The #2 seed Rams travel to New Orleans for a rematch with the #1 seed Saints in the NFC Championship game this Sunday. The Rams lead the all time series, but lost the previous matchup earlier this season 45-35 in New Orleans.
The Rams won their Divisional Round matchup 30-22 against the #4 seed Cowboys following their first round bye. In week 16, they beat the Cardinals 31-9, and in week 17 they beat the 49ers 48-32.
The Saints snuck by the #6 seed Eagles in the Divisional round with a 20-14 win following their first round bye. In week 16, they beat the Steelers 31-28, and in week 17 they lost 33-14 to the Panthers while resting their starters.
BetOnline has the Saints as 3.5 point favourites with the O/U total set at 56.5.
Los Angeles Rams
(14-3 overall, 6-2 on the road)
The Rams offense shifted to a run heavy approach against the Cowboys, dominating the line of scrimmage as Jared Goff’s role came down to managing the game and getting key first downs. Goff has been very good this season outside of a few lapses, and on the year has thrown for 4874 yards, 32 TDs and 12 INTs while completing 64.3% of his passes and averaging 8.3 YPA. Robert Woods (92/1288/6) and Brandin Cooks (84/1269/5) are dynamic shifty receivers and are Goff’s go to guys. Todd Gurley (61/583/4), Gerald Everett (33/320/3), Josh Reynolds (30/421/5), and Tyler Higbee (26/322/2) are excellent in supporting roles. On the ground, Todd Gurley is still dominant behind the Rams excellent offensive line with 272 carries for 1366 yards and 18 TDs, while late season signing C.J. Anderson has alleviated pressure from Gurley with 66 carries, 422 yards, and 4 TDs in 3 games.
The Rams regular season scoring defense ranked 20th, allowing 24 PPG. Their passing defense ranked 14th, allowing 236.2 yards per game and 31 TDs through the air while their pass rush ranked 15th with 41 sacks. Their rushing defense ranked 23rd, allowing 122.3 yards per game and 12 TDs on the ground. The Rams defense forced 30 turnovers (3rd) and as a team they owned a +11 turnover differential.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
No Significant Injuries
New Orleans Saints
(14-3 overall, 7-2 at home)
The Saints offense has started slow lately, but has gotten the job done. Drew Brees has been excellent, throwing for 4293 yards, 34 TDs, and 6 INTs while completing 74.4% of his passes and averaging 8.1 YPA. Michael Thomas has dominated their target share, catching 137 balls for 1576 yards and 10 TDs, while Alvin Kamara has been dangerous as well with 85 catches for 744 yards and 4 TDs. Ben Watson (36/412/2), Tre’Quan Smith (29/442/5), and Tedd Ginn Jr. (20/253/2) are featured as well. The two headed attack of Mark Ingram (147/698/6) and Alvin Kamara (210/954/14) on the ground is very potent, and has been a focal point this season.
The Saints regular season scoring defense ranked 14th, allowing 22.1 PPG. The Saints passing defense ranked 29th, allowing 268.9 yards per game and 30 TDs through the air while their pass rush ranked t-5th with 49 sacks. The Saints rushing defense ranked 2nd, allowing 80.2 yards per game and 12 TDs on the ground. Their defense forced 24 turnovers, and as a team they owned a +8 turnover differential.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
DT Sheldon Rankins (Achilles) – out
The playoffs are all about momentum, and both of these teams have to be riding high after their respective wins. However, the Rams showed something in their win over Dallas, and that recommitment to the run game against a dominant defense will be huge for an offensive line that has struggled over the latter part of the season. Without Sheldon Rankins, the Saints lack a legitimate interior pass rush, and their tackles are capable of handling Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport. With their multifaceted run attack and the fact that Jared Goff shredded this secondary early in the year, the Rams offense should feel confident going into the Superdome.
The Saints offense struggled out of the gate against Philly, and they cannot have that same slow start this weekend. Their run game really struggled throughout the game aside from a few long runs, and the Rams defensive front looked like a new team last weekend. The duo of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara gave the Rams a lot of trouble last time around, and it is hard to feel confident in their secondary to bottle them up. This one should be an excellent game, but the Saints should walk away with the win with some late game Brees’ heroics.
Final Pick: Saints (-3.5)