Sports

Goff-Wentz showdown highlights critical Eagles-Rams matchup

FILE - In this April 28, 2016, file photo, Los Angeles Rams' Jared Goff, left, and Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz, greet fans at Selection Square in Grant Park after the quarterbacks were selected No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the NFL football draft in Chicago. The coolest of matchups this weekend has Goff and Wentz facing each other on Sunday. Both have matured rapidly, sparking turnarounds that could lead to, well, the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Matt Marton, File)

FILE - In this April 28, 2016, file photo, Los Angeles Rams' Jared Goff, left, and Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz, greet fans at Selection Square in Grant Park after the quarterbacks were selected No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the NFL football draft in Chicago. The coolest of matchups this weekend has Goff and Wentz facing each other on Sunday. Both have matured rapidly, sparking turnarounds that could lead to, well, the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Matt Marton, File)

LOS ANGELES — The first showdown between Jared Goff and Carson Wentz is going to be a big one.

The top two picks in the 2016 draft have led their teams to the cusp of clinching playoff berths. On Sunday, Goff's Los Angeles Rams (9-3) play host to Wentz's Philadelphia Eagles (10-2) in a crucial matchup of division leaders.

Besides an impact on playoff seedings, the matchup will show just how far the two young quarterbacks have brought their teams.

"Obviously we'll be forever linked because of the draft and everything, and I think we're both excited for this game and just for those matchups in the future," Wentz said. "But at the end of the day they're a great football team and so are we right now, so there's a lot riding on this one just because we've got two good NFC opponents. So there's a lot more at stake than just me versus Jared and everything. But, at the same time it's definitely exciting."

Because of poor air quality from a large wildfire not far from their Ventura County headquarters, the Rams held a walk-through rather than a normal practice on Wednesday.

The Eagles were also out of their routine, but perhaps in a good way. Rather than making cross-country flights in consecutive weekends, they spent the week in Orange County after losing at Seattle on Sunday night, which snapped their nine-game winning streak.

Here are some things to look for when the Eagles visit the Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum:

PLAYOFF SCENARIOS: The Eagles can clinch the NFC East title with a win or tie, or a Dallas loss or tie. The Rams, looking for their post-season appearance in 13 seasons, can clinch a playoff berth with a win, plus losses or ties by Detroit, Green Bay and Dallas, plus losses by Carolina and Atlanta.

THE QBS: Wentz and Goff lead the NFL's highest-scoring offences , with each team averaging 30.1 points.

While the Rams were on point in a 32-16 victory at Arizona, the Eagles were off the pace in a 24-10 loss at Seattle. Wentz threw for 348 yards with one touchdown, but also had one interception and a costly fumble at the Seattle 1 on the opening drive of the second half that could have pulled the Eagles even at 10.

The two QBs have the same agent and got to know each other during the pre-draft process.

"I look forward to saying, 'Hi' and what not, and chatting with him," said Goff, who has helped deliver the Rams their first winning season since 2003. "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."

Said Wentz: "I've just been impressed with the year that he's been having. I don't follow it too well, but seeing him on tape and everything you just see some of the throws he makes and some of the things they're doing offensively down there, and he's having a great year and it's exciting for him."

Wentz has thrown for 3,005 yards and 29 touchdowns, with six interceptions. Goff has thrown for 3,184 yards and 20 touchdowns, with six interceptions.

RAMS TURNAROUND: Closing in on their first playoff berth since 2004, these clearly aren't the old bumbling Rams. First-year coach Sean McVay cited the team's maturity in why he doesn't think game preparations would be affected by not having a full practice Wednesday.

"We had really a mental approach as far as above the neck, and this time in the year it actually served us well," McVay said. "We got a lot of good work in, got more reps than we would have otherwise than when you just do your walk-through and your normal practice. Where we're at, it actually worked out as a benefit to us."

EAGLES IN SOCAL: Coach Doug Pederson hopes the Eagles can bounce back in the Southern California sunshine. They stayed in Costa Mesa and practiced at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, home of baseball's Los Angeles Angels and the former home of the Rams.

"I think sometimes ... winning can kind of cover up or mask some things, some deficiencies," Pederson said. "A little chink in your armour , if there is any. And coaches and players fall into the same boat sometimes. We need games where we get hit in the mouth and we have to fight and battle and scratch. ... You just have to understand that there's no substitute for the preparation and the hard work."

HOMECOMING: Eagles WR Nelson Agholor returns to the Coliseum, where he played for USC. Defensive end Chris Long's father, Hall of Famer Howie Long, played for the Los Angeles Raiders.

"It seems like a lifetime ago when my pops was playing. I barely remember it, but I know what great fans L.A. can have," Long said. "The Rams have brought that back. My pops will be there, so that will be cool."

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Freelancer Dan Greenspan contributed.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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