The Rams have made the NFL’s the biggest turnaround, going from 4-12 last season to 11-5 this year. The reward is the NFC West title and a home playoff game for the first round.
The Falcons are still stinging from last year, when they allowed the New England Patriots to complete the biggest turnaround in Super Bowl history. Atlanta has not played as good as last season, but they did just enough to make the playoffs.
This is the first time that the Rams have hosted a playoff game since 1979, seven years before their head coach Sean McVay was even born.
Can L.A. Get a win for their home crowd? Or are the Falcons destined to make it back to the Super Bowl again? Let’s discuss this matter by looking at our GTBets odds and analyzing each team’s chances.
Atlanta vs L.A. Rams NFC Wild Card Playoffs (Jan 6 at 8:15pm ET)
Falcons Rams Point Spread
Atlanta +6.5 (-110)
L.A. -6.5 (-110)
Falcons Rams Moneyline
Over 48.5 (-104)
Under 48.5 (-114)
Key Factors for Atlanta (10-6)
One thing that Atlanta undoubtedly has going for it is experience. 36 players on the team have played a combined 174 playoff games. If anybody knows what it takes to win in the postseason, it’s these Falcons. Contrast this to the Rams, who have the fewest playoff games among their starters league-wide.
Unfortunately, the injury bug has hit Atlanta hard. Their starting guard Andy Levitre, running back Devonta Freeman, receiver Julio Jones, and center Alex Mack are all listed on the injury report.
Mack, Jones, and Freeman will probably play, but Levitre won’t. This is bad because the latter would’ve been responsible for blocking standout defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Ben Garland, who made three starts this season, will handle the unenviable task of blocking Donald.
If Garland isn’t up to the job, then it’ll be much tougher for quarterback Matt Ryan to avoid sacks. It also be hard for Freeman and Tevin Coleman to find any running lanes.
But if the Falcons can contain Donald and the rest of the Rams’ defensive line, they have a good chance to score points thanks to their explosive lineup. And this is especially the case with Jones, who averaged a league-leading 3.08 yards per route run this year.
Edwin also has a defense that can step up to the occasion. But they’ll have their hands full trying to slow down MVP candidate Todd Gurley. If Atlanta can hold Gurley to less than 80 rushing yards, they have a strong chance to win.
Key Factors for L.A. Rams (11-5)
The big catalyst for the Rams’ turnaround is that they completely revamped their offense. L.A. went from dead last in scoring in 2016, to scoring more points than anybody in the league this year. Their 15.9 per game scoring increase is the third biggest year-over-year jump in NFL history.
Gurley leads this offensive makeover, tallying 2,093 yards from scrimmage and scoring a lead-high 19 touchdowns. Considering his numbers and the Rams’ turnaround, it’s no wonder why Gurley is considered an MVP favorite.
Quarterback Jared Goff has also been impressive this year. Some people wrote Goff off after seven shaky starts in his rookie season. But he’s been far better in McVay’s offense. It doesn’t hurt matters that Goff has nice weapons in receivers Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods.
L.A. is more than just an explosive offensive unit, because they also have a strong defense. However, the defense has been known to surrender some big yardage totals, including 229, 189, 169, and 171 (twice) rushing yards in single games.
It appears that the Rams are beginning to right the ship, given that they shut down the Seahawks’ and Titans’ running attacks over the past three weeks. They’ll also need to stop and Atlanta from running at will to ensure a victory.
One more thing to watch here is L.A. kicker Sam Fickle. Their starter, Greg Zuerlein, was lost for the season with a back injury in late December. This is a huge loss because Zuerlein was leading the league in field goal-made percentage. Fickle has some big shoes to fill here, but at least he’ll be doing so in the friendly confines of L.A. Coliseum.
Prediction on Falcons vs Rams
On paper, the Rams look to be the superior team here. And it doesn’t hurt that they’ll be playing at home too.
But Atlanta can’t be written off, given that their roster has so much playoff experience. So who wins in this matchup between the upstart and experienced veterans?
I still have to go with L.A. in a narrow win, given their talent and how Atlanta is banged up. The Levitre injury is bigger than some people realize and will give the Rams’ pass rush a boost.
I think that Atlanta keeps this game closer than expected. But it won’t be enough to come away with a win.
Final Score Prediction: Rams 27, Falcons 23
Atlanta covers +6.5 spread