The Philadelphia Eagles open the 2011 NFL season this Sunday in St. Louis versus the upstart Rams. Even though they have only won 13 games in the past four seasons, the Rams will not be an easy game for the Eagles.
The Rams are the early favorites to win the NFC West division. Although, that’s not saying much since the winner of that division would be like winning a beauty contest with these four women as the contestants…
With all kidding aside, the 2011 Rams are a team on the rise. They almost made the playoffs last year when it came down to the final game of the year against Seattle. Had they won, they would have won the division.
I’m not sure you could expect much more from a team starting a rookie QB all season.
Speaking of which, Sam Bradford had one heck of a rookie season. He completed 60% of his passes for 3,512 yards and 18 TDs while throwing to the likes of Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson.
Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo was with the Eagles when they drafted Donovan McNabb so he may have some of Andy Reid’s influence in him. Right now, I can’t help but see some similarities between this year’s Rams and the 2000 version of the Eagles.
Mainly, the Rams are not giving their young, up-and-coming star in Sam Bradford much help by way of wide receiver talent. Back in 2000, Andy Reid gave McNabb WRs Charles Johnson and Torrance Small, then drafted Todd Pinkston.
Not exactly stellar players in which to work with.
However, the Rams did bring in WR Mike Sims-Walker who should help in the passing game. In this year’s draft, they took promising tight end Lance Kendricks in the second round and also added a pair of WRs in the third and fourth-rounds.
But just like the Eagles did with McNabb, the Rams are putting the onus on Bradford. And, just like McNabb, I think he will handle it. Bradford is a rising star in this league and we will see him take a huge step forward in 2011.
We also can’t forget about RB Steven Jackson. He is the consummate pro and a prototypical workhorse running back. The Eagles can’t afford to let him get on a roll and allow the Rams to control the game.
The Rams also improved their young defense by drafting DE Robert Quinn in the first round. He will team with fellow DEs Chris Long and James Hall, who combined for 19 sacks last year, to form a nice trio of pass rushers.
If anyone knows how to create a pressure package on defense, it’s Spagnuolo.
They will aim to victimize an Eagles offensive line that appears questionable at best. You can bet your bottom dollar that Spags is devising all kinds of blitz packages designed to confuse an Eagles OL who have not yet played a single snap together in 2011.
The Eagles also can’t discount the difficulty of playing in a dome atmosphere. St. Louis fans will be fired up for the first game of the year with a young, promising team to get excited about.
The Edward Jones Dome will be a rockin-and-a-rollin come Sunday afternoon.
This means that the Eagles offensive line, who have no experience together as a unit, will have to master their silent signals for this week. Be prepared for some false-start penalties for the Eagles offense this Sunday.
The Rams are entering this season with much excitement and anticipation. They’ll be hungry and looking to turn the page on their struggles of the last few years.
They will be highly motivated, energetic and playing in an electric atmosphere at home. The juices will be flowing.
Now, with all that said, the Eagles should still win.
After all, they are the more talented team. As long as the Eagles offensive line isn’t absolutely terrible, the Rams simply won’t have the firepower to hang with the Eagles offense.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should also be able to shut down the highly un-vaunted Rams wide receivers.
It won’t exactly be an easy game though. In fact, it’ll probably be closer than some fans realize. Maybe too close for comfort.