Injuries have taken a toll on the Philadelphia Eagles this season.
Now they will need to overcome the loss of their franchise quarterback as they attempt to rally for a playoff spot down the final stretch.
Carson Wentz, who has a stress fracture in his back which does not require surgery, is officially listed as questionable ahead of the Eagles trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams on Sunday Night Football.
Every indication is that he will not play.
Philadelphia, which at 6-7 is a half-game back of the Minnesota Vikings for the final NFC wild-card spot with three games to go, will be in tough to upset a Rams side that is currently tied for the NFL’s best record at 11-2.
The Eagles have stumbled through their Super Bowl title defence thanks in large part to the injuries they have dealt with on both sides of the football. In addition to Wentz, Philadelphia could be without left guard Isaac Seumalo, defensive end Michael Bennett, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, linebacker Jordan Hicks and cornerback Sidney Jones on the defensive side of the football this weekend.
Wentz’s injury will garner the bulk of the attention for obvious reasons. The Eagles were already a 9.5-point betting underdog versus L.A. before the Wentz injury news was revealed. Now Philadelphia is listed as an 11.5-point underdog with Nick Foles projected to start at quarterback.
A year ago, the Eagles went 5-1 with Foles as their starter which included a Super Bowl win. However, a lot has changed since then and there is a level of uncertainty surrounding Foles as he makes his first appearance since Week 2 against one of the league’s best teams.
Foles completed 65.9 per cent of his pass attempts for 451 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a pair of starts against the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to open the season. There is no doubt that Foles has the potential to play at a high level at times. The problem is that he has also been very inconsistent throughout his career.
Foles has 45 career NFL starts. In 18 of those 45 starts, he’s posted a passer rating over 100. In 17 of those 45 starts, he’s posted a passer rating below 80. That leaves 10 starts in which he has posted a passer rating between 80 and 100, which can be considered average.
For the most part, Foles has either been really good or really bad.
How will Foles perform if he starts against the Rams on Sunday night?
After allowing an average of 39.0 points over a three-game stretch against the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles has held its last two opponents to an average of 15.5 points per game. The Rams have allowed an average of 13.4 points per game in five contests with cornerback Aqib Talib in the lineup, compared to an average of 30.8 points per game allowed in the eight games that Talib has missed. Talib is expected to play on Sunday.
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Aaron Donald was held without a sack for just the second time this season in last week’s 15-6 loss to the Chicago Bears. Still, L.A. held Chicago to just 100 passing yards and forced three interceptions in the loss.
The Rams are 6-0 at home this season.
Coming off a disappointing loss to Chicago, the host side will be motivated to bounce back with a statement victory as they jockey with the Saints for the No. 1 seed in the NFC over the final three weeks.
While the L.A. defence should be locked in, it’s the offence that needs to bounce back following its worst outing of the season.
The Rams were held to just six points and 3.5 yards per play while registering 214 total yards of offence versus Chicago, which represent the worst numbers that the team has recorded in each of those categories over the last two seasons under head coach Sean McVay.
Quarterback Jared Goff completed just 20-of-44 pass attempts for 180 yards against the Bears. He also threw four interceptions in a game for the first time in his career while failing to throw a touchdown pass.
Meanwhile, running back Todd Gurley was held to a season-low 28 rushing yards on 11 carries.
L.A. still ranks third in the NFL with an average of 32.7 points scored per game this season (the Eagles are 19th with a 21.6-point average). McVay and his players will be motivated to bounce back with a much better performance against an injury-riddled Philadelphia defence on Sunday night.
The Eagles have allowed opponents to complete 45.5 per cent of their passes thrown 20 yards or more downfield this season, which is the fifth-highest rate in the NFL. Expect the Rams to try to capitalize by going over the top with some big play shots early and often in order to test a banged-up Philadelphia defence.
The defending Super Bowl champs won’t benefit from any breaks in their schedule with games against the Rams, Houston Texans and Washington Redskins to close out the regular season. At 6-7, the Eagles will likely need to win out just to have a shot at the final NFC wild-card spot at 9-7.
Meanwhile, L.A. will host Philadelphia before visiting the Arizona Cardinals and then returning home for a date with the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17. The Rams can’t afford another slip up as they battle New Orleans for the top seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Both teams still have everything to play for heading into Week 15.
The playoff implications will only add to the intensity of this Sunday Night Football showdown.