes for Gurley in the run game. For whatever reason, and fans have come up with several both rational and conspiratorially theoretical, the Rams just kind of refused to run Gurley much last week. I’d guess that’s an aberration regardless of whatever reason McVay had. So if Gurley gets back to a regular usage, ensuring the Rams’ line isn’t plowing open space for him would be key as well.
For all the hype of Goff and Gurley and McVay, I’d still promote the offensive line as the key to unlock the Rams’ offense.
5 - What’s your prediction for Sunday’s game? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Rams season?
I’m going with the Rams to bounce back after a disappointing game in Chicago both as a response to that but also being at home and fighting to ensure they get the first-round bye and even the #1 seed should the New Orleans Saints slip up at any point. But the bigger point is your second question.
We knew going into this season that the Rams’ season was going to be evaluated based on how they play in the postseason. With the big name recognition additions of DL Ndamukong Suh, WR Brandin Cooks, CB Marcus Peters and Talib, this season became less of a referendum on our third-year franchise QB and more about a potential Super Bowl run. That’s still the case, and of course it just comes down to how the Rams play in January. It’s a bit unfair to try to evaluate things in light of the Bears loss, but I still feel good about the team overall. The biggest key is sheer health. The Rams remain among the most fortunate teams if not the most fortunate team outright in the NFL when it comes to injuries. There remain three games before the playoffs and then you’ve got those games themselves. As long as we don’t lose any key contributors, I won’t go as far to predict anything in the postseason (if you’re asking why, I’d point to the playoffs last year as my reason...), but I’d offer that I don’t know that you can feel better about your team than I do about the 2018 Rams.