NFC Conference Championship Game: Rams vs Saints

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Photo Courtesy of Pat Pryor

Written by: Jake Leicht

Previous Matchup: The Rams and Saints met in a week 9 matchup this season in New Orleans. The Saints ultimately gave the Rams their first loss of the season behind a strong offensive performance. Drew Brees absolutely carved up the Rams defense to the tune of 346 yards and 4 touchdowns. Michael Thomas was the recipient of 12 catches for 211 yards and a touchdown from Brees. On the ground, the Saints rushed for 141 yards on 34 carries and 2 touchdowns. Kamara scored both rushing touchdowns and added another in the air to go along with his 116 yards of total offense. The Rams were able to move the ball through the air on the Saints’ defensive unit as well. Goff threw to the tune of 391 yards to go along with 3 touchdowns and an interception. Todd Gurley did not have a great game, and he will be looking to have a bounce back performance this week.

Offense: The New Orleans Saints have some of the best weapons in the NFL. Behind first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints use a potent combination of passing and running to keep defenses on their toes. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are the most lethal running back duo in the NFL. Kamara is both explosive in the running and passing game. Brees relies on Kamara to win matchups against linebackers and safeties. Ingram is the thunder to Kamara’s lightning. Ingram missed the first 4 games of the season due to suspension, but he has rebounded and played well. Michael Thomas is proving to be one of the best wide receivers in the league as well. Thomas caught 125 passes for 1,405 yards and 9 touchdowns this season. Add on the fact that Brees is willing to spread the ball around to other playmakers and the rest of the NFL struggles to defend the Saints.

The Los Angeles Rams also have one of the most potent offenses in the league. The Rams are led by Todd Gurley, who like Kamara is making plays on the ground and in the air. Gurley had 1,831 total yards and 21 touchdowns this season despite missing two regular season games. In his absence, C.J. Anderson has proved to be an exceptional weapon for the Rams as well. Last week, Anderson rushed for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns despite Gurley being in the lineup as well. Quarterback Jared Goff is quickly becoming one of the NFL’s most promising young passers. Although he does not have the same weapons in the receiving corps as Brees, he still makes enough plays to put the Rams in winning positions on a weekly basis.

Although the Rams are one of the league’s best offenses, the Saints might be the best offense in the league. Both teams have premier running backs, and both teams have solid playmakers in the passing game. Michael Thomas is better than any receiver that the Rams have, and Drew Brees is simply a much safer bet at this point in his career than Jared Goff is.

Advantage: New Orleans Saints

Defense: The New Orleans Saints have a very solid defense, given the fact that they have one of the league’s best offenses as well. Cam Jordan is an absolute monster on the defensive line, and he will have to be better than ever with the loss of Sheldon Rankins last week to injury. With the way the Saints are able to get after the quarterback, their defensive secondary is able to make plays early and often. Marcus Lattimore is one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Last week he was able to pick off Nick Foles twice in big situations. Eli Apple has also played exceptionally well considering he was average at best for the Giants in his career. Add on the fact that Dennis Allen is one of the better defensive coordinators in the league, and the Saints have a recipe for success defensively.

The Rams should be better defensively than they actually are. During the offseason they brought in stellar defensive players including Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib. They actually added to the defensive unit that includes the NFL’s best defender Aaron Donald. Donald is able to rush the passer better than any defensive tackle in recent memory. He had a staggering 20.5 tackles this season, and he is also able to stuff the run with 25 tackles for loss. With the addition of Suh, teams have been unable to double team Donald on every snap. Now, the Saints will have to decide whether or not they can afford to block Donald with just one offensive lineman.

Although the Rams’ defensive players have better name recognition, there is no doubt that the Saints’ defense has been a better unit this year. Also, the Saints stellar offense has already carved the Rams up once this season. I look for Cam Jordan to slide inside and outside depending on the situation to cover for Rankins.

Advantage: New Orleans Saints

Special Teams: Both teams have solid special teams. Greg Zuerlein and Will Lutz are exceptional kickers that have both good range and accuracy. They also both have great punters in Johnny Hekker and Thomas Morstead. At the end of the day, both special teams are very good.

Advantage: Even

Coaching: Sean McVay is the hottest name in the NFL coaching world. McVay has rejuvenated the Rams once pedestrian offense into one of the best units in the league. He has also handed the reigns of the Rams’ defense to Wade Phillips, who is one of the best defensive coaches in the league. Phillips won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in 2016, so it is not as if the Rams have no big playoff game experience on their staff. Sean Payton is already a Super Bowl winning coach. He has complete control of the Saints’ offense, and they are finally playing solid defense under the tutelage of Dennis Allen.

Advantage: Even

Prediction: The New Orleans Saints have one of the best home field advantages in the NFL. The Superdome gets incredibly loud for opposing offenses, and fans get the place rocking when the Saints are playing well. Between the home field advantage and the Saints’ incredible offense, I find it rather difficult to believe that Jared Goff and company will be able to head into New Orleans and come away with a victory.

New Orleans Saints 41, Los Angeles Rams 31

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