The Los Angeles Rams will be visiting the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Conference Championship this Sunday. Last time these two forces met, it was in a week 9 showdown which had the Saints hand the Rams their first loss. The final score was 45-35.
The stars shine brightly on each side of the ball; for either team in this match-up, we are going to take a look at the offense for each side. We will see how they will stack up against each other in this weekend’s NFC Championship Game.
First, the quarterbacks, who both had incredible outings last time they played each other. Rams’ third-year quarterback Jared Goff was 28-40 and threw for 391 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception last time these teams met up. The young quarterback has had times where he has looked like a star and potentially MVP, but has also had moments where he looked like he did under head coach Jeff Fisher.
The Rams offensive line ranks seventh overall in the league in pass protection. If they are able to win the battle in the trenches, Goff could have another outstanding day against a tough Saints’ secondary.
The Saints, on the other hand, have the veteran field general Drew Brees taking snaps under center. Brees has been one of, if not the, most reliable signal callers in the league this season. Last time he faced the Rams, he went 25-36 and had 346 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
The Saints’ offensive line can go toe to toe with just about anyone, despite injuries to many of the players. They had a dip in performance due to these injuries against the Cowboys in week 13, but they have never given up more than 3 sacks in a game. They are ranked third in the league in pass protection. With Brees’s reliability, experience and outstanding pass protection, I believe the Saints could come out on top in the passing game.
Now, unlike the passing game where New Orleans has a clear advantage, the ground game will be harder to compare. Both teams have phenomenal talent at the running back position.
Starting off with the Rams, their duo of talent has really come to light in the last month. Of course, you have Todd Gurley, running back extraordinaire, who led the league in rushing touchdowns this season with a total of 17. He has been the go-to guy all season, but was out of action for December with a knee injury. This is when their second half began to shine.
That second talent would be none other than Super Bowl champion C.J. Anderson. Anderson, in the past three games, has put up numbers that would make a fantasy owner drool. He rushed for 167, 132 and 123 yards against the Cardinals, 49ers, and Cowboys respectively. He tallied up a minimum of one rushing and one receiving touchdown in each game as well. They are both very talented backs but a lot of the credit has to be given to the offensive line. Los Angeles has the No. 1 ranked run blocking line in the NFL.
The New Orleans Saints have what many would call the best running back tandem in the league. Their number one back is former offensive rookie of the year, Alvin Kamara. When these teams had faced off previously, Kamara finished with 82 rushings yards, two rushing touchdowns, and 1 receiving touchdown. Their number two could also be considered elite. Mark Ingram has been a workhorse for New Orleans since he was drafted in 2011. Against the Rams, though, Ingram only ran for 33 yards. Maybe, with the help of their No. 2 ranked run blocking offensive line, he and Kamara can establish more of a ground game.
With all of that said, I think that LA will be able to run all over the Saints on Sunday. So, the Rams edge out the Saints in the rushing department.
Now, I know this is a part of the passing game, but for the sake of detail, it will be its own section. It needs to be examined as much any other position, because it is a talent position.
Being straightforward, the Los Angeles Rams come out as the victors in this category. The Saints may have the immensely talented Michael Thomas, who absolutely scorched L.A.’s secondary in their last battle. He ended that game with 211 receiving yards and one touchdown. The Rams have more talent spread out among their receiving corps though. You may be thinking, “But what about Ted Ginn??” Well, the Rams have Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. So just based on talent alone, I would have to say that the Rams win in the receiving category.
Now, for the bread and butter of all gridiron match-ups. The ones behind the playsheets, moving their pieces in this hard-hitting version of Chess.
Rams’ head coach Sean McVay and Saints’ head coach Sean Payton are two sides of the same coin. They are both fantastic offensive minds who have coached each of their teams to a successful season. Sean McVay is the young hotshot, while Payton is the experienced mind. That is why I would say New Orleans has the advantage here. As amazing as Sean McVay has been, he is inexperienced in the post-season and has shown some issues with time management.
So, with all of this said, and maybe some of your own research, who do you think will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl? Will it be the young, superstar Los Angeles Rams or will it be the grizzled, battle-tested New Orleans Saints?
*All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference and Football Outsiders.
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