When Eagles run the ball
The Eagles are second in the league in rushing (143.3 yards per game), but were held to 3.8 yards per carry by the Seahawks on Sunday. It was the first time in four games they were held to fewer than 4.0. They had eight rushing first downs against Seattle, but Carson Wentz had five of them. Jay Ajayi’s role in the offense is starting to grow. He had just one more carry than LeGarrette Blount against Seattle, but played 17 more snaps. Ajayi had six of the Eagles’ nine first-down carries, which had been Blount’s primary domain, but gained just 18 yards on those six carries. Wentz is becoming a bigger factor in the run game. He has nine rushing first downs in the last two games, and 26 for the season. That’s just three fewer rushing first downs than Blount’s team-high 29. The Rams have struggled against the run. They’re 27th in yards allowed per game (122.8) and 30th in opponent rush average (4.7). They’ve allowed 5.4 yards per carry in their last three games and have given up 4.53 yards per carry on first down, the fifth-worst average in the league.
When Eagles throw the ball
Carson Wentz’s 86.2 passer rating against Seattle was his third lowest of the season. He’ll face another tough test Sunday. Coordinator Wade Phillips has done an impressive job of turning around the Rams’ defense, at least against the pass. They are third in sacks (37), fifth in opponent passer rating (77.3) and interceptions (14), tied for sixth in touchdown passes allowed (14) and seventh in opponent completion percentage (59.5). Wentz has excelled at situational football this season. He is the league’s top third-down passer (125.7 rating), averaging 9.5 yards per attempt on third down. He leads the league in touchdown passes with 29, including 12 on third down. He has a 66.7 completion percentage in the red zone and has yet to throw an interception or get sacked inside the 20. Alshon Jeffery has a 57.6 catch rate in the last four games after a career-low 45.1 in the first eight. He has 15 catches for first downs in the last four games. Jeffery, slot receiver Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz have combined for 21 touchdown catches.
When Rams run the ball
Todd Gurley rushed for 1,106 yards as a rookie two years ago, but had an awful sophomore season, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Running behind a rebuilt offensive line, he is second in the league in rushing with 939 yards and a 4.2-yard-per-carry average. He is a big back (6-1, 225) with a rare blend of speed and power. Gurley’s workload has been reduced a bit in the last five games. He averaged 20.7 carries in the Rams’ first seven games, but only 15.6 in the last five. His productivity also has plateaued. His rush average was 4.3 in the first seven games and 4.0 in the last five. His percentage of runs of one yard or less has risen, from 38.6 in the first seven games to 51.3 in the last five. The Eagles are first in the league against the run (68.1 yards per game). But two of their last three opponents – Dallas and Seattle – have averaged 4-plus yards per carry against them. They were just the second and third teams to run the ball 25-plus times against the Eagles. Opponents have averaged a league-low 19.3 rushing attempts per game against them this season.
When Rams throw the ball
The difference between Jared Goff this year and last year is like night and day. In seven starts last season, he had a 63.6 rating, 54.6 completion percentage and a minus-2 touchdowns-to-interceptions differential. This season, he is ninth in the league in passing (98.4) with a 62.2 completion percentage and a plus-14 TDs-to-picks rate. He also is third in the league in yards per attempt (8.1). The game has slowed for him, but the Rams also got him better weapons, trading for Sammy Watkins, signing free agent Robert Woods and drafting Cooper Kupp. Kupp doesn’t have blazing speed, but knows how to get open. He has a team-high 51 receptions. Goff’s o-line has given him good protection. He has been sacked only 20 times and has been under pressure on just 34.3 percent of his dropbacks, the 12th-lowest percentage in the league. The Eagles have given up 17 TD passes this season, including nine to tight ends and running backs. The Rams don’t throw a lot to their tight ends, but they do use Gurley in the pass game. He has 48 receptions.
The Rams have one of the league’s top special-teams units. PK Greg Zuerlein has missed just two of 38 FG attempts this season and is 6 for 7 from 50-plus yards. P Johnny Hekker has the third-highest gross career average among active punters (47.0) and is second in the league in net average this season (44.5). Just 15 of his 44 punts have been returned. Pharoh Cooper is first in kickoff returns (28.1) and third in punt returns (12.6). He has fair-caught just five punts in the first 12 games. The Rams are second in the league in average drive start on kickoffs (27.3). Zuerlein has an 81.5 touchback percent on kickoffs, second highest in the NFL. The Eagles coverage units have not been nearly as consistent as they’ve been in past seasons under Dave Fipp. That inconsistency coincided with a season-ending knee injury to special-teams captain Chris Maragos in Week 5. PK Jake Elliott has missed just 2 of his last 19 FG attempts, and he was kicking with a concussion on one of those. Kenjon Barner is fourth in PR average (11.1).
Eagles 31, Rams 30
— Eagles LT Halapoulivaati Vaitai and LG Stefen Wisniewski vs. Rams DE Aaron Donald and OLB Robert Quinn: Vaitai had his problems last week vs. Seattle’s Frank Clark. Wisniewski is having a solid season, but Donald is one of the top two or three interior d-linemen in the league. ADVANTAGE: Rams
— Eagles SCB Patrick Robinson vs. Rams SWR Cooper Kupp: Kupp leads the Rams in receptions (51) and third-down catches (19). Robinson is having one of the best seasons of his career. ADVANTAGE: Even
— Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery vs. Rams CBs Trumaine Johnson and Kayvon Webster: Jeffery has seven TD catches, five in the red zone. Johnson and Webster have given up, combined, one touchdown this season. ADVANTAGE: Eagles
Hot and not
Eagles: WR Alshon Jeffery. Has 19 catches – 15 for first downs – and four TDs in the last four games.
Rams: DL Aaron Donald. Has 3 sacks and 4 tackles for losses in the last two games.
Eagles: WR Torrey Smith. Averaging just 7.2 yards per catch on 12 catches in the last three games. Has just four receiving first downs in the last nine games.
Rams: WR Tavon Austin. Austin, who had 58 catches last year, has three for eight yards in the last five games. Played just 11 snaps vs. Arizona.