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Lawlor: Game Preview vs. Rams

There is a lot of noise surrounding the Eagles right now. The team lost a huge game last Sunday. More players went on Injured Reserve. Then came the news of Carson Wentz's back injury. Fans and the media had a lot of questions they wanted answered.

Lost in the middle of all this, the Eagles have a big game to play on tonight.

Nick Foles will take over at quarterback when the team takes on the Rams in Los Angeles. The Rams are either the best or second-best team in the NFC this year. They are 11-2, healthy, and have an elite offense. The Rams are coming off their worst game of the year, so they will be fired up to put that showing behind them.

The 6-7 Eagles face a major uphill battle to keep their season alive.

Turning to Foles in mid-December makes you think of the old Yogi Berra line about déjà vu all over again. There is a big difference this time. Foles took over an 11-2 team last year. It was up to him to keep a good thing going.

This year, Foles has to help save the Eagles' season. Another loss all but eliminates them from the postseason. Win or else.

It is possible that having Foles at quarterback will bring out the best in the rest of the team. We have seen other times when the team picked up its play to help out a backup quarterback. The 2002 and 2006 Eagles teams are great examples.

Heck, go back to last season. The Eagles picked up their game in the playoffs. Foles got outstanding protection. Receivers made some incredible catches. The defense made all kinds of big plays. That was great team football.

This team won't start playing like that, but can come together and play well enough to beat the Rams. The Eagles don't need miracles to win this game. They need to play clean football, avoiding key mistakes. They also need to make some clutch plays.

For the Eagles to win, the offense will need to sustain drives and score points. The Rams are dead last in the NFL in yards per carry allowed. Dead last. Opposing runners average 5.1 yards per carry against them. The Eagles need to run the ball, control the clock, and keep quarterback Jared Goff and company on the sideline.

Josh Adams, Darren Sproles, and Wendell Smallwood should get plenty of work in this game. Adams has shown flashes of real ability. Sproles has had limited touches since coming back. With Corey Clement out, I expect Sproles to be a bigger part of the game plan.

Isaac Seumalo is out this week so Stefen Wisniewski will take over at left guard. Wisniewski started last year against the Rams and knows how hard it is to block Aaron Donald. All the interior linemen will have their hands full trying to contain Donald, who leads the NFL with 16.5 sacks.

Foles will have to do his part. He can't just rely on the run game. The Bears beat the Rams last week in an ugly defensive struggle, but weather was a major factor. That won't be the case tonight in Los Angeles.

The Rams have given up 27 touchdown passes this year. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 95.0 against them. You can have success throwing the ball on that defense.

It will be interesting to see how the Eagles attack the Rams. Doug Pederson could go with a two-tight end look. That would help with run blocking and pass protection. It also means more time for Dallas Goedert, who is playing really well right now.

Pederson could decide to spread things out with three receivers. That allows you to get players into space and gives you a better chance of one-on-one situations. If the Eagles feel their receivers match up well, this could be the way to go.

The Eagles will mix things up no matter what. They are going to need to be creative. They also need a lot of different guys to contribute. Foles isn't going to make a lot of plays on his own. He needs his receivers to help him out. Guys must step up.

As for the Eagles' defense, this is going to be a huge challenge. The Rams are third in the league in yards and points. They can run. They can throw. They can do it all.

There is no magic formula to beating the Rams. You have to control Todd Gurley and the run game. You have to pressure Goff. You have to cover well. You have to tackle well. Other than that, it should be easy.

The Eagles' defensive line must come up with a monster game. Fletcher Cox has to wreak havoc in the middle. Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, and Chris Long need to live in the backfield. This group has to be disruptive to give the Eagles a chance.

The secondary has the challenge of covering Brandin Cooks, one of the fastest receivers in the league. The Eagles don't have speedy corners right now so they'll need to keep a safety over the top of him on a lot of plays.

One of the things I'm most interested in is simply seeing how the Eagles play. Where are they emotionally? Losing to Dallas and Wentz's made for a brutal week.

At the same time, maybe the players will feel the pressure is off. Maybe that will help them to play more freely and bring out the best in them. You want a team loose rather than uptight. With the team as major underdogs this week, maybe this group will relax and play a lot better.

This has been an incredibly strange season. I don't honestly know what to expect from the Eagles on Sunday night. If the Eagles are going to pull this off, they'll need a strong run game, great play from the defensive line, and Foles to have a bit more of his magic. Once again, Foles gets a chance to be the hero.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. You can also find his work at IgglesBlitz.com where he is the site's editor.

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