Rams vs Saints in NFC Championship game: Live updates, score, time, TV channel, how to watch live stream online.Two of the NFL’s most prolific and innovative offenses meet Sunday in New Orleans with a spot in Super Bowl LIII on the line.
Sean McVay guided Todd Gurley, Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams to the NFC’s second seed behind the league’s second rated offense in terms of scoring and yards and were the Super Bowl favorites for much of the season. But they lost out on the conference’s top seed thanks to being outgunned Saints 45-35 back in Week 9 on this same field as 2-point road faves.
This time around, oddsmakers are asking bettors to lay three points with Sean Payton, Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and the Saints, who own the NFL’s third ranked scoring offense and have some gaudy numbers at home this season. We break down the best five ways to wager the NFC Championship Game.
The last time these two teams met, they put up a whopping 21 points in the opening quarter. And while we don’t expect this game is going to have the same early fireworks the last meeting had, the first quarter total seems a tad low here. The Rams were one of the better teams at scoring in the first quarter on the road at 5.4 per contest. For their part, the Saints aren’t too shabby scoring early at home, notching 6.3 first quarter points per game.
While the Saints have a very underrated (and sometimes overlooked defense) they don’t always get off to the greatest starts. They rank dead last in opponent’s first quarter points per game at 6.6. The Rams aren’t much better in that category, allowing opposing teams to score 5.4 first quarter points per game. This game should be a little tighter than last time, but not enough to stay Under the first quarter total.
Drew Brees’ numbers at the Superdome have been incredible this season. During the regular season Brees completed 73.6 percent of his passes for 321.6 yards per game with 21 touchdowns compared to just one interception. That includes a 346 yards four touchdown, zero interception performance against the Rams in the Week 9 meeting. He followed that up with 301 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in last weekend’s Divisional Round matchup against Philadelphia.
He gets to go up against a Rams pass defense that has had its fair share of issues this season. They rank 23rd in opponent’s yards per pass and 19th in opponent’s completion percentage. Los Angeles has been stronger with Aqib Talib healthy once again and he wasn’t available back in the previous meeting. But Thomas is becoming almost uncoverable at this point.
Additionally, the Saints averaged 17.4 first half points per game at home during the regular season, while the Rams average 14.9 points per game on the road. Expect the Saints to head into the locker rooms at halftime with a slim lead.
Speaking of Thomas, he was already regarded as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but he is taking his game to a whole other level. Thomas hauled in a ridiculous 12 catches on 16 targets for 171 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win over the Eagles, while in the Week 9 meeting he went off for 211 yards on 11 receptions, which included a massive 72-yard touchdown reception to seal the victory for the Saints.
We mentioned the Rams secondary struggles and even with Talib in the lineup, the Rams have had problems against No. 1 wide receivers all season, allowing more than 80 yards per game to opponent’s top targets. So, even reinforcements for the Rams and a high number aren’t enough to scare us away from the Over when it comes to Thomas’ receiving yards. We expect Brees and Peyton to attack L.A. repeatedly with the best wide out weapon.
C.J. Anderson was the story of the Rams 30-22 victory over the Cowboys last week. The running back cut by the Raiders in Week 16 racked up 123 and scored twice on 15 carries. Oh, and that Gurley guy chipped in 115 yards and a score on 16 carries. Even before Anderson was a factor, the Rams ranked third yards per rush and yards per game.
The Rams ran roughshod all over a good Cowboys run defense, but the Saints is even better. New Orleans ranks first in opponent’s yards per rush, second in yards per game and third in run defense DVOA. So, it might be a little tougher sledding in this one.
On the other side of the ball, while Brees is the headline grabbed, the Saints offense is now more dependant on the running back combo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram than ever before. They are committed to running the football, ranking fifth in rush attempts per game. Los Angeles struggled in the regular season to stop the run, but the defensive line played much better last week, Ndamukong Suh in particular, and were able to hold Ezekiel Elliott to 47 yards on 20 carries. With both teams so committed to running the ball despite the success the defenses might have, don’t expect another 80-point shootout like before.
A big problem for the Rams in this game could be the play of Goff. The quarterback has really struggled late in the year. In five December starts he has passed for just 228.2 yards per game on 6.3 yards per attempt and 58.6 percent passing. Last week, he didn’t need to do much, going 15-28 for 186 yards. And this is not the time to slump. The Saints defense is heating up. They were one of the better teams at getting after the quarterback and were able to limit a red-hot Nick Foles to 201 yards on 18-31 passing, picking him off twice.
The one thing that can throw a wrench into the Saints’ plans is Aaron Donald. There is arguably no bigger game changer in the NFL today. The defensive tackle led the league in sacks with 20.5 He will be a problem. Enter Kamara. The Saints back had over 700 yards receiving this year and Brees will use him in the quick passing game to neutralize Donald’s interior pressure. And Kamara’s explosiveness in the backfield will be the difference in this game.
Additionally, the Saints have an edge when it comes to scoring touchdowns in the red zone, ranking fourth in the NFL. While the Rams, despite the likes of Gurley and Anderson in backfield rank just 18th.
Oh, and the Saints haven’t lost a playoff game at home in the Brees-Payton era (6-0 SU). We like them to keep that perfect record intact and cover the number as Bress and Payton finally return to the Big Game.