Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

The Eagles head to the West Coast as one of two undefeated teams in the NFC and at 4-0 look to have avoided a Super Bowl hangover to take on the 2-2 Los Angeles Rams who have more than likely exceeded expectations especially as they have been missing one of their main pieces in the offence WR Cooper Kupp who returns this week.

Both teams won overtime games last week with the Eagles holding off the Commanders after finding themselves 17-10 down at half time and pegged back to 31-31 at the end of regulation before a Jake Elliott FG from 54 yards kept them unbeaten. The Rams blew a 23 point lead before a walk off 22 yard Puka Nacua TD saw them beat the Colts.

There’s no doubt that the Eagles could dominate this game in the trenches and hold significant advantages in the offensive line versus defensive line battle and vice versa. Philadelphia have huge advantages at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

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If the Eagles defensive front doesn’t overwhelm the dubious and rather unstable Rams offensive line then this game should be played at an up tempo pace with plenty of scoreboard action but that is an if. Los Angeles have been one of the season’s surprises — not only due to their competitiveness, but an unexpected explosiveness on offence as well. Sitting top 10 in rate of 15+ yard plays and just outside the top 12 in scoring the trademark up tempo Rams game returned last week against the Colts, although that will be more difficult to maintain this week against an Eagles D line that ranks eighth in pass-rush win rate, fifth in pressure percentage, and third in QB hurry percentage. The Rams OL ranks 28th in pass-block win rate, 32nd in sacks per pass attempt given up, and 22nd in QB hits given up.

The Eagles offensive line also enjoys a significant statistical advantage over the Rams defensive line despite the dominant presence of Aaron Donald on the Rams defence. Philadelphia must be one of the best equipped teams in the league to deal with the threat of Donald. Another issue for L.A. pass rush in this game will be an opportunity, or the lack thereof given their 24th-ranked run defence in yards per play given up (4.4) against the Eagles third-ranked rush offense (4.72 yards per rush). Things are lined up well for the Eagles to control the game up front this week and that offence looks to get stronger and more efficient as the game goes on as the Eagles are averaging 28.9 yards per drive in the first half (16th) compared to a league-high 39.8 yards per drive in the second half.

The Eagles offence has ripped off three straight games of 400-plus yards of offence, averaging 439.0 per game and 31.0 points per contest and have an NFL-high 13 games with at least 400 yards since the start of 2022. The Rams have not allowed more than 400 yards in a game this season and are allowing an average of 295.8 yards per game, which ranks ninth in the NFL. Looks like something has to give here and that significant offensive line advantage could well be a deciding factor for the Eagles. The Eagles offence continues to hum this season as they have scored at least 25 points in all four games.

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts should get plenty of time to throw and he’s made good strides in that area this year, but he appears to have been rather more conservatively used as a runner. He is averaging 33.5 rushing yards per game over the opening month after 52.3 yards per game in 2021 and 50.7 yards per game last season. Over the past few weeks there appears to be a defined hierarchy in the Eagles backfield and with the Rams susceptible to the run game and behind such a dominant offensive line lead RB D’Andre Smith should have another big game if he equals his Weeks 2-4 touch counts which were 31, 17, and 18.

Hurts should also have time to find and use his wide receiving corps and since we saw No1 Eagles WR A.J. Brown throwing his toys out of the pram on the sideline back in Week 2 he’s been very much the focal point of the passing attack for the Eagles. After catching 9-of-14 targets (40.0% of the team targets) for 131 yards in Week 3, Brown pulled in 9-of-13 targets (38.2%) for 175 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. DeVonta Smith provides an excellent complimentary piece to Brown, over his last 10 regular-season appearances, Smith is averaging 8.6 targets, 6.1 catches, 87.1 yards. It will be a surprise if the Rams have enough talent in their secondary to subdue both of that pair.

Turning out attention to the Rams on offence if they can keep QB Matthew Stafford upright then they will have a chance to stay competitive within this game but the ability to do that will be one of the keys to this contest. Remember that Stafford is also carrying a hip injury but he’s likely to get WR Cooper Kupp back and it has to be said that the Rams are consistently creating explosive plays in the passing game. On the ground things have been tougher for the Rams and they face a tough ask here against an Eagles run defence that has allowed just 2.89 yards per carry to enemy RB’s and that gives Rams lead RB Kyren Williams a daunting task this week. Hence the need for the Rams to protect Stafford and rely on their passing game especially as 80.5% of the yardage allowed by the Eagles has come via passing, the highest rate in the league.

With Kupp returning Stafford now has one of the best receiving trios of his career as Kupp will be joining standout rookie Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell. Rookie WR Puka Nacua has 39 receptions for 501 yards this season (both are the most through four career games in NFL history) and he needs one reception and 43 receiving yards for the most through five career games. Obviously if Kupp returns here he will eat into the usage of Nakua and Atwell (especially), but it should be noted that Eagles have yielded nine touchdowns through the air this season, third worst behind only the Broncos (13) and Bears (10). The game script suggest that the Rams will be forced into plenty of pass attempts whether they can protect Stafford or not. That would also bring TE Tyler Higbee into the equation and the Eagles have allowed the NFL’s fifth-most receptions (22), sixth-most yards (234), and second-most TDs (3) to opposition tight ends. Higbee has 23 targets over his last three games.

This game, on the fast track of SoFi Stadium, features plenty of offensive firepower on both sides and we are likely see a very high volume of pass attempts in this game due to how both defences funnel their opponents which makes the +49.5 total points line at 4-5 look a relatively attractive proposition with the total touchdowns pitched at +5.5 at 3-4 also in play. This is the 25th consecutive start in the regular season Eagles QB Jalen Hurts is favoured in and he’s 23-2 outright and 13-10-2 ATS in his career as a favourite and I would be edging towards the Hurts and the Eagles adding to that record and overcoming the -4.5 handicap line at Evens.

ANDY RICHMOND

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Author: Eugene Morris