Wow what a hard game to start with or to get a grasp on. We will try to break it down for you. The first game of the season often sets the tone for the entire season for some teams, for other teams it does not seem to be as important. The Philadelphia Eagles are more resilient than the St. Louis Rams, however based on both teams early schedules this could almost be a must win in Week 1.
The Rams are coming off a terrible 3-13 season were injuries became the excuse. Well as true as that may be this is the NFL and you need to have depth and leadership and skill to over come those things. Scott Linehan has not proven he can lead or motivate this team and his in-game adjustments or lack there of have been terrible and much criticized. Most of the time last year I was watching to see if the players could over-come their coach. In the off-season the Rams made their best move in quite a while picking up Al Saunders, but is the offense ready to fly already in week 1?
The Eagles are coming off of an 8-8 season in which they finished up with 3 straight wins. However the Eagles are yearly slow starters. They only scored over 20 points once in their first 6 games of 2007. Last year they lost 4 of their first 6 games and historically do not play well at all in their home opener. Don’t be completely fooled by the 8-8 record. The Eagles lost 4 games by 3 points, that is how close you are to making it or missing it in the NFL. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb have been together for 10 years, how time flies. I believe McNabb is as healthy as ever and will be out to make a statement in 2008.
Turning to the game:
It is as old as the hills. RUN THE ROCK! It really is just that simple. The 5 big uglies on both teams along with their star running backs can be the difference. Connecticut and Temple played at the Linc yesterday in the rain so the field will also not be in top shape. Each team heads into this game with injuries at the wideout position so it should be easy Steven Jackson vs. Brian Westbrook.
Trent Cole vs. Orlando Pace. This is a huge match up today. Is Orlando actually healthy or are the Rams hiding something. Orlando played 2 quarters in 2007, and only a few quarters in this years preseason. Is the Big-O ready to go? If he is ready to go is he ready for a huge challenge like Trent Cole? Trent Cole is probably a bad match up for Pace today. Cole had 12.5 sacks in 2007 and is a smaller (270 lb) quick rusher who will try to use his speed to turn the corner. Pace will need to use his left shoulder to push Cole further around the side to give Marc Bulger more time in the pocket. He will also need to move his feet quicker than he did it preseason and on the slower wet turf at the Linc I am not sure he can.
The Eagles Secondary. Wow what a fabulous group. They went out and got Asante Samuel, to add to their already talented group of Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown and Brian Dawkins. In addition they have hard hitting safety play from Quinton Mikell and Sean Considine as well. Bulger needs to be on his game today. However with basically only a healthy Torry Holt will they be able to exploit the over-aggressive Eagles with some double moves?
Will the Eagles be able to pass at all? You know Andy Reid wants to put up 40+ passes today but to who. The Eagles will be without starting wideouts Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown. Look for the Eagles to throw several deep balls to rookie WR DeSean Jackson. There should be some nice speed burning contest down the sidelines today between DeSean Jackson and Tye Hill, and also for the Rams Keenan Burton and Sheldon Brown.
Steven Jackson‘s effectiveness. Without touches again in the preseason can Jackson be at the top of his game out of the box? The Rams have an advantage with a large O-line against a smaller quicker Eagles front-7. The Rams will need to slow this game down and take time off the clock and wear down the Eagles. It is like playing the Chicago Blackhawks in their old barn you have to make it out of the first 10 minutes of the street fight. Don’t get knocked out early make them play 60 minutes to beat you.
Coaching. I do not like what either will probably do today. Luckily Linehan has hopefully turned over most everything to Al Saunders and Jim Hasslet. You know Reid without receivers will still try to throw to many passes and with a lead they never run the clock which should keep the Rams in this one.
The unknown hero. Some games are simple Jackson vs. Westbrook. Some are more complicated and a surprise star emerges. If that happens today I like DeSean Jackson to be that star for Philly and Randy McMichael for the Rams. McMichael along with Steven Jackson are clearly the motivational leaders for the Rams on the offensive side of the ball.
Well I have to go with the Eagles today. The great secondary and pass pressure against the unknown of how well Marc Bulger will actually stay in the pocket and look down field, and the lack of depth at WR will be too much for the Rams to over come. I am not sold that Orlando Pace or Fakhir Brown are completely healthy. With the sloppy turn and the lack of receivers on Philly I look for the Rams to stay in this game. A huge turnover can win it. Can Leonard Little get around the corner and knock the ball from McNabb and get the Rams some easy points? We shall see. Thats all for now enjoy the game!
Eagles 16 – Rams 10
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