NFL NFC Divisional Title: New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams are in New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the Saints. Both teams are coming off of home wins in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs. The Rams took down the Cowboys in what was always a pretty secure victory. The Saints struggled to start strong but they eventually started to look like the team that earned the #1 seed towards the end of their game vs. the Eagles. The Saints are in the Superdome, which is commonly referred to as one of the biggest home-field advantages in the NFL, and they are 3 point favorites in this matchup. In their first meeting, the Saints took control of the game early and maintained it throughout to take a 45-35 victory in the same building.
Rams Coming in with a Full Roster
The Rams come into this game incredibly healthy besides the notable loss of Cooper Kupp. I believe that Kupp may have been the most important part of this offense, as crazy as that sounds. Kupp was Goff’s favorite target, and he has just seemed much more uncomfortable since he has been out. The active roster has no reported injuries coming into this game, which is incredibly strange at this point of the season, even though the Patriots are in a similar situation. This may be a testament to the fact that the Rams are notably one of the most “player-friendly” teams in the league right now. They barely played anyone in the preseason and they practice with very little contact compared to what other teams do. Maybe this strategy has kept them more fresh and healthy than other teams.
The addition of C.J. Anderson is clearly one of the strangest things to happen in the NFL this season, and I think it really proves that running back talent is rather marginal compared to other positions. Anderson is putting up basically the same production as Gurley in this offense since he arrived, and I wonder how much the Rams plan on using him this week. I figured that with Gurley at what many considered to be full-strength, Anderson would be eliminated from the offense. Last week, that was clearly not the case. Is that because they didn’t want to burn Gurley out? Maybe. The stats say there is basically no difference between Gurley and Anderson when running the ball in this offense, so should they remove him from the offense? Maybe not.
Saints Offensive Game Plan is Key
The Saints’ offensive game plan is what I am looking forward to the most in this game. Michael Thomas absolutely killed the Rams in the first meeting. The narrative around this matchup this time is that Aqib Talib will have something to say about that. I am much more confident than most in Sean Payton’s ability to keep Thomas away from Talib. Talib plays almost all of his snaps on the right side of the field. This would mean that Thomas could avoid him by lining up on the other side of the field or in the slot. Thomas crushed Peters the first time and I think that could happen again if they just play sides as they usually do. If Talib does attempt to shadow Thomas, he can simply go into the slot, where he would be lined up against a really talented slot corner that is 5’7. Thomas is a big possession receiver who will crush any 5’7 player, regardless of their skill level. If Thomas can have similar success in this game, I think the Saints have their way.
Saints vs. Rams Prediction
I think that this matchup could go a lot of ways, but I think that the Saints are the better football team and I trust them more. -3 seems fair and I am more than willing to lay that number for the superior team at home. Look for the Saints to move the ball with much more ease early, similar to their last meeting. This will show that they are getting the matchups they want and that the Rams are probably out of luck barring mistakes from the Saints.
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