After a long but exciting regular season, we are down to the final four teams in the NFL playoffs. In the NFC, the top-seeded New Orleans Saints will host the Los Angeles Rams in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game. At home, the Saints are favored by 3.5 points with an over/under of 57 points.
Despite being the top seed in the NFC, the Saints had to survive a close call last week against the Saints. They fell behind 14-0 before their high-powered offense was able to get it going. The Saints also needed a late turnover from their defense to put a stop to a potential game-winning drive by Nick Foles and the Eagles.
As for the Rams, they took care of business against the Cowboys last week, winning 30-22. Both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson rushed for over 100 yards, as the L.A. offense took to the ground to do most of their damage while the defense did just enough to keep the Dallas offense at bay to secure the win.
Is Everything Okay?
While the Rams looked great last week, it’s worth remembering that they were 2-2 heading down the stretch, losing to the Bears and Eagles. Jared Goff also seemed to be a little off his game late in the year. To be fair, he tossed four touchdown passes in Week 17, but his accuracy was a little erratic in December compared to earlier in the season. He was also solid but largely unimpressive last week against the Cowboys.
It’s no coincidence that the Rams committed themselves to running the ball last week. However, they’ll be facing one of the best rush defenses in the league this week. The Saints allowed just 3.6 yards per carry and just 80 yards per game on the ground this season. Perhaps more importantly, Gurley may not be at 100% after missing time late in the season due to injury. If the Rams can’t run the ball like they usually do, their hopes could fall on Goff’s shoulders in what is easily the biggest game of his life.
Strong and Efficient
The New Orleans offense didn’t put up crazy numbers last week against the Eagles, especially after a slow start. However, one could argue it was their most impressive game of the season. Their two touchdown drives were 12 and 18 plays and together ate up nearly 18 minutes of clock. Drew Brees and company stayed away from the big play in favor of more meticulous drives that showed good balance between the run and pass and great precision from Brees on his passes.
Meanwhile, the Rams continue to have questions on defense. While they slowed down the Dallas running game last week, they also opened themselves up to give up a lot of yards against Dak Prescott. If they remain vulnerable against the pass this week, Brees is likely to rip them apart, especially after the way Michael Thomas was unstoppable catching the ball last week.
These two teams combined for 80 points when they met earlier this season in an entertaining shootout. However, the New Orleans defense is giving up less than 17 points per game since that game. The Rams may not have the same success offensively as they did in that meeting and their defense remains vulnerable against good teams. Eventually, the Saints should find a way to get some separation and win comfortably. Bet on New Orleans winning and covering the 3.5-point spread in the NFC Championship Game.