Last year’s NFC representative in the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons, needed a win in the final weekend of the regular-season to make it into this year’s playoffs. However, this time they enter as an NFC Wild Card representative and need to go on the road in round one to face the NFC West Division Champion Los Angeles Rams.
The Rams have been the surprise of the league this year as first-year Head Coach Sean McVay led the team to an 11-5 overall record and the NFC West title. McVay was able to turn second-year Quarterback Jared Goff around after a less than impressive rookie season. Goff has looked much more comfortable in McVay’s offense in leading the team to 11 wins after only 4 wins last season.
In addition to Goff, running back Todd Gurley had a bounce back year for Los Angeles rushing for a career-best 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns, and also caught 64 passes for almost 800 yards and another 6 scores. Overall, the Rams were the highest scoring team in the NFL with 458 points and 10th in total yards at over 361 per game.
But don’t sleep on the Falcons in this game. They still have last season’s MVP in Quarterback Matt Ryan and he still has Julio Jones to throw to and Devonta Freeman to hand the ball off to. The Falcons actually averaged more yards per game than the Rams with 364.8 per game but ended up ranked just 15th in total points.
Injuries could also be a factor for Atlanta as Freeman, Jones and Alex Mack will play but come in a little banged up, and guard Andy Levitre who would have been expected to block Rams star Aaron Donald, will not. Levitre suffered a torn triceps in week 17 and was placed on injured reserve.
Defensively, the Falcons finished the regular-season allowing a total of 318.4 yards per game which was 9th best and the Rams were only the 19th best allowing 339.5 yards per game. In addition, both teams finished in the bottom half of the league in points allowed which could lead to a high scoring contest come January 6th.
Oddsmakers have the Rams listed as anywhere from a 5 to a 6 point favorite in the game. Point totals are high as you would expect with the points set as a combined 48.5. One thing for sure, is this should be a fun game to watch if you enjoy offense and points.
Prediction: If the Falcons defense was more impressive, I might go for the upset. But need to go with the home team to win and cover. Point totals may be a bit low.