The NFC Wild Card round kicks off with a primetime matchup between the reigning NFC champs the Atlanta Falcons and the explosive Los Angeles Rams. The Falcons were able to get into the playoffs by winning their last game of the regular season. The Rams rested their top players during the final week and come into this matchup fresh. Will the Falcons’ playoff experience be enough to overcome the Rams youth and energy? Kickoff inside LA Memorial Coliseum is at 8:15 PM ET.
This Wild Card matchup will be the 2nd time these two teams have played against each other in the playoffs. Overall, the Rams and the Falcons have battled it out 78 times with the Rams holding the advantage at 47-29-2. They also have an impressive all-time home record against the Falcons at 28-8-2. The last time these two teams played was nearly 1 year ago and the Falcons blew out the Rams in LA by a score of 42-14. Atlanta has won the last 2 games in Los Angeles.
The Falcons (10-6) finished the season with a 5-3 road record and won 3 of their last 4 overall games to get into the playoffs. They are the reigning NFC Conference champions and come into this matchup with a big advantage in postseason experience.
The Rams (11-5) had an unimpressive 4-4 home record on the season. However, they did rest all of their top players on both sides of the ball during the final game of the season, which was a home loss to the 49ers. LA has one of the best offenses in the league and looks to plow through the Falcons defense in this playoff matchup.
The spread opened with the Rams favored by 4.5 points. It currently sits at 6.5 points in favor of LA. The Over/Under opened at 49.5 points and has come down to 48.5 total points.
Despite making the playoffs, the Falcons were a disappointing team this year. They clearly took a step back from last year when Atlanta was the top offense in the NFL. Now, the Rams are considered the top offense and Atlanta has their hands full this weekend.
The main concern for Atlanta is their defense and how they will stop Todd Gurley. TGII should’ve won the NFL’s rushing title but the Rams rested him in the final week and he lost out by 22 yards to Kareem Hunt. Gurley did lead the league with 19 touchdowns and 2,093 scrimmage yards. He gained more than 100 yards in 12 of his 15 games and will definitely be a tough matchup for the Falcons defense that gave up a respectable 104.1 rushing ypg, which was good for 9th in the league.
On the other side, the Rams finished 28th against the run at 122.4 ypg and this could be a big break for the Falcons running game that averaged 115.4 ypg. Freeman is the main back for Atlanta and he finished with 865 yards and 7 rushing TDs on the season. But, where the Falcons can matchup with Gurley’s production, is when their duo of Coleman and Freeman catch passes out of the backfield. These two are a deadly combination.
For the Falcons to win this game, they will need the 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan to play his best game and to hook up with elite WR Julio Jones. Ryan (4,095 yards, 20 TDs, 12 INT) was outplayed this year by sophomore QB Jared Goff (3,804 yards, 28 TDs, 7 INT). So, the Falcons don’t have a big advantage at this position other than experience. Jones finished 2nd in the NFL with 1,444 receiving yards, but his receptions were down to just 88 on the season and his TDs were shockingly low at just 3.
The Rams don’t have anyone on the same level as Jones, but they do have a trio of receivers that are just as good as any other team and each one of them had more TDs than Jones. Watkins finished with 8 on the year and he will draw Atlanta’s top DB. But, the damage will be done through the other two receivers Cooper Kupp (62 rec, 869 yards, 5 TDs) and Robert Woods (56 rec, 781 yards, 5 TDs).
I believe the trio of Watkins, Woods and Kupp will outplay Atlanta’s top duo of Sanu and Jones this weekend. I also expect Todd Gurley to have a big game out of the backfield. He finished the regular season with 64 receptions for 788 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Falcons duo of Coleman and Freeman finished with 63 receptions for 616 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The Rams finished as the NFL’s best at 29.9 ppg, while the Falcons finished 15th at 22.1 ppg. Atlanta finished 8th (364.8) in total net yards per game and the Rams finished 10th (361.4). They both held the same positions in passing yards per game, while Atlanta finished 13th in rushing ypg and the Rams were 8th with 122.1 ypg. Bottom line, both of these teams have offenses that can gain yards and put up points. I like this game to be a high scoring affair with the Rams winning 27-24 and covering the Over. Look for Gurley to have a big game and outplay an inspired Matt Ryan.
The Over is 5-0 in the Rams last 5 games overall, 5-0 in the last 5 games between these two teams, and 5-2 (or 7-0 depending in the sportsbook) in the last 7 games between these two teams in Los Angeles. The Over is 5-0 in Atlanta’s last 5 playoff games.