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Philadelphia Eagles vs. Los Angeles Rams: The Professor’s preview

This is not the weekend you want to play the Rams.

Denver Broncos v Philadelphia Eagle Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The 2017 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles are traveling to play an angry Los Angeles Rams team in the Rams’ second straight nationally televised Sunday game.

The big news coming into the game is that starting Eagles QB Carson Wentz may not play and may be out for the rest of season with a back injury. This means that backup QB Nick Foles, who led the Eagles down the stretch after Wentz suffered an ACL injury last year against the Rams, will be at the helm. Philadelphia is crossing their fingers that a smaller bolt of lightning strikes twice.

Forget about it. It will never happen.

Last week’s loss to the Chicago Bears game was just one of those things that happen in the course of a 16-game season. Every team is going to have a bad game. The Rams are no different. The loss put the New Orleans Saints back in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but it was also a wake-up call to the back-to-back NFC West Champions that getting to the Super Bowl isn’t the cakewalk they may have thought it was going to be.

After suffering through four days of barbs, jabs and jokes about how the Rams were exposed, the Professor is ready to take the field again. My instructions are simple and unambiguous: the Rams need to forget about the seeding in the playoffs. Get back to focusing on winning the rest of their games, and all this other stuff will work itself out.

The 2018 Rams’ saga didn’t end with the loss to the Bears. It was merely a bump on the road.

Here’s how they bounce back.

What the Rams need to do on offense

Run the ball with RB Todd Gurley. This is what makes the Rams’ offense churn as everything they do offensively feeds off a productive running game. It will mean that Head Coach Sean McVay must go with the ground game early and often in order to take the pressure off of QB Jared Goff.

This will require the Rams’ offensive line to do a better job of blocking than they did against the Bears since a run game is as only good as size of the hole the running back has to run through. The Rams’ offensive line must come out firing on all cylinders. Blow the Eagles’ defensive front off the ball, and let Gurley do the rest.

Once the Rams establish an effective running game, they can then turn to the playaction. This will buy more time for Goff by freezing the defensive line momentarily, and then he can torch the Eagles having suffered so many injuries in the secondary. I’ve lost count on the number of combinations they have played at the back.

The Eagles’ depleted secondary is no match for Rams wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds. Goff cannot afford to have another crummy game as he did against the Detroit Lions nor the complete meltdown he had against the Bears. The time has come for Jared to step up and make the plays when the Rams need him most. He must be accurate. He must make the right reads so he can avoid the interceptions.

The bottom line with Jared is that if the Rams have any hope of making the Super Bowl, it going to come to down his decision making and ability to execute the plays he’s called upon to do with his arm. He’s not a rookie anymore. The Rams gave up a bevy of draft picks to obtain his services. Being the number one pick in the draft does bring pressure to succeed, but he’s fully capable of rising to the occasion given his growth under McVay. To the degree that there is more potential to tap, that has to materialize sooner rather than later. He’ll have the home crowd behind him before a national audience. He has an opportunity to prove he’s an elite quarterback.

The Rams must score often. This isn’t because the Professor thinks the Eagles’ offense will be able to match the Rams’ offense. Instead, it’s about the Rams’ offense demonstrating to the rest of the league why they’re an offensive powerhouse heading into the playoffs.

What the Rams need to do on defense

The upward trend across the NFL the last two weeks has been defense.

The Rams’ defense can be counted within those teams who are trending upward. The defense has only given up 31 points since the bye week. This is a far cry from the 51 points they gave up in one game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The improvement can be attributed to the return of CB Aqib Talib for sure, but it’s not the only thing. The trade for OLB Dante Fowler Jr. is showing dividends, and DT Aaron Donald is just killing it even though he didn’t have a great game against the Bears.

The Rams’ weakness is still stopping the run. It’s better, but not good enough.

The time has come for defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers as well as ILB Mark Barron to step up. Donald is clearly going to be the focus of every offense the Rams play. He’s going to get double- and triple-teamed as was clearly the case against the Bears. It’s imperative that Suh, Brockers and Barron make plays.

When the Rams force opponents into obvious passing situations, they should be able to get more three-and-outs. In passing situations when Donald is being double- and triple-teamed, Suh and Brockers need to shoot the empty gap spot. Their failure to do so has allowed opposing quarterbacks to step into the pocket with a huge hole in the middle for a quarterback run.

Rams fans have been very disappointed with the way the defense has performed thus far, but we’re beginning to see some life. Maybe these players will rise to their expected potential.

The Eagles are a perfect opponent to do this. Their offensive line has been as decimated due to injuries as their secondary. Without RB Jay Ajayi, they have no ground game to speak of.

What the Rams need to do on special teams

The Rams’ special teams seem to be sleepwalking their way into the playoffs. PR JoJo Natson Jr. and KR Pharoh Cooper need to break a big one. K Greg Zuerlein needs to stop missing field goals, and P Johnny Hekker has to make sure that the laces are facing out for field goals.

The Rams aren’t an average special teams unit under Coach John Fassel, but lately they’ve been playing like it. Enough of this. Step it up, and give other teams more reason for concern down the stretch and into the playoffs.

The X-factor

On behalf of the entire TST staff, we wish to thank those who contributed to the GoFundMe page in order to bring our birthday boy Sosa to the game. In most cases, I would consider this act of generosity a surefire jinx. However, Eli flew across the country to be my guest for the Rams’ home game against the Seattle Seahawks, which our team won. So no jinx!

Due our readers’ generosity, Sosa is finally getting the opportunity to see his favorite team play in the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on a night which the entire NFL world will be watching.

He loves the Rams. He’s as dedicated a diehard as any of us. He’s dreamed of this and thanks to you, our devoted readers, you’ve made his dream come true.

The Rams will not disappoint.

It’s Sosa’s birthday. I expect that the Rams are going to not only demolish the Eagles sending them packing for season, they may even have a few surprises up their sleeves just for Sosa.

Happy Birthday, Sos!

Let’s GO RAMS!