ATLANTA FALCONS (10-6)
at LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-5)
LA Coliseum Ė Los Angeles, CA
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -6.5, Total: 48.5
The Falcons and Rams meet in Los Angeles for the Wild Card Playoffs on Saturday.
This postseason matchup between the Falcons and the Rams is an interesting one. Atlanta entered this season as a team that many viewed to be a serious Super Bowl contender. The Falcons were coming off of a Super Bowl loss that they would never forget, as they dominated the Patriots for three quarters and then let their conservative play and nerves get the best of them. Atlanta did, however, find a way to sneak into the playoffs, and itíll be interesting to see if the team is able to flip a switch and play the type of football that they were around a year ago. The Falcons looked unstoppable in the NFC Playoffs last year, but this was a different team in 2017. As for the Rams, not many people expected them to make the playoffs this year. The Rams clearly had talent on the defensive side of the ball, but new head coach Sean McVay was able to turn their offense into a juggernaut in his first year on the job. The Rams are now the favorites in this game, and they certainly feel that they have as good of a shot as anybody to win the Super Bowl this year. This is, however, a tough draw, and Los Angeles knows that the Falcons are going to give them absolutely everything that they can handle. One trend that truly stands out when looking at this game is the fact that Atlanta is just 7-19 ATS versus teams that have a completion percentage of 61% or better under head coach Dan Quinn. That doesnít bode well heading into this matchup, but the Falcons also happen to be 6-0 ATS versus NFC West division opponents over the past two seasons.
With the way that the Falcons and Rams played during the season, one can safely assume that this game is going to turn into something of a shootout. Itís obviously a lot harder to put up points in the postseason, but itís just hard to imagine these defenses truly showing up and shutting down the opposing offense completely. That means that QB Matt Ryan is going to need to be ready to play one heck of a game on Saturday. Ryan had an up-and-down season for Atlanta, but the team definitely trusts that he can get the job done in a game like this one. Ryan looked like the best quarterback in the league at times in last yearís playoffs and will need to be that same guy here. One thing heíll definitely be focused on doing is targeting WR Julio Jones. Jones is one of the best receivers in football and needs to show up on Saturday. Jones has disappeared on occasion this year, but expect him to make the plays needed when his number is called here. WR Mohamed Sanu must also be ready to contribute when Jones is bottled up. Sanu has emerged as a very good receiver in Atlanta, and he should have his moments here. The running game could also be a huge factor here. The Falcons have two studs in the backfield with RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman waiting for their touches. Both guys are going to get their touches, but Freeman could be the game changer. He has emerged as one of the gameís best rushers over the past few years, and heíll be asked to wear out this defense on Saturday. Defensively, itís important that Atlanta doesnít let Todd Gurley do whatever he wants out there. That is exactly what Gurley has done over the past few weeks, so it might not be that simple.
As previously mentioned, RB Todd Gurley has been absolutely unstoppable over the past few weeks for Los Angeles. Gurley performed at an MVP-level for the Rams this year, and heís going to be the most important player for the Rams in this game. Playoff football might not be about the rushing game and defense like the decades that played out before this one, but itís still important to have a great running game. Gurleyís ability to make plays in a number of different ways will give the Rams an edge in this game, and itíll also make life on QB Jared Goff a lot easier here. This is going to be the biggest game of Goffís career, as he never played in a major bowl game in college and is making his first NFL playoff appearance in this one. Goff should be up for the task of coming through, though. This Sean McVay offense is a perfect one for him to be running, and he also happens to have a good group of weapons surrounding him. Gurley has been much improved as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, WRs Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are good possession guys over the middle, and WR Sammy Watkins is an explosive deep threat. Any of them can step it up and emerge as the x-factor in this one, so donít be shocked by anything on Saturday. Defensively, the Rams will need a consistent pass rush in this game. If they can keep Ryan from standing in a clean pocket then they should be able to advance.