NFL: Falcons at Rams Wild Card Game

Saturday Night (Game 2) – The LA Rams had what could be called one of the biggest franchise turnaround in history.  Sophomore Jared Goff and MVP candidate Todd Gurley lead the Rams to an 11-5 season record securing the number 1 spot in the NFC West.  On the other side of the field, the Atlanta Falcons walked on thin ice for most of the season and it took them to the last game to secure a final playoff spot.  Maybe by coincidence, but by beating the Panthers in their last game they also avoid joining them in teams that have been branded with the “Super Bowl Hangover”

The Rams blew through most defenses with a high scoring offense that top the 40 point mark 4 times in the season and averaging 29.9 points per game.  The defense led by Ogletree manage to shut out the Cardinals and keep teams scoring under 20.6 points per game.  Both defense and offenses benefitted a lot from each other, good field position and plenty or recovery time on both sides. Sean McVay has taken this young team to the next level offensively and defensively, but at the end of the day this team lacks playoff experience and that could backfire on the field.

Matt Ryan topped 4000 yards to make it 7 straight seasons.  Unfortunately the 4095 was also his lowest in the last 7 years but his team needed every yard possible to make the playoffs.  The Falcons make the playoffs but have they fully recover from the 28-3 loss to the Patriots? Maybe.  They beat a shaky Panther team to stay alive.  The offense hasn’t been the same from last year under Shanahan, but is undeniable that is a deserving team of a playoff spot.

Key Matchups/ Factors

  • Todd Gurley led the Ram’s (and fantasy football owners) offense with 1305 rushing yards (only 2nd to Kareem Hunt 22 yard difference).  Atlanta has allowed around 104 rushing yards per game.  Gurley averages 87 rushing yards per game.
  • Devonta Freeman, healthy, will be a problem for the Rams.  Could be the biggest X-Factor.  Also Tevin Coleman given the chance has proven to be a quality player, but has been completely forgotten the last couple weeks.
  • Battle of the Receivers
    • Jones (questionable), Sanu & Hooper combine for 11 touchdowns.  Julio Jones will need to find his groove for the team to have a chance he only is responsible for 3 touchdowns even though his career high in yards (1444).
    • Watkins, Woods & Kupp did not reach the 1000 yard mark this season, but are still responsible for 18 receiving touchdowns.

The decision/ Prediction – Rams Win 34-23
Rams will try to make this game a shoot-out using Sammy and Woods for long passes and then will punch in Gurley for the touchdown.  Atlanta won’t be able to keep up, Matt Ryan will struggle with other receivers other than Jones like it happen against the Saints.

Notes: Sean McVay is the youngest coach in the NFL and has made every step with confidence and authority.  He has some of that new guy “swagger” to him coming straight out of college and finding success.  Now that I painted that picture, ask yourself if he reminds you of a certain guy name Pete Carroll? Pete turned the franchise around in his 1st season, missed the playoff 2nd season.  Came back with a younger team and QB in Russell Wilson to officially make a name for themselves.  Finally 4 seasons (3 ½) Pete to wins a Super Bowl.  McVay could be following the steps of Pete and maybe surpassing his timeline already.

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