Likely the very best afternoon of NFL action all season long will get underway on Sunday as both the NFC and AFC Championship games are played to determine this year’s Super Bowl contestants.
To kick the day off, we’ll focus on the NFC as we have all year in this spot. It has been a profitable season so far, and we will look to keep the momentum going for the NFC Championship match-up as the Los Angeles Rams travel to New Orleans to do battle with the Saints.
This is a rematch of a regular season game between the two squads, in which the Saints prevailed as home underdogs. This time around, their defense is even better and the Rams enter with some injury issues – resulting in the Saints being favored by three points at most sportsbooks.
This promises to be a thrilling affair, given the fact that both teams can score points at will and on paper this matchup seems pretty even. It will also pit two of the game’s brightest coaches against one another as Sean Payton will battle with Sean McVay. As we’ve done all season, read on below the posted odds for a tactical analysis, breakdown, and betting prediction for the Saints vs. Rams in this year’s NFC Championship showdown.
Rams vs. Saints Betting Odds:
Los Angeles Rams +3 (-105)
@ New Orleans Saints -3 (-115)
Over 56.5 (-110)
Under 56.5 (-110)
Rams vs. Saints Pick:
Last week, the Rams bullied the Cowboys’ defense with a steady dose of their power running game. The dynamic duo of Todd Gurley and even C.J. Anderson powered the attack and significantly relieved the pressure off of Jared Goff at quarterback.
This week however, the Rams won’t have the same luck and they better have a backup plan as a result. New Orleans has really stifled the running game all season long, entering this contest ranked sixth in the NFL in DVOA run defense. In the first meeting between these two sides, the Saints did a great job in limiting Gurley to just 68 rushing yards total. Now, it should be noted that New Orleans will be without key defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins, as he tore his achilles last week. Rankins is a key piece, but the Saints defend as a team. They’ll still have enough talent and depth to force the Rams into many passing downs.
This is where L.A. could run into issues. Without Cooper Kupp, the Rams’ offense and Jared Goff has been nowhere near as effective. The Saints are excellent in coverage with the duo of Eli Apple and Marshon Lattimore, and they’ll be key in blanketing the Rams’ pass-catchers on Sunday. Expect the Saints to force Los Angeles into many passing-down situations, and ultimately Goff will struggle in these spots. The Saints’ defense is built well to handle the talented Rams offense.
On the other side of the ball, expect the New Orleans Saints to really emphasize their own running game. The Rams got by last week against the Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott, but the Saints have big challenges of their own via their two-headed attack in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Los Angeles enters this clash ranking 28th in the NFL in DVOA run defense, and were shredded by Kamara and Ingram back in Week 9.
The problem in going all out to stuff the run, is the fact that the Saints are so talented and also have Drew Brees at QB. The Rams can load the box, but Brees has the talent to burn them downfield. Back in Week 9, Brees nearly threw for 400 yards, 4 TD’s, and 0 interceptions. This time around, Aqib Talib will be featuring for the Rams – but the Saints possess a wealth of talented receivers that can exploit weaknesses within the Los Angeles secondary. Additionally, look for Sean Payton to continue utilizing Kamara as a regular receiver emerging from the backfield on passing downs. The Rams don’t have a talented linebacker corps and will struggle to limit the Saints here.
A spread of three points in this match-up implies these teams are even on a neutral field, but I just don’t see it like that. New Orleans enters the more complete side, with fewer question marks, and despite a mediocre showing last week vs. Philadelphia, the Saints are back in form after their starters sat through Week 17 of the regular season and the bye week in the wild-card round. The rust has worn off, and expect the Saints at home to put Jared Goff in a plethora of difficult situations. At home, it’s always been tough to go against Drew Brees and his Saints. Expect the veteran to add yet another chapter to his Hall-of-Fame story.
PICK = Saints -3 (-115)