The Rams spent the week, the season really, saying no game was bigger than any other.
But players and coaches acknowledged that marquee subplots make Sunday’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Coliseum one of the most highly anticipated games on this season’s NFL schedule.
“Our players know exactly what’s at stake,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “That’s what’s going to make it a fun atmosphere, where you do have a little bit more buzz.”
The two were compared and contrasted after the Rams traded up to get the top pick in the 2016 draft.
The debate raged after the Rams selected Goff first and the Eagles took Wentz second. For some, it ended last season when Wentz started quickly and Goff struggled.
Now, both are starring for division-leading teams that are tied for the league lead in scoring.
“This is a game everybody’s been anticipating,” Rams running back Todd Gurley said. “You got No. 1 and No. 2. Goff and Wentz. That’s all they’ve been talking about.”
The two quarterbacks attempted to downplay the matchup, saying they will compete against the opposing defense, not each other.
“We’re both pretty excited for this one,” Wentz said.
Said Goff: “I’m sure it will be a fun one to watch.”
The outcome will have playoff implications for both teams.
The Rams travel to Seattle next week.
The Eagles, coming off a loss at Seattle last week, are 10-2. They can clinch the NFC East on Sunday and maintain — or perhaps improve — their current No. 2 playoff seeding behind the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings play at Carolina on Sunday.
The Rams and the Eagles both average 30.1 points a game.
The game is expected to attract the Rams’ largest home crowd this season, a crowd that will no doubt include boisterous Eagles fans as well.
“It’s the biggest game of the year,” Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said.
It will be a formidable challenge for Goff, who will be facing an Eagles defense that features star tackle Fletcher Cox among others. The Eagles have recorded 33 sacks and intercepted 16 passes.
“We’ve got to be great route runners and then our quarterback — the windows might be a little bit smaller,” Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur said. “Obviously when you’re playing against a man-coverage team, accuracy is at premium.”
Gurley also will play a key role — as a runner and receiver — against a defense that is giving up only 68.1 yards rushing per game.
Gurley has amassed more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage and scored 11 touchdowns. He has been especially effective as of late on screen passes.
“I’ve got to do a good job of making sure to get Todd going early in the game,” McVay said.
On defense, the Rams must contain Wentz, who has passed for an NFL-best 29 touchdowns.
“He’s a playmaker,” Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said, adding, “You think you sack him and he can get away from you and throw a bomb downfield.”
“He’s a better quarterback out of pocket when he extends the play,” Johnson said of Wentz. “If we can keep him in the pocket and try to hold him there, I think we’ll be just fine.
“But he’s a smart quarterback and can make all the throws.”
“They can pop a 50-yard run in no time,” Rams linebacker Robert Quinn said.
Both teams go into the game after a week that required them to break from routine.
The Rams did not practice on Wednesday because of poor air quality caused by Southland fires. The Eagles did not return to Philadelphia after last week’s game at Seattle, staying instead in Orange County to prepare for Sunday.
The NFL world will be watching, and McVay is confident that his team is ready for the moment.
“I think that’s something that our players embrace,” he said, “but it doesn’t make it where you feel any more pressure.”
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein