Eagles vs. Rams Matchup Preview

Darren GrossmanCorrespondent ISeptember 10, 2011

Eagles vs. Rams Matchup Preview

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    For Week 1, we have the return of the matchup preview.  I will take a position by position look at the Eagles/Rams and give the edge to either team and make a prediction.  Last season, the team who won the matchup preview won the game about 11 times out of 12, so this method seems to be a fairly accurate predictor of who will come out on top on Sunday.

    Join me as we go in depth on the Week 1 Eagles/Rams matchup.

Quarterbacks

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    Rams

    I like Sam Bradford a lot.  He is an excellent young quarterback who is only getting better.  Former Eagles QB AJ Feeley is his backup, so the Rams have nice depth here as well.  It will be interesting to see how the Eagles' defense tries to pressure and confuse Bradford, but it will be a tough task.  Bradford is underrated and could be a Pro Bowler this season.

    Eagles

    Obviously, Michael Vick is the star player here and one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks.  Vince Young is hampered a little bit with a hamstring problem, but it appears he will be dressed as the backup.  Vick's dual threat of running and receiving makes him one of the toughest QBs in the NFL to game-plan against.

    Advantage: Philadelphia

     

Running Backs

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    Rams

    Steven Jackson returns and continues to be a solid NFL running back.  The Rams also brought Cadillac Williams in as a backup running back.  Cadillac is more than capable, so it gives the Rams a nice 1-2 punch.  If the Eagles have a chance Sunday, they have to find a way to contain Jackson, who is a workhorse.

    Eagles

    LeSean McCoy is developing into one of the NFL's elite running backs and is one of the best receiving backs in the NFL.  Ronnie Brown, brought in from Miami, will spell him and is a strong runner who can move the chains.  The Eagles have a really nice 1-2 punch here as well.

    Advantage: EVEN

     

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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    Rams

    Danny Amendola had a breakout season last year and is probably the best WR that no one has heard of outside of St. Louis.  He could catch 100 balls this season as he does his best Wes Welker impression.  How will he fair against the Eagles' big three cornerbacks though?  That remains to be seen.

    The Rams also brought in Mike Sims-Walker from Jacksonville, who is an above-average receiver.  Brandon Gibson showed flashes last season, but was inconsistent at times as well.  Youngster Danario Alexander will have trouble finding holes against an elite Eagles secondary. 

    The Rams start Lance Kendricks at tight end.  He is an unproven commodity at this point.

    Eagles

    DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin give the Eagles one of the best 1-2 punches in the game.  Steve Smith is a former Pro Bowler himself, though, he is still banged up and will not be a factor in this one.  Jason Avant has good hands and goes over the middle, and youngster Riley Cooper showed flashes of promise last season, but will likely have a small role.

    Brent Celek is an underrated tight end who blocks well and is a solid receiver when called upon. 

    Advantage: Philadelphia

     

Offensive Line

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    Rams

    The Rams' OL may not have any big names, but they are a solid unit who did a nice job last season protecting Bradford.  The Rams' offensive line is huge, with each player weighing over 300 pounds.  That may be a problem for the Eagles' defensive line, which relies a lot on speed and not size.  On the other hand, the speed of the Eagles' defensive line could cause a problem for St. Louis.  It will be interesting to see how that one plays out.

    Eagles

    Only Jason Peters returns to the same position he started in last year, with Todd Herremans moving to right tackle.  The rest of the Eagles' line has three new starters, including rookie Mike Kelce at center.  The offensive line struggled throughout preseason and really had a terrible time trying to protect Michael Vick.  If they do not play better, it will be a long day for the Eagles.

    Advantage: St. Louis

Defensive Line

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    Rams

    An improved defensive line was one of the reasons the Rams improved a lot last season.   Chris Long and James Hall are two underrated defensive lineman who can get after the quarterback, and Fred Robbins is a load in the middle.  With the Eagles' struggles on the offensive line, the Rams' front four might really cause problems for Michael Vick and the Eagles' offense.  Talented rookie Robert Quinn is battling a knee injury which has limited him.  He is raw, but has tons of potential.

    Eagles

    The Eagles hope that the Jason Babin signing will give them a formidable pass rusher to free up star defensive end Trent Cole.  Those two guys should wreak havoc on Sundays for most teams.  The Eagles also signed Cullen Jenkins, who is a solid defensive tackle, and he will be in there rotating with Antonio Dixon, who had a breakout 2010 season, and Mike Patterson, a former first-round pick.  The Eagles love to rotate lineman, so we will see Juqua Parker, Philip Hunt and Ty Laws as well.  This is a solid, deep group.

    Advantage: Philadelphia

     

Linebackers

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    Rams

    James Laurinaitis is an excellent middle linebacker, and one of the leaders of the Rams' defense.  The former Buckeye has already established himself as one of the league's better middle linebackers.  Ben Leber is a veteran guy who knows how to play linebacker.  Those two lead a solid linebacker corps.

    Eagles

    Rookie Casey Matthews will have to learn middle linebacker fast and on the job.  The Eagles' defensive weakness is at linebacker, where Matthews is unproven and Moises Fokou has never really been anything more than serviceable.  Young outside linebacker Jamar Chaney had a fantastic preseason in his transition from MLB to OLB and will likely be the best player in this group. 

    Advantage: St. Louis

Defensive Backs

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    Rams

    If Eagles fans miss Quintin Mikell, they won't have to wait long to see him.  The former Eagle is the starting strong safety for the Rams this season.  Other than Mikell, the Rams also have former Eagle Al Harris, but the veteran Harris is far past his best days.  The Rams' secondary is average, but obviously will not match up with the Eagles' secondary.  I also think the Eagles' speed and skill at wide receiver will be tough for the Rams' defensive backs, so if Michael Vick can get time to throw, he should be able to find Jackson and Maclin often.

    Eagles

    What's there really to say here?  The Eagles spent a ton of money in free agency to get better here, and also got Rodgers-Cromartie in a trade.  Three elite cornerbacks lead this secondary, and Joselio Hanson is good enough to start on a lot of teams as well.  The safety play is a bit questionable, but the corners are so talented I am not sure it will matter.

    Advantage: Philadelphia

     

Special Teams and Intangibles

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    Rams

    Josh Brown is a solid placekicker and Danny Amendola is the main return man.  With kickoffs moving up to the 35, though, Amendola likely will only be a factor in the punt-return game. 

    The Rams are home, where they went 5-3 last year and are the favorite in the NFC West.  Being a home underdog puts all the pressure on Philadelphia.  Plus, the Eagles have Atlanta and rivals NYG the next two weeks, which have many calling this a trap game for the Eagles.  It's hard to think a Week 1 game could be a trap, but the Rams could easily pull off an upset here.

    Eagles

    The Eagles chose not to re-sign longtime placekicker David Akers, who was probably the best kicker they ever had.  Rookie Alex Henery was a strong kicker in college but is unproven in the NFL.  The Eagles also have a new punter and no one is really sure who will return kicks. DeSean Jackson is listed as the punt return man on the depth chart, but I doubt he will be back there all the time due to the injury risk.

    The Eagles come into this game with high expectations and are a road favorite against a solid Rams team.  The pressure is all on the Eagles in this one.

    Advantage: St. Louis

     

Predictions and Final Thoughts

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    Andy Reid made changes to try to fix his offensive line and whether they work out or not will be the key to this one.  If the offensive line plays well, the Eagles win.  If the line struggles, I think the Rams could win the game.

    This is a much tougher game than most people probably realize from the Eagles' standpoint, and in the end, the Eagles have more talent, but this will be a battle all day long and could come down to the end.

    The Rams would love to pull off the upset and get their season started right.  Ultimately, the Rams will give it a go and look good, but it should be in a losing effort.

    Eagles 24, Rams 17