The Los Angeles Rams will try to move one step closer to being assured of a first-round bye in the NFL playoffs when they face the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles Sunday evening at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
A victory by the Rams and a loss or tie by the Chicago Bears earlier Sunday to the Green Bay Packers would assure the Rams of a first-round bye and a home game in the second round of the playoffs. The Rams would also be assured of a first-round bye with a tie and a loss by Chicago.
The Eagles (6-7) will be playing without quarterback Carson Wentz, who is sidelined by a back injury. Nick Foles is expected to make his third start of the season in place of Wentz. Foles started the first two games of the season, which Philadelphia split, and hasn’t played since.
Foles started the final three regular-season games of the 2017 regular-season after Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Rams, winning twice, and all three postseason games, including being selected as the MVP of Super Bowl LII when he threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns and caught a 1-yard pass for a fourth score.
Foles was the Rams starting quarterback in 2015, their final season in St. Louis, but was released days before veterans were due to report to training camp for the 2016 season.
Other Eagles out for the game include linebacker Jordan Hicks, who started the season’s first 10 games and will miss his fourth consecutive game; cornerback Sidney Jones, a West Covina High School alumnus who has started three of the past four games; and left guard Isaac Seumalo, who started the past nine games.
Defensive end Michael Bennett, who started the past six games, is questionable with a foot injury, meaning it is uncertain whether he will play.
“You’re going into games with guys that are backup players, sometimes … we’ve elevated some practice squad players,” Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson said. “It’s a credit to them too because they’ve stepped in and they’ve battled and hung tough. We just haven’t had that same consistency that we’ve had a year ago.”
The Rams have no players listed on the injury report.
The Rams (11-2) are trying to rebound from a 15-6 loss to the Chicago Bears Sunday, their fewest points since a 44-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Jan. 1, 2017, the final game of the 2016 season.
The Rams have not lost back-to-back regular-season games in Sean McVay’s two seasons as coach. The Rams won at least two consecutive games after each of McVay’s previous six regular-season losses.
“Whether we won or lost last week, our approach and focus would remain the same,” McVay said. “But, you certainly don’t avoid the things that led to us not getting the outcome that we want.
“You address those, you flush it out and part of that DNA that we want our team to embody is being a mentally tough team, being unaffected by the circumstances and find a way to be our best regardless of what those circumstances are.”
Sunday’s game “provides a great challenge for us to try to be what we want to be in terms of responding after a little bit of a setback and making it a positive force with the way that we prepared this week,” McVay said.
“Guys have done a good job with that,” McVay said. “Hopefully, it leads to a good performance on Sunday night.”
The Rams are seeking to improve to 12-2 for the fifth time in franchise history. They were also 12-2 in 1973 and 1975, when they were based in Los Angeles, and 1999 and 2001 when they were based in St. Louis.
The Rams have lost their last five games against the Eagles, including a 43-35 loss last season at the Coliseum. The streak is the Rams longest losing streak in the series that began in 1937 when they were based in Cleveland.
The Rams have designated this game as their “My Cause, My Cleats” game where players wear customized cleats reflecting their commitment to charitable causes. Each NFL team designates a home game during Week 13-15 as their “My Cause, My Cleats” game.
Quarterback Jared Goff is supporting California Strong, which helps families affected by fires this year and last year and whose goal is to help families affected by future fires. Running back Todd Gurley is supporting First Book, which provides books and other educational resources to schools serving children from low-income families.
Tight end Gerald Everett and cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman both chose to support the American Heart Association. Outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. and receiver Josh Reynolds both support the American Cancer Society.
Other organizations backed by Rams players include Autism Speaks (defensive lineman Michael Brockers) and the Watts Bears youth football team which is coached by Los Angeles Police Department officers (defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks).
Players will have the opportunity to raise funds for the causes of their choosing by auctioning their cleats at NFL Auction. All the funds raised will be donated to charities selected by players.
The national anthem will be sung by the Angel City Chorale, which reached the semifinals of the NBC talent competition “America’s Got Talent” this summer. It will also perform a two-song set at halftime.
The Coliseum torch will be lit by the winning team in the Law Enforcement Torch Run Unified Flag Football Tournament, which will be decided earlier Sunday at the Coliseum. The 16-team tournament consists of teams comprised of Special Olympics athletes and LAPD officers.
Nathan Abrahami, a fourth-grader at Lupin Hill Elementary School in Calabasas, whose family’s home was destroyed in the Woolsey fire, will join captains from both teams at midfield for the coin toss. Fifteen randomly selected students from the school will have the opportunity to meet Goff on the field during warmups.
Former Marine Ted Antos will be honored during the first quarter. He was deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He also participated in Operation Sea Angel, which provided humanitarian assistance to victims of the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone.
Former Rams quarterback Jim Everett will be honored as the Alumnus of the Game. Everett led the NFL in touchdown passes in 1988 and 1989 and was selected for the Pro Bowl following the 1990 season when the team was based in Anaheim.
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