Last Updated: 2017-12-06
There are two outstanding games in the 4 p.m. ET time slot in Week 14. The one in focus with this write-up will be the battle in Los Angeles between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are favored by less than a field goal across the market, with lines spread from -1 to -2.5. The consensus number is -2, which is the line at BetOnline Sportsbook.
The Eagles came back to earth a little bit last week as they failed to manage much offensively against a Seattle Seahawks defense decimated by injuries. The loss for Philadelphia dropped the Eagles to 9-3 ATS on the season and dropped them into a tie with the Minnesota Vikings atop the NFC at 10-2. The Vikings currently hold the tiebreaker due to strength of victory because the two teams have not played each other. The Rams are knocking on the door at 9-3 and own the tiebreaker over the New Orleans Saints for the #3 seed. The Rams only have a one-game cushion over the Seahawks in the NFC West. This is a big measuring stick game for both teams and a game with a lot of playoff implications.
This is a unique week for the Eagles. With back-to-back road games on the West Coast, the team opted to stay and practice in the Anaheim area after flying in early Monday morning from Seattle. The state of California is again dealing with wildfires, which are not near where the team is staying, but the air quality is certainly poor. The Rams are also contending with the conditions, but it makes for an even longer week away from home for the Eagles. We’ll see if any plans are made to move the game and wish the best for everybody affected by these fires.
The Eagles have been operating at a remarkably high level while not doing anything earth-shattering. Philadelphia is seventh in yards per play with 5.7 and one of six teams allowing less than five yards per play. This is just a solid football team that doesn’t beat itself. The Eagles have turned it over 15 times, but Carson Wentz has only thrown six interceptions. Wentz has a 29/6 TD/INT ratio with a 60.7 percent completion percentage. He has kept the ball out of harm’s way when plays haven’t been there and that is the biggest difference from last season to this season. He has even overcome injuries to key players, including offensive linemen Jason Peters and Lane Johnson. He may have to overcome another one this week with Zach Ertz in concussion protocol. Alshon Jeffery, who bet on himself and got paid, leads the team with 680 receiving yards. Three WR/TE have at least 40 catches and seven touchdowns. The ground game has been really strong as well with 4.6 yards per carry. The Eagles are simply solid. That’s the best word to describe them.
What really helps Philadelphia, and what sets the Eagles defense apart from most around the league, is that the front four gets a lot of pressure and that allows the back seven to sit back in coverage or step up in run support. Philadelphia has only allowed 4.9 yards per carry and has 22 takeaways because Jim Schwartz’s defense simply doesn’t miss assignments. Only two teams have forced more takeaways and only Jacksonville and Minnesota have allowed fewer yards per play. Not surprisingly, the Eagles are also the ninth in penalties. The NFL is a league full of teams and players capable of capitalizing on mistakes. The teams that force them and don’t commit them are going to have success. The Eagles fit that mold. Philadelphia is also fifth in rush defense with just 3.5 yards per carry. Once again, that word “solid” comes to mind.
Sean McVay has to be the front-runner for coach of the year. The first-year HC has turned the Rams around into a legitimate NFC contender. He has maximized the skill set of Jared Goff and has allowed Todd Gurley to shine by putting the offensive linemen in positions to succeed. Goff owns a 20/6 TD/INT ratio with a 62.2 percent completion percentage. The work that McVay did with Kirk Cousins has been evident with Goff, a player that has even more upside. He has created plays to put Robert Woods in space, where he has 12 gains of 20 yards or more, and to rely heavily on possession receiver Cooper Kupp. The Rams have 5.9 yards per play this season. That is 1.5 more yards per play than last season. The addition of Andrew Whitworth stabilized the offensive line and allowed youngsters like Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown to develop and stabilize the right side of the line. Todd Gurley is working on his second 1,000-yard season with 4.2 yards per carry. The Rams, much like the Eagles, don’t beat themselves. They’ve only thrown six interceptions as a team and have taken advantage of short fields by scoring on nearly 49 percent of their possessions.
Lost in last year’s horrendous offensive showing was that this defense was pretty good. The Rams allowed just 5.2 yards per play last season and have allowed just 5.3 yards per play this season. Los Angeles has become more of a turnover-happy defense under the watchful eye of veteran DC Wade Phillips and this is a group with 21 takeaways this season. The Rams have not been great against the run, with 4.7 yards per carry allowed, but it feels like Phillips and his staff have allowed the run to be a problem area in order to limit long plays in the passing game. The Rams are tied for fifth in adjusted net yards per pass attempt against with 5.0. The Rams are third in sacks with 37. There aren’t a whole lot of great rushing offenses out there, so focusing on the pass is the way to go.
Free NFL Pick: Philadelphia Eagles +2
The Eagles and Rams both have unconventional weeks on tap due to the wildfires, which may level the proverbial playing field. Philadelphia had a setback last week, which was coming. The Rams didn’t play as well as the score would indicate in Arizona and have had some bumps in the road against really good teams. The Eagles are a really good team. Los Angeles has been held under 100 rushing yards in three straight weeks and needs to control the clock and the tempo against a team like Philadelphia. The short road dog is an interesting look here.
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