Los Angeles Rams

Aaron Rodgers is back to ruin everything

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Aaron Rodgers is back to ruin everything

Derrick Gunn makes his Week 15 NFL picks.

Eagles at Giants, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
What a mess the Giants are right now. GM Jerry Reese fired! Head coach Ben McAdoo fired! Future Hall of Fame QB Eli Manning sits for a game and then resumes his starting role. Their offense can't score (15.3 points per game — which is 31st in the league), and their defense, which was the heart of this team in 2016, is nothing more than a distant memory. The Giants' D is 32nd overall in yards allowed, 31st in passing yards allowed, 31st in run defense, and 27th in points allowed. 

The Eagles are quickly getting over the loss of Carson Wentz, who was having an MVP season. This should be a walk in the park for the Birds even without Wentz, but you won't hear the players say that. They have a lot of respect for their wounded division foe, and as that old saying goes, "On any given Sunday." If Dallas was able to put up 30 points on the G-men, then surely the Birds can do that. You should be able to go holiday shopping by halftime.

Pick: Eagles 34, Giants 13

Bears at Lions, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. on NFL Network
It's hard to believe the Bears are actually seventh in the league in rushing (124.5 yards per game,) but when they get the ground game going, it's pretty special. Just ask Cincinnati. The Lions are fighting for their playoff lives but the right side of their O-line is banged up. Matthew Stafford's air game vs. the Bears' ground attack. I'm going with the Lions through the air.

Pick: Lions

Chargers at Chiefs, Saturday, 8:25 p.m. on NFL Network
A showdown in the AFC West. The Chiefs knocked the Raiders off their perch to snap a four-game slide, but the Chargers are a different story. Philip Rivers and company are hot, winners of four in a row. Both teams have big-play capabilities. CB Marcus Peters is back from his one-game suspension to help the back end of the Chiefs' defense. Winner takes control of the division. Big Red's army will be ready.

Pick: Chiefs

Dolphins at Bills, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
The Dolphins put a smackdown on New England but that was in the warm confines of South Florida. Now the Fins head to the arctic blast that is Buffalo. The Bills currently hold the sixth seed in the AFC. Miami is one game behind them. LeSean McCoy needs only 39 yards to become the 30th player to rush for 10,000 in a career. Shady gets his, and the Bills get a win.

Pick: Bills

Ravens at Browns, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
The Ravens are still seething about how they let a win slip by in Pittsburgh. The Browns continue to find new ways to lose games. The Ravens' defense leads the league with 20 interceptions and it should add to that total because the Browns' revolving door of QBs has served up a league-high 23 INTs. The Ravens stay in the thick of the playoff race. The Browns continue to secure the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.

Pick: Ravens

Bengals at Vikings, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
It's bad enough the Bengals got steamrolled by the lowly Bears, now they have to face a ticked-off group of Vikings. The Vikings didn't play their best game against Carolina and it cost them. They will not make the same mistakes against the Bengals on their turf.

Pick: Vikings

Jets at Saints, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
The Jets are the Jekyll and Hyde of the NFL. They beat teams like Jacksonville and Kansas City, but lose to the likes of Tampa Bay and Denver. Drew Brees and the Saints will be ready for them down in the bayou. The Saints share the NFC South lead with Carolina, and Atlanta is one game back. There is no room for error. The Saints go marching to a W.

Pick: Saints

Cardinals at Redskins, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
There's trouble in Redskinsville. The team is losing and players are grumbling. To make matters worse, TE Jordan Reed has been placed on IR. The 'Skins now have 18 players on IR. The Cards still have faint playoff hopes but I don't think Blaine Gabbert can outduel Kirk Cousins.

Pick: Redskins

Packers at Panthers, Sunday, 1 p.m. on FOX
The fact that Aaron Rodgers has missed seven games and the Packers are still talking playoffs is amazing in itself. Now, Packers nation is really buzzing because ARod posted on his Instagram page that he has been medically cleared to return to action and is expecting to start against the Panthers. Carolina is coming off a huge win over Minnesota and will have to bring its A-game for this one. How rusty will Rodgers be remains to be seen. Rodgers will give the Packers' offense a much-needed jolt, but I don't have faith in their defense stopping Cam Newton and company. 

Pick: Panthers

Texans at Jaguars, Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS
In case you didn't know, there's a new bully on the block and its name is Jacksonville. The Jaguars took a major step towards respectability by out-muscling Seattle. The Jags control the AFC South. Their athleticism and physicality on both sides of the ball is impressive. Meanwhile, as if the Texans' QB situation isn't unstable enough, starter Tom Savage is in the concussion protocol. It's going to be a long day for Houston.

Pick: Jaguars

Rams at Seahawks, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. on FOX
The Rams have no one to blame but themselves for their loss to Eagles. The Seahawks are one game behind the Rams in the NFC West and must shake off the cobwebs after getting roughed up by Jacksonville. The 'Hawks beat the Rams earlier this season. Seattle continues to hurt on defense. The heart of its D, linebackers Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and K.J. Wright (concussion), are questionable for this huge showdown. The Rams know what's at stake and they haven't lost two in a row all season. The boys from SoCal get their revenge.

Pick: Rams

Patriots at Steelers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on CBS
This could be a preview of the AFC Championship. The Patriots were off their game in Miami, but now it's game on for top seeding in the conference. The Steelers are stoked to have this one in their backyard. The loss of LB Ryan Shazier is huge for the 'Burgh. Big Ben vs. the G.O.A.T. is always a special treat. Advantage: Steelers at home.

Pick: Steelers

Titans at 49ers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on CBS
The Titans have a lot at stake, still chasing Jacksonville in the AFC South. The Niners are playing for pride. It looks like a mismatch on paper, but not so fast, as Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo is 2-0 as a starter. Titans QB Marcus Mariota has been way off his game. In his last four outings, he's been picked off eight times, while tossing just three TDs. I don't know if Garoppolo has been the Niners' missing link or not, but I gotta believe the Titans' ground game can bail them out.

Pick: Titans

Cowboys at Raiders, Sunday, 8:30 p.m. on NBC
The Cowboys are riding a two-game winning streak and talking playoff run. While not officially eliminated yet, the Raiders are in trouble. Oakland's loss to the Chiefs put it in a deep hole. There's a lot at stake for both teams in this one. Can Dallas survive one more game until the return of Ezekiel Elliott? I think it can.

Pick: Cowboys

Falcons at Buccaneers, Monday, 8:30 p.m. on ESPN
The Falcons are coming off extended rest after a must-win over the Saints. The Bucs have been one of the more disappointing teams in the league this season. The Falcons are currently the six seed in the NFC and can still win the NFC South if they run the table. The Dirty Birds should run right through Tampa Bay.

Pick: Falcons

With backs against wall, Eagles' D delivers in crunch time

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With backs against wall, Eagles' D delivers in crunch time

LOS ANGELES — As Carson Wentz was in the blue pop-up tent on the sideline and then as he walked slowly around the corner of the stadium and into the tunnel, the Eagles' defense was busy collapsing. 
 
While Nick Foles began to warm up on the sideline, the Rams went on a seven-play, 70-yard drive that took 3:22 and was capped by a one-yard score from Todd Gurley to take a lead. 
 
Game over, right? 
 
After all, the Eagles were without their MVP and their defense just couldn't seem to stop the Rams. 
 
Then the defense tightened up. 
 
And it helped the Eagles escape the LA Coliseum with a 43-25 win. 
 
"We found a way to get stops when we needed to," Rodney McLeod said. "We’re a resilient group and when our backs we’re against the wall, we had to show up, and that’s what we did tonight."
 
The big play was obviously the Chris Long strip sack. Until that play, it just felt like the Rams were going to keep driving down the field at will. They had already scored on their first two drives of the half and scored a third touchdown on a punt block and return. 
 
So at that point in the game, the strip sack from Long and the recovery from McLeod were enormous (see story)
 
That turnover was impressive, but so was the next Rams' possession. After the Eagles took a 37-35 lead on a Jake Elliott field goal, the Rams got the ball at their own 25-yard line. The Eagles forced a 3-and-out and the Rams didn't get the ball back until there was one second left. 
 
The last three times the Rams touched the ball, they had two fumbles and a 3-and-out. 
 
“We were giving them a lot," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "We were giving them too much. We knew at some point we had to stop them. We got to stuff the run on first down, and then they got to run their normal offense. I think guys just knew. We settled down and did what we had to do, but giving credit to that team, that’s a really good team."
 
Until the last few drives of the game, the Rams were gashing the Birds. Todd Gurley had 135 total yards, Cooper Kupp had 118 receiving yards, and Jared Goff while wasn't dazzling, he was very efficient. 
 
Gurley sure looked like the best back the Eagles have faced all season. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry and had two touchdowns on Sunday. 
 
"Top back, Pro Bowl back," Nigel Bradham said of Gurley. "Definitely going to go down as one of the greatest backs in this game. Definitely probably see him in a gold jacket." 
 
But Gurley had 117 of his 135 total yards through three quarters. The Eagles were able to limit him in the fourth. 
 
Really, that was a theme. The Eagles' defense stepped up in crunch time. The Rams had 10 offensive plays in the fourth quarter for a total of 12 net yards. That came after the Rams had 128 yards on 10 plays in the third. 
 
The Rams averaged 12.8 yards per play in the third quarter and 1.2 yards per play in the fourth. 
 
Several Eagles defensive players credited Jim Schwartz with finding ways to adjust and stop the Rams and Gurley. 
 
"We just locked in as a group," McLeod said. "We made adjustments. Jim made some good adjustments. That's what you do when you're a good coach. That's a good team over there, great offensive coordinator. It was a chess game. We kind of mixed some things up and things worked in our favor. We got off the field when it counted."

Chris Long plays defensive hero late in L.A.

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Chris Long plays defensive hero late in L.A.

LOS ANGELES — The Eagles were running out of time. Their quarterback was hobbled. Their defense was getting torn apart. Somebody had to make a play.

It was Chris Long's turn.

“I think we just realized we have to make a stop or two, if we’re any good," Long said.

With the Rams leading the Eagles by a point midway through the third quarter, Long — who spent the 2008 through 2015 seasons with the Rams — strip-sacked Jared Goff inside the Rams' 30-yard line.

The ball seemed to bounce forever before Rodney McLeod recovered and got the ball down to the 25-yard line, and 4½ minutes later, Jake Elliott gave the Eagles the lead for good with the second of his three field goals.

“They were doing a good job of play-action pass all game," Long said after the Eagles' 43-35 win over the Rams (see breakdown). "Boots, play action. Todd (Gurley) played a hell of a game and it made it easier for them to drop back, and I just had a good read on the sack and stayed at it. 

"Our coverage was good and I just put my hand on the ball."

Long, in his first year with the Eagles, now has four sacks and three forced fumbles rotating in at defensive end.

None of his plays were bigger than this one (see Roob's observations).

"I probably just held on to it a little bit too long," Goff said. "Stepped in the pocket there, and Chris Long came around and made a great play. Probably (need to) get rid of it a little earlier there."

The Eagles got gashed for much of the game Sunday, but that turnover was the biggest play of the game.

"I think at that point of the game, we knew the defense had to go out and win the game," Fletcher Cox said. "We knew that it was our time to get a turnover and put our offense in a position to score and just close the game out. 

"We always talk about it, we have to get turnovers. We got one and it was the biggest one of the game."

The last time the Eagles were trailing this late in a one-possession game and got a takeaway that led to a win?

It was in 2014 against the Colts, when Malcolm Jenkins picked off Andrew Luck with 5½ minutes left in Indianapolis with the Colts up 27-20. The Eagles wound up winning 30-27 on Cody Parkey's field goal as time expired.

“Chris came off the edge and made a great play for us," McLeod said.

"The ball was squirming around, a lot of guys trying to scoop it up, I just felt like if I slowed down the ball was going to come my way and it did, and I was able to capitalize on a big play for my team."

Thanks to Long and McLeod, the Eagles are now 11-2 with three games to go and NFC East champs for the first time since 2013.

"We felt like we had to do our part on defense and go out there and get a score or make something happen," Brandon Graham said. "Chris started it. Chris definitely started it and we just took over after that.”