ANAHEIM, Calif. — After dropping last week's game in Seattle, this weekend's matchup against the Rams at the LA Coliseum is huge for the Eagles.
And it won't be easy.
The Eagles are tied for the NFC's best record at 10-2, but the Rams have put together a resurgent season with Jared Goff and new head coach Sean McVay. They are 9-3 heading into this one.
It won't make the list, but the number of Eagles fans in the stadium is something to watch (see story). Earlier this week, McVay said his team might work on the silent count because of the possibility of plenty of Eagles fans in attendance.
"Our fans have been outstanding when you really look at it," McVay said on a conference call with Philly reporters earlier this week. "We feel very fortunate to have a great crowd from the LA market. The Saints game, our most recent game at home, was a great turnout. It was a great atmosphere.
"I think I was more kind of alluding to the fact that you guys travel so well and then hearing the way Philly fans traveled when they played the Chargers earlier on in the year. We definitely don't ever want to be caught off guard. But our fans have been outstanding and we're hopefully looking forward to a heavy LA crowd on Sunday."
Here are five matchups on the field to watch:
Sammy Watkins vs. Ronald Darby
Former teammates. Both speed guys. This one should be fun. You'll remember back in the summer when the Bills were making a ton of moves, Watkins and Darby were traded out of town on the same day.
The two should know each other pretty well. They were teammates for two seasons in Buffalo and would have gone up against each other in practice daily.
Watkins has had decent production with the Rams. He has 31 catches for 528 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games. Not tremendous, but he's still a threat, especially deep.
Meanwhile, Darby has been back for three games since recovering from a dislocated ankle. He has played pretty well in that time.
"He's a good player," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said of Darby. "He didn't play his best game this year (against Seattle). I think that play down the field, the pass interference was a big play, and he knows he can play that play better. But we're excited to have him back, and he's been a big contributor for us."
Todd Gurley vs. Eagles' run D
Gurley is arguably the best and most complete running back the Eagles will face all season. He's a huge part of the Rams' offense and can do it on the ground and as a receiver out of the backfield.
"He's a big back, but he picks and chooses his holes," Schwartz said. "He can run downhill, but he also has some Le'Veon Bell in him when it comes to picking his way through. Second-leading rusher in the NFL, but he's been very productive in the passing game. I think that's something that went unnoticed from me until we really started diving into the film. He's averaging double-digits in average per reception. For a running back, that's pretty impressive. So it's not just the run game, it's the pass game also."
The Eagles have given up 100 yards on the ground in two of their last three games, but in the middle was a six-yard rushing performance from the Bears. Overall, the Eagles still have the best rushing defense in the NFL, giving up 68.1 yards per game.
Stefen Wisniewski vs. Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald is a nightmare. He's one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL and has the ability to ruin every single play the Eagles run.
Donald has been a Pro Bowler in the first three of his NFL seasons and has been an All-Pro in his last two seasons. He's that good.
"He's a game-changer," Wentz said. "He can really mess up some things offensively if you're not aware of where he's at and kind of game plan a little bit for him. At the same time, we have a ton of confidence in the five guys up front. We have a ton of confidence they can get the job done. We'll limit what he can do and how he can affect the game, but he's a heck of a player and you just have to be aware at times."
Wisniewski is coming off a tough game against Seattle but has played pretty well since being inserted into the Eagles' starting lineup. This will be a big test for him.
Jay Ajayi vs. Rams' run D
If there's one area where the Eagles might be able to exploit the Rams' defense, it's on the ground.
The Rams have given up 122.8 rushing yards per game this season. The Eagles, as long as they don't get behind early, should try to establish the run against this team, even with the return of Alec Ogletree expected.
Last week, for the first time since his arrival, Ajayi led the Eagles' running backs in snaps. If the Eagles want him to be a big-time contributor down the stretch, it's time to start featuring him a little more. They need to get him going.
Jared Goff vs. Jim Schwartz
There will be a bit of a chess match during Sunday's game. The Rams use an interesting offensive look, where they get to the line and Goff looks to the sideline to get the play. That means the Eagles might try to wait a little bit before they show the Rams what they're doing ... or they show and try to switch quickly.
It's a bit of a cat-and-mouse game.
As he normally does, Schwartz didn't want to get into the specifics of his game plan. Why tell the Rams how he plans on stopping them?
"There are ways," he said, "that we can combat that kind of audible system."