Los Angeles Rams vs New Orleans Saints : The Los Angeles Rams had an opportunity to beat the New Orleans Saints in Week 9 of the 2018 season, but they fell short and dropped a 45-35 decision.
If the Rams are going to turn around that score in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, they are going to have to come through with a sharp offensive performance and do something to slow down Drew Brees and Michael Thomas when the Saints have the ball.
Both teams were 13-3 during the regular season, but the Saints are playing this title game in their home stadium because of their regular-season win over the Rams. At the time of the first meeting, Los Angeles was 8-0. However, New Orleans was more effective, and the Rams were unable to stop the Brees-to-Thomas combination.
Thomas was basically unstoppable in Week 9, as he caught 12 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown. He had a brilliant regular season, with 125 catches for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns, and he has the size, strength, speed, moves and hands to make big plays on a consistent basis.
Both teams have a slew of big-play makers. Brees completed 74.4 percent of his passes during the regular season, and he had a 32-5 TD-interception ratio.
Alvin Kamara is a devastating back who can do as much damage as a receiver as he can as a runner. Mark Ingram is a power back who can tire out a defense with his runs between the tackles.
The Rams need 24-year-old quarterback Jared Goff to be at the top of his game. Goff was solid during the regular season, but he was more consistent in the first half of the season than he was in the second. Goff threw for an average of 293.0 yards per game, and 32 of his passes went for touchdowns and he had 12 interceptions.
The Rams have a two-headed running attack with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. Gurley was a Most Valuable Player candidate well into the second half of the season, but after he suffered a knee injury, Anderson took over and ran with abandon.
Gurley is back in the lineup, and head coach Sean McVay is using both backs. Gurley and Anderson both exceeded the 100-yard mark in the divisional round against the Dallas Cowboys.
The running back appreciates what Anderson has done for the Rams and acknowledged that the two have already developed a good working rapport. “It’s good to have him,” Gurley said, per Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. “I got hurt for a reason, and it seems like that was one of the missing pieces.”
Los Angeles Rams vs New Orleans Saints : NFC Championship 2018-19
Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks are big-play receivers, but there’s little doubt that Goff misses injured wideout Cooper Kupp, who went out after the midway point of the season with a knee injury.
The Saints are three-point favorites over the Rams, per OddsShark. The total in the game is 56.5 points.
The Rams are in a tough position in this game, as road teams have not fared well in the NFC title game. Visitors are 0-10 straight up in the last 10 NFC Championship Games.
New Orleans clearly loves playing at the Superdome and is 15-2 in its past 17 home games. The Saints are also 9-0 at home in games against opponents with winning records.
The combination of Gurley and Anderson at running back is a positive for the Rams. Gurley is one of the best running backs in the league, while Anderson has excellent power and can pick up the Los Angeles offense. He won’t go down on first contact and has moves to make opponents miss.
Still, it appears to be a difficult matchup for L.A. The Saints can be a devastating team at home, and their fans can rev up the noise level when the defense is on the field. That will make life difficult for Goff, who is a much more effective leader at home than he is on the road.