Rams work while fires rage nearby
(TSX / STATS) -- THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The biggest game of the Los Angeles Rams' season comes with an ominous backdrop included.
The Rams host the Eagles on Sunday at the Coliseum with a chance to take over the second seed in the NFC playoff picture hanging in the balance.
And it's created an enormous amount of interest and excitement in Los Angeles, the Rams' home of two seasons.
But a more serious issue is being dealt with in Los Angeles and vicinity, and while it isn't expected to directly affect Sunday's game, it's a situation worth monitoring on a number of levels.
The Los Angeles area has been besieged by raging wildfires over the last two days, including the particularly vicious Thomas Fire that began 22 miles from the Rams' Thousand Oaks facility and has raged west toward the Pacific Ocean while destroying more than 150 homes.
That fire, along with two others that are ongoing east and south of the Rams' practice facility, caused significant air-quality issues and altered the Rams' practice plans. Rather than going through a normal, full-go workout Wednesday, they scaled back to a much shorter walk-through to minimize outdoor exposure for the players.
The issue is mitigated a bit because the Rams have approached Wednesday workouts cautiously all season, sitting a handful of veteran players on rest days to better position them for the long haul of the regular season.
As far as the game itself, unless the gusty wind conditions suddenly change direction over the next few days, it should go on as planned. But the Rams and the NFL will certainly monitor the situation so as not to force fans and players into potentially harmful air conditions.
Needless to say, it's a vitally important matchup, as the winner will claim the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs -- for now -- and the guaranteed bye week that comes with it.
It's also the first time Rams quarterback Jared Goff and his Eagles counterpart, Carson Wentz, will play against each other. Goff was selected first overall in the 2016 draft and Wentz went second, so their careers will forever be intertwined.
Now, especially, with their teams playing first-place football and each quarterback playing at a Pro Bowl-caliber level, the interest in them squaring off is growing.
SERIES HISTORY: 38th regular-season meeting. Eagles lead series, 19-17-1. The Eagles last played the Rams at the Coliseum in 1977. Ron Jaworski was the Eagles quarterback and Joe Namath was the Rams quarterback.
--Wide receiver Robert Woods did not practice Wednesday with a shoulder injury.
"Right now, he's in a situation where he's just continuing to go throughout his rehab," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "He wouldn't have been a participant today in practice. I think he is making progress. As far as what exactly that means with his availability, don't have any specific updates. But, I know that he is anxiously awaiting his return and he's doing everything he can in his power. We'll be excited when we're able to get Robert back."
Woods' status in not known for Sunday, but with Josh Reynolds playing as well as he has in relief the Rams will remain cautious.
"I think you want to be smart with him, period, because of how important he is, not just for whenever he gets back, but for the future of our team," McVay said. "Robert is a great football player. He's had a great influence on our receiver room. I told him really after just watching the way that Josh and some of those other guys have stepped up that he should be proud of that because of the way that he's led in a lot of ways that room and helped bring those guys along and I think he was.
"But, as far as just how those guys have played affecting when we get Robert back or not, we want to get Robert back when he's available and what's best for him and our team. But, it is nice that those guys have stepped up in his void, but we certainly feel like we'll be a stronger football team when we get Robert Woods back on the field for us."
--Quarterback Jared Goff is looking forward to his matchup with Carson Wentz, who was drafted one spot behind Goff at the top of the 2016 draft.
"Yeah, it'll be fun," Goff said. "I think it'll be good to see him, good to talk to him and good to compete on the same field. But ultimately again, like I said, I'm competing against their defense and he's competing against ours and that's kind of the way it goes. Any time you guys ask me about a quarterback matchup, I'm going to say that every time and it's no different this week."
Goff knows this is not a one-on-one matchup.
"No. We won't be on the field at the same time," Goff said. "Actually, one of us will be on the sidelines and one of us will be out there, but like I said, it'll be fun. It'll be good to see him, it'll be good to compete in the same game as him, but at the same time, we're focused on such different things. I look forward to saying, 'hi' and what not and chatting with him. Besides that, I just have a lot of respect for what he's done this year. I'm very happy for him and look forward to seeing him."
--The Rams and Eagles each average 30.1 points per game with 12 games played. The last time the two teams met, with both having played at least 12 games and averaging 30-plus points per game was Dec. 11, 1983.
--"Just take the same approach we take weekly. It is just one of 16 and it counts the same as every other one. There are, obviously, a little bit more implications later in the year, but it counts just the same as the first game of the year as any other game of the season. So, really approach it the same way as those." -- Rams QB Jared Goff regarding the Rams approach against the Eagles.
NOTES: OLB Connor Barwin did not go through Wednesday's walk-though because of a forearm injury. ... LT Andrew Whitworth did not go through Wednesday's walk-through for non-injury related reasons. ... C John Sullivan did not go through Wednesday's walk-through for non-injury related reasons.
Updated December 6, 2017