RAMS: Two of the best teams in the NFL will clash on Sunday at the Coliseum when the (9-3) Rams host the (10-2) Eagles. But that is of course, if, and only if, the swirling smoke from several surrounding wildfires subsides.
Both teams have had to miss practice time this week due to the dangerous amounts of smoke spewing from the handfuls of large wildfires ravishing Southern California throughout the week. With thousands of acres reduced to ashes in the area and thousands of people forced to evacuate, Rams’ pro bowl punter Johnny Hekker decided to pitch in and deliver a truckload of supplies to a local shelter on Wednesday, according to ESPN staff writer Alden Gonzalez.
“Living in this community, we have each other’s backs. These people support us throughout the season,” said Hekker. “If we can do anything with our platform to give back to them in this time of need, in this crisis, then that’s what we’re here for. It’s not about entertaining, but serving, as well.”
Fire aside, both these teams are smoking hot. Philadelphia is looking to bounce back from its uncharacteristically poor performance last weekend against the Seahawks. Seattle snapped the Eagles’ nine-game winning streak and maintained the one game spread that separates them from the first place Rams in the NFC West.
Many insiders are framing it as if it will be a quarterback duel between the Eagles’ No.2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, the Rams’ first overall pick.
Wentz and Goff are having stellar sophomore seasons. Both have thrown for over 3,000 yards so far. Wentz has thrown for 29 touchdowns and six interceptions while Goff has thrown for 20 touchdowns and six interceptions.
In reality, it will be a battle on both sides of the ball between two of the most balanced teams in the league this year. It will be a chess match between two of the frontrunners for coach of the year.
Both Sean McVay and Doug Pederson are well deserving of the honor of coach of the year coming into the final stretch of the season. They have successfully molded their young QBs of last year into the NFL studs of the future that they are today, just about overnight. They have shot down the doubters and exalted their respective teams from the pits of mediocrity to legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
The Rams and Eagles are currently tied for first in the NFL with 361 points scored. The Eagles have a slight advantage in point differential, but they are first and second overall in the league. It will come down to who can protect the football and who can extend drives by converting critical third down plays.
Todd Gurley will look to eclipse 1000 yards rushing on season against the Eagles. Gurley only needs 61 yards to meet the millennial mark. He has 939 yards and eight touchdowns rushing going into the game.
CHARGERS: The (6-6) Chargers are tied for first place in the AFC West with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders after the Bolts beat up on the winless Browns, 19-10, last Sunday. The Chargers have looked like the best team in the division in recent weeks and are trending in the right direction, at the right time.
Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen continued their recent tear last week connecting on 10 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. Over the last three games, the tandem has hooked up 33 times for 436 yards and four touchdowns.
Philip Rivers is looking as good as ever in his 14th season. Rivers has managed to minimize his turnovers while maintaining his aggressive gunslinging nature that has him ranked second in yards per game. Rivers has only seven interceptions this year compared to his 21 touchdown passes.
The Chargers have allowed only 212 points to be scored against them, by far the least in the division, more than 60 points less than the Chiefs or Raiders defenses have allowed so far.
The Chargers defense is led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Bosa has 11.5 sacks on the season and has 22 sacks in 24 career games. He had seven tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble in the win over the Browns.
The Raiders and the Chiefs were once favorites to win it all but have since stalled. The Chargers, who started 0-4, now find themselves at 6-6. They are tied for first coming into a crucial Week 14 matchup against Washington.
The (5-7) Redskins have had a rough last five weeks of the season, facing off against solid squads such as the Vikings, Cowboys, Seahawks, and Saints, all without Kirk Cousin’s favorite target.
The Chargers must capitalize on the Jordan Reed-less Redskins if he cannot suit up Sunday. ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported late Wednesday that Reed will likely miss his seventh consecutive game nursing a lingering hamstring injury.
Washington’s pro bowl tight end has yet to practice since Nov. 9, and is most likely going to be eased back to action in the next couple of weeks. I believe that if they lose the next two weeks without him and the Eagles and Cowboys win, the Redskins coaching staff will have to consider putting him on IR because their dwindling playoff hopes would be dead.
The Chargers will face the Chiefs next week, then the Jets before hosting the Raiders the last week of the season on New Year’s Eve. The Chargers must at least split the divisional matchups and win at least one of the other games between the Skins or the Jets if they want to move on to the postseason.