Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams NFC Wild Card Pick - Betting Odds
Atlanta earned their way into the playoffs with a 22-10 victory over Carolina last Sunday. Los Angeles rested several starters and fell 34-13 to San Francisco last week.
The Falcons blew a Super Bowl because they abandoned the run but I don’t see that happening this week as they face a defense that allows 122.4 rushing ypg and 4.7 ypc. OC Steve Sarkisian has taken a long time to get a handle on this offense and while WR Julio Jones is an inviting target, he must realize that running the ball will be the key to an Atlanta victory. RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman (cleared from concussion protocol) are interchangeable and should do well against this defense that has defended the pass a lot better than they have defended the run. QB Matt Ryan had a 38-7 TD/INT ratio last year en route to an MVP Award but was only 20-12 in 2017. He has suffered the most from the loss of OC Kyle Shanahan but he’s still good enough to move the sticks in crucial situations. Jones had 88 catches for 1,444 yards but scored only 3 TDs. Six players had 27+ receptions as Ryan can spread the ball around when he isn’t focused too much on Jones. The Rams allowed 21 TD passes on the year but picked off 18 passes, a great ratio. They also picked up 48 sacks (led by DL Aaron Donald’s 11) but Atlanta did a good job of protecting Ryan this season (24 sacks allowed).
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LA’s game plan is pretty simple on offense this week; get the ball to RB Todd Gurley early and often. He sat out last week but was dynamic in the previous 2 weeks against Seattle and Tennessee. He led the NFC in rushing and rushing TDs and also led the Rams in receptions (2nd in yardage and TD catches). The Falcons know that they will see a lot of Gurley and will likely concentrate on keeping him in check in the running game. They have fast LBs and should do a better job of defending him in the passing game than most teams. QB Jared Goff also sat out last week and is making his first career playoff start. He finished the year with a 100.5 QB rating and had a very good 28-7 TD/INT ratio. He has 3 good receivers at his disposal (Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and rookie Cooper Kupp) and should have all 3 of them available this week. Woods was the go-to guy before missing several games late in the season. Atlanta’s pass defense has been decent this year but they could use some help from a very up-and-down pass rush (39 on the year). Goff was sacked only 25 times this season and the Falcons may blitz a little more to force quicker throws and rushed decisions.
In this weekends NFC wild card matchup between Atlanta and Los Angeles have the public slightly leaning to the Rams to win at home and cover the 6-point spread with just over 56%. The over/under bettors are thinking this game will go over the posted total line of 48.5 with 54% on board.
Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams Prediction
Both teams have things going for them in this matchup. Atlanta made the Super Bowl last year and has a huge edge in playoff experience. Their slow start (4-4) also meant they had to work very hard in the second half just to make the playoffs (6-2 in 2nd half). They should be able to run the ball and that will greatly aid the passing game where Ryan hasn’t been his best this campaign. LA became the first team in the expansion era to go from last to first in scoring in one year. However, they did feast on a lot of the weak sisters in the league and were 2-2 SU vs. playoff teams. Gurley is amongst the league’s best weapons right now and it will take a lot from the Falcons defense to contain him. In the end, I’m going to side with the dog in this one. They’re getting points, have the edge in experience and have the running game to give this defense trouble. Their team speed on defense should also come into play.