Last year’s NFC Championship Game between the Rams and Saints was such a hit with fans and a lightning rod for controversy that the NFC only waited until Week 2 to schedule the rematch. At home, the Rams are favored by 1.5 points with an over/under of 52 points.
Los Angeles did well to avoid the kind of hangover Super Bowl losers sometimes experience, at least in Week 1. The Rams traveled east to face the Carolina Panthers and survived with a 30-27 win, although they were holding on late in the game after having a commanding 16-3 lead early in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the Saints were fortunate to avoid a Week 1 defeat at home against the Texans. It took some late-game heroics from Drew Brees and a 58-yard field goal from Will Lutz to give New Orleans a 30-28 win. Of course, that was after the Saints found themselves trailing 21-10 midway through the third quarter, as Brees took over long before the game’s final drive.
Light It Up
Once the New Orleans offense got it going in the second half last week, the Saints showed exactly what they’re capable of doing. Alvin Kamara, as expected, had a great game, but as did his new backfield mate Latavius Murray, as both averaged over seven yards per carry. More importantly, Brees had more than just Michael Thomas to rely on in the passing game. Ted Ginn Jr. joined Thomas in having over 100 yards receiving. At times over the past few years, the Saints have lacked a complementary receiver, so when Ginn has a good game, the Saints tend to light up the scoreboard.
It’s also worth noting that the Los Angeles defense was a little inconsistent in Week 1. After keeping the Panthers contained during the first half, the Rams were a little more porous in the second half. They were particularly hit hard by running back Christian McCaffrey, which could be a good indicator of Kamara’s success on Sunday, as he’s also a threat both running and receiving.
The biggest question facing the Rams heading into the season was how healthy would Todd Gurley be after he wasn’t himself during the playoffs. While Gurley wasn’t overloaded with touches, he was productive, gaining 97 yards on 14 carries. Malcolm Brown also proved to be an effective option coming out of the backfield, scoring twice after the Rams got into the red zone. Meanwhile, Jared Goff has an outstanding trio of wide receivers, although the L.A. passing game was a little sluggish in Week 1.
At the same time, the New Orleans defense looked a little vulnerable in Week 1. To be fair, Houston has some explosive receivers, but that’s not exactly going to change this week against the Rams. The Saints saved face a little by collecting six sacks. But they may not be able to rely on that happening again, as Houston’s offensive line is one of the worst in the league.
Up, Up, and Away
One factor to keep in mind is that the Saints have been notoriously slow starters in recent years. They escaped last week with a win, but they’ve also had issues in Weeks 2 and 3 the past couple of seasons. On the road, don’t expect the Saints to be at their best, so bet on the Rams to win and cover.