Wildcard weekend game 2 sees last years Super Bowl Losers travel to L.A. to take on the Rams, who were comfortably the most improved team after last year’s 4-12 disaster. On paper this looks like one of, if not the, best games of the first round, pitting 2 teams that could both be realistically considered S.B winners in waiting.
These are two excellent offenses featuring great RBs (Gurley, Freeman, Coleman) and excellent WRs (Jones, Watkins, Sanu and Kupp). Todd Gurley totalled over 2000 yards from scrimmage and led the league with 19TDs, his value to this team is immeasurable. If Goff can connect with the quick passes that are set-up to allow Gurley to stretch his legs then the Falcons could be exposed at linebacker. Freeman hasn’t had a stellar season but there is no doubt than on his day, and in conjunction with Coleman, he can put up game-changing numbers by ploughing through tackles. Julio has received plenty of passes and plenty of criticism alongside them for not converting enough scores. His role is not to snatch passes in the endzone, he is there to put up the distance required to get others (Sanu, Gabriel, Hooper etc) into the redzone where they can strike thanks to defensive coverages being pinned on Jones. For the Rams, Watkins has done well since his midseason move from Buffalo, and his presence has opened the field up from rookie receiver Cooper Kupp. If Goff can connect for 20+ yard completions to either of this pair then the Rams will march downfield at pace.
The defences have both conceded around 20 points per game on average, the Rams have given up around 20 yards per game more, but they’ve also managed to snare 9 sacks more than the Falcons. This could be key as Matt Ryan has not looked as calm under pressure this season as he did last time around, get to him and the game belongs to L.A.
The special teams for the Rams have been good all year, and don’t be surprised to see Johnny Hekker getting praise for pinning the Falcons deep in their own half, or for throwing an unexpected attempt on 4th down. The loss of Greg Zurline a few weeks back has weakened the kicking game for L.A so the advantage there definitely lies with the Falcons who have the ever reliable Matt Bryant capable of 50+ yard clutch kicks.
Despite all of the above I’m going to take the Rams in a close game here, Gurley is too big of a weapon to ignore and Sean McVay just seems to find a way to get the job done. 17-21.