After a pair of dominating wins in the divisional round, it’s fitting that the two teams that set the pace all season for the NFC will clash for the right to represent the conference in Super Bowl 53, as the Los Angeles Rams head to New Orleans to battle the Saints.
The Saints are favoured by 3.5 points.
Kickoff is set for 3:05pm EST this Sunday at the Mercedez-Benz Superdome.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams perhaps showed their best playoff selves in a 30-22 divisional playoff demolition of the Cowboys.
Great team win another championship Sunday I get to play extremely blessed. I’m just a Fat kid running ?
— Cj Anderson (@cjandersonb22) January 13, 2019
The rediscovery of their ground game has Los Angeles able to grind teams like they hadn’t all season, and it began with a CJ Anderson swipe off the scrap heap.
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) January 15, 2019
The Panthers castoff has now had better than 20 carries and 120 yards in all three games with the Rams.
With Todd Gurley back to full force after battling a knee injury, the Rams don’t have to rely on that (currently stalled) supercharged passing attack, as they can eat up opponents with some variety.
— Steven Van Over (@StevenVanOver) January 13, 2019
Defensively, LA’s front four, led by shoo-in Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, held the NFL’s leading rusher Zeke Elliott to just 47 yards on 15 totes last week. That will be a key again as they face a lethal tandem of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, but that’s just one issue.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) November 5, 2018
In Week 9, Drew Brees ripped them apart for 346 yards and 4 TD passes, while Michael Thomas went berserk, racking up 211 receiving yards and a major in a 45-35 loss. Star CB Aqib Talib wasn’t in that game, but even with Talib back, it’s hard to imagine completely stopping Thomas.
"Jared Goff is the 28th-ranked quarterback this year in the league when facing pressure. If you pressure Goff, he doesn't turn into an average QB, he turns into a BAD QB."
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) January 11, 2019
That means they will have to score, and QB Jared Goff will need to make plays. He’s easily the shakiest of the four pivots left standing, and this was a guy touted as an MVP candidate through LA’s 11-1 start.
He’s passed for under 200 yards the last two games, and has thrown for 216 yards or less in five of the last six games.
The scouting report Dallas had last week is still true this week – we’ll see if the Rams O-line can keep the pocket clean to give Goff the best chance to succeed.
Rams vs Saints Statistical Comparison
|32.9 (2nd)||PPG||31.5 (3rd)|
|421.1 (2nd)||YPG||379.2 (8th)|
|139.4 (3rd)||Rushing YPG||126.6 (6th)|
|282 (5th)||Passing YPG||252.6 (12th)|
|24.0 (20th)||PPG Allowed||22.1 (14th)|
|358.6 (19th)||YPG Allowed||349.1 (14th)|
|122.3 (23rd)||Rushing YPG Allowed||80.2 (2nd)|
|236 (14th)||Passing YPG Allowed||268.9 (29th)|
|+11 (4th)||Turnover Differential||+8 (7th)|
*Stats are from the 2018 NFL regular season
New Orleans Saints
Sure, they didn’t cover, but you needed to watch the divisional playoff game to see how the Saints thoroughly thrashed the Eagles en route to the NFC title tilt.
Philadelphia found pay dirt twice in their first three drives, and that was about it. No really, that was it.
We've got to talk about the fact that the @Saints defense had an all-time brilliant performance against Philadelphia after the first quarter. 97 yards and 0 points allowed in 3 quarters is purely dominant.
— Brayden Hall (@BraydenHall7) January 14, 2019
Since Week 7, this unit is allowing an impressive 16.9 points per game, and have sacked the opposing QB 28 times. They’re solid at each level, and the outstanding play of Marshon Lattimore keyed the comeback.
— Armchair NFL (@ArmchairNFL) January 13, 2019
The talented second-year pro was also Johnny-on-the-spot, ending the St. Nick Foles run of dominance and vaulting New Orleans into the final four.
Right place, right time. #Eagpes Alshon Jeffrey couldn't hang on to the ball
— Midwest Sports Network (@MWSNsports) January 14, 2019
This will be the big test for the Saints: despite their recent struggles, the Rams are still the second-highest scoring team in the NFL, and averaged the second-most yards per game.
— LastWordOnNFL (@LastWordOnNFL) November 4, 2018
We’re going to find out just how stout their second-ranked rush defense is (80.2 ypg), as Los Angeles laid waste to the Cowboys run D – considered a Dallas strength, and ranked 5th in the league.
— NFL (@NFL) January 13, 2019
Offensively, once Brees and company got it going, they were unstoppable.
Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be put into the vice like the Eagles’ Jim Schwartz was: blitz Brees and get ripped for big plays, or rush four and hope someone gets home, unless you want to watch Brees slow drip you to death with accuracy.
Schwartz went with option 2, and felt the wrath.
Drew Brees started out 0/4, with an INT.
Then he went 28/34 for 301 yards, two TD’s, and not an INT to be seen. pic.twitter.com/1nxkscdgEg
— TheSaintsWire (@TheSaintsWire) January 14, 2019
As mentioned, Thomas is probably the best receiver going in football right now. Even though he’s the clear top option in their passing attack, he still caught 12 balls for 171 yards and a TD.
Drew Brees converted third-&-10, third-&-16 and third-&-13 with completions of 21, 20 & 22 yards to Mike Thomas vs. the Rams yesterday.
— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) January 14, 2019
The defenses on both sides are too strong right now to make this a shootout, but this should be one of the best played games we will see all year – with massive stakes on the line too.
Rams & Saints Recent Trends
|Rams Trends||Saints Trends|
|LAR is 6-2 SU on the road||NO is 7-2 SU at home|
|LAR is 6-6-1 ATS after a win||NO is 9-4 ATS after a win|
|LAR is 10-3 SU in conference games||NO is 10-3 SU in conference games|
|LAR is 4-4 ATS on the road||NO is 4-5 ATS at home|