Following a dominant regular season of NFL handicapping and wagers here at TheSportsGeek, we will look to continue that momentum into the post-season as we focus on the NFC match-ups.
The wild-card round features a bunch of intriguing games, but perhaps none better than last year’s finalists – the Atlanta Falcons, heading to Los Angeles to do battle with a young and upstart Rams group. The L.A. Rams came out of nowhere to dominate opposition this season, and ran away with the NFC West crown. They are well-coached and solid in all facets of the game, but they do lack experience and have yet to truly prove themselves on a big stage.
For the Falcons, it was a bit of a down year following last season’s tough finale to New England. They never really clicked on offense, and though their defense has improved under head coach Dan Quinn – Atlanta must be able to move the football on Saturday if they are going to have a chance. The numbers like the Falcons, but there are still many question marks about how they’ll respond in a win-or-go home scenario. This promises to be a great match, so read on below for further game analysis and a betting prediction for Saturday night’s Rams/Falcons contest!
Falcons vs. Rams Betting Odds:
Atlanta Falcons +6 (-115)
@ Los Angeles Rams -6 (-105)
Over 48 (-110)
Under 48 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Falcons vs. Rams Pick:
For all the negativity surrounding the Atlanta Falcons heading into the playoffs, they still went 10-6 and got the job done when it counted most. That mantra might be what keeps things tight in this one. Atlanta has gone through post-season runs before, has the experience, and knows what it takes to elevate their level in this type of situation.
That said, the Rams are a great team and proved that this past regular season. I figured they’d be solid, but winning the NFC West in the manner in which they did, was definitely not something I could have ever predicted. They did however feast on a pretty favourable schedule. They were fortunate to play teams without key personnel, and whenever they faced a real stern test – they kind of collapsed. Their loss at Minnesota sticks out. Not to take anything away from them, but there’s still something to prove for coach Sean McVay and his Rams squad.
For starters, the Rams don’t really have much of a homefield advantage in their new stadium. They’ve struggled to generate fan support and it won’t be surprising at all to see muted third-down situations and this game not being a sell-out. On the field, Todd Gurley is in fine form for the Rams, but he’ll face his toughest test in weeks against Atlanta. The Falcons have allowed just one one-hundred yard rushing performance since Week 7, and the Atlanta run defense should be able to keep him bottled up.
Through the air, Jared Goff has taken a huge step forward, but I think the Falcons and Dan Quinn will be able to strategize ways to get to Goff behind that impressive offensive line. That said, every chain has a weakest link and for the Rams that is their right guard Jamon Brown. I’d expect the Falcons to ensure Grady Jarrett lines up across from Brown, and they should be able to take full advantage of this match-up. Jarrett is in fine form for the Falcons, and is coming off a great outing last week where he chased Cam Newton all over the field for four quarters. Expect the Falcons’ pass rush to be effective, and this should rattle Goff. He hasn’t been pressured like this much this year, and it could force him into some ill-advised plays. Even downfield, the Falcons’ secondary is much-improved and should be able to effectively clamp down on Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins in the secondary.
Atlanta meanwhile will have problems of their own dealing with the Rams’ pass rush and specifically Aaron Donald. Matt Ryan is a veteran though and has seen it all – he’ll know what’s coming and should be able to avoid errors that hinder his team’s ability to win. The Rams’ defense has been solid all season, but some recent injuries have made pundits skeptical. Kayvon Webster has been lost to a season-ending injury in the secondary, and now both Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu have plus match-ups going against the L.A. secondary. And the other area where the Falcons should dominate would be on the ground. The Rams’ run defense is not that great, ranking 22nd in this category. I’d expect Devonta Freeman to be able to penetrate the line with regularity, and also be effective at pass-catching when he seeps out from the backfield. The Rams don’t have a great linebacking crew, and Matt Ryan should be able to exploit this.
I think the Rams are rightly favoured – but it’s because they are the better team and have been throughout the regular season. I wouldn’t attribute any of these points to a decisive homefield advantage – because it just hasn’t existed in L.A. That being said, this number remains way too high. Atlanta has been playing playoff-style football since early December, and last year’s NFC champs know what it takes to succeed in the post-season. They also match-up well offensively and defensively against L.A., and their strengths should be able to pounce on the Rams’ deficiencies. I don’t think Goff will be great in his first-ever playoff appearance, and as a result I’d look for Atlanta to keep this game very tight throughout. Expect a back-and-forth affair between these two talented squads on Saturday evening.
PICK = Falcons +6 (-115)