Sunday, 3:05 PM EST, Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints
The undisputed two best teams from the NFC will deservedly face off for a spot in the Super Bowl. Last time they met, New Orleans won 45-35, but the Saints have been in a bit of a rut lately, and Los Angeles will look to capitalize and flip the script from the regular season battle.
KEYS FOR RAMS
Offense: Control the trenches
For all the (justifiable) talk of Sean McVay's passing game wizardry, the Rams are going to need to run the ball effectively to win this one. Jared Goff has struggled mightily on the road, and opening up the play action game should help him significantly. Additionally, CJ Anderson's presence can ease Todd Gurley's burden as he continues to round into form after his knee injury. Finally, the one key injury sustained in the Divisional Round was to Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins which may open up the middle for the L.A. ground game.
Defense: Get something from the big name corners
Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have both been huge disappointments this season, but the two aggressive ballhawking corners can change their season with a big play or two in this one. Unfortunately, the matchup could not be more difficult. Michael Thomas has the size to avoid being pressed by these bigger corners as well as the route running ability to make them pay for being too aggressive. Thomas has been unguardable of late, but the Rams brought these guys in for moments like this.
Miscellaneous: Jump out to a lead
New Orleans has started quite slowly lately, averaging just nine points per game in the first half over their last three games. If the Rams get a 14-0 lead like Philadelphia did last week, the Saints road back will be quite difficult, particularly with the way the Rams run game will be able to open up with the positive game flow.
KEYS FOR SAINTS
Offense: Trust your stars
The Saints theoretically match up quite well in this spot, with Thomas having the size to repel the Rams physical corners and Alvin Kamara having the speed to run on the outside (away from Aaron Donald) and exploit the Rams average linebacker core. The Saints do not need any Taysom Hill gadget plays in this one, just let your playmakers shine.
Defense: Make Goff beat you
Contrary to how the Rams want this one to unfold, New Orleans want to make LA one dimensional and force Goff to have to throw to stay in the game. Martin Lattimore was the Saints MVP last week and he will surely be up for guarding former Saint Brandin Cooks. If this game comes down to quarterback play, the edge goes overwhelmingly to New Orleans.
Miscellaneous: Keep up the cohesion on the offensive line
The Saints offensive line may not have the same pure talent as some of the league's other top notch groups, but they always seem to be on the same page. Pro Bowl Center Max Unger and company will have their hands full with Donald and Ndamukong Suh. They need to stay together if the Rams make a few plays and use their skills in communication and football IQ to keep the likely DPOY away from Drew Brees.
This game should be tons of fun. Two offensive minded coaches in a dome, there could be over 80 points in this one. The Rams should be able to stick around, but when push comes to shove, will Jared Goff make the plays needed to pull it out?
SCORE PREDICTION: Rams 31, Saints 34