The Atlanta Falcons will travel to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California to take on the Rams. This wild-card matchup will kick off at 8:15 PM/ET.
The Rams enter the playoffs as the number three seed in the NFC. After posting an 11-5 record this season, the Rams look prepared to enter the playoffs as a dark horse Super Bowl contender. The NFC playoff field is stacked with surprise teams at the top (Philadelphia and Minnesota) and a host of other teams with past Super Bowl appearances (Atlanta, Carolina, and New Orleans). No team, however, is more intriguing than the Rams.
Only a season ago, the Rams compiled a 4-12 record. This season, the Rams flipped that script and won their division in commanding fashion. Los Angeles has a sound defense, but it’s the dynamic play of the offense that makes the Rams a fierce team to face for any opponent.
The Falcons squeezed into the playoffs in week 17. After posting an 11-5 record last season, the 2017 Falcons overcame their rough patches to make the playoffs. Fortunately for Atlanta, the solid play of the Falcons’ defense helped them overcome the Panthers in week 17, giving the Falcons a chance to revenge last years Super Bowl collapse.
The Falcons, however, face a stacked field in the NFC playoffs. Two of those teams, New Orleans and Carolina, reside in the NFC South (Atlanta lost once to both teams this season. If the Falcons win, then they’d face the Vikings before they’d have any chance at facing one of their divisional foes. Atlanta’s experience in last year’s playoffs will certainly motivate the Falcons to finish games, but making a deep playoff run this season will require Atlanta to win three road games.
The Rams High Scoring Offense
According to NFL Stats, the Rams rank 10th in yards per game. For comparison, the Falcons rank 8th in yards per game. More importantly, though, Los Angles ranks first in points per game.
The Rams have an explosive offense averaging 29.9 points per game. By comparison, the Falcons rank 15th in points per game averaging 22.1 this season.
The Rams have undergone one of the most astounding single season transformations in NFL history. In 2016, the Rams’ offense ranked last in points per game, to jump from last to first in one season speaks volumes about head coach Sean McVay.
Facing a Falcons defense that ranks 8th in fewest points allowed, expect the Rams offense to struggle against Atlanta’s defensive speed.
Overcoming the Super Bowl “Hangover”
When a team loses the Super Bowl there is often a “hangover” from that loss that plagues the losing team in the following season. In 2017, the Falcons struggled against elite competition and looked as though they’d fall victim to their Super Bowl hangover.
Now that the playoffs are here, however, they’ve seemingly overcome the odds, playing themselves into position to make a deep playoff run. Few teams in the last decade have entered the playoffs at the six seed and managed to run the road gauntlet all the way to a Super Bowl and win, but it’s possible.
In 2016, the Falcons offense ranked first in points per game, according to NFL Stats. This season, the Falcons’ offense struggled mightily to score. Atlanta’s best weapon, Julio Jones put up monster receiving numbers in terms of yards, but managed to haul in only three touchdowns.
The Falcons offense has rarely used Jones in the red zone, but it’s clear that Atlanta’s struggles in the red zone would benefit greatly from Jones receiving a bigger role. If the Falcons are to make a deep playoff run, then they’ll need Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to carry the Falcons lethargic scoring attack and put up points.
Rams vs Falcons Betting Lines
The Rams’ greatest weakness is their lack of experience. Their head coach is 31 years old and this Rams team is still learning to win. Sean McVay, the rookie head coach, has taken the league by storm and guided this young team to a playoff appearance in his first year. McVay’s best quality, however, is his ability to get the most out of his players. One player that has flourished under McVay is Todd Gurley.
Gurley may win MVP this season, but he has a chance to accomplish much more. The Falcons will struggle to stop the Rams use of Gurley as both a rusher and in the passing attack. Against the Falcons, expect Gurley roles in the passing attack to decide this game. The Falcons will play the Rams tough but in the end, expect Los Angeles behind a solid team effort to advance.
Play: Rams -6.5 @ BetOnline.ag