The Los Angeles Rams have made a miraculous turnaround this season, and they're hoping to take one more step towards the Super Bowl on Saturday night.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams
Date and Time: Saturday, January 6, 2018, 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
Opening NFL Odds: Rams -4.5, O/U 49.5
Rams vs. Falcons TV Coverage: NBC
In incredibly unpredictable fashion, the Rams scored more points than anyone else in the NFL this year by averaging 29.9 points per game.
Sean McVay will surely win Coach of the Year honors thanks to his work with Jared Goff and company.
Goff deserves a ton of credit after throwing for 3,804 yards and 28 touchdowns in just 15 games this year, but the Rams are only going as far as Todd Gurley takes them.
Gurley will probably finish runner-up to Tom Brady for the MVP honor this year, but if we were voting, we'd give Gurley the nod. In 15 games this season, the former Georgia Bulldog ran for 1,305 yards and caught 64 passes for 788 yards, amassing a total of 19 touchdowns. Gurley gets the ball in his hands a ton, and after a week off last week, it wouldn't be shocking if he ultimately gets it 25-30 times in this game against a sometimes-weak Atlanta front seven.
The Falcons didn't play well this year against good foes, going just 2-5 and averaging 15.0 points per game. That said, they won three of their last four games of the season and found a way to beat the Saints and Panthers at home to get into the playoffs. Now that they're here, they're certainly dangerous.
Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Julio Jones certainly make this offense lethal, but these four men simply didn't look as good this year as you would have hoped after last season's explosion that brought the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
Matty Ice did throw for 4,095 yards, and it's hard to complain about that. But a 20/12 TD/INT ratio certainly leaves a lot to be desired.
The key to this game is surely going to be whether the experience of the Falcons is going to shine or not. Obviously, most of this team played through the NFC playoffs last season and dominated along the way, and that experience is invaluable this time of year.
If you go up and down the roster for the Rams, you're not going to find much in the way of playoff experience. Goff, Gurley, Tavon Austin, Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins, Alec Ogletree, Lamarcus Joyner, Aaron Donald... This is the first playoff game for all those men.
The real concern, though, is whether this moment is too big for Goff. He played for some suspect Cal teams in college and never had that exposure to "the moment" like this one. He obviously grew up a ton this year, but Goff has more to prove this weekend than anyone else in the NFL.
Falcons vs. Rams Free Picks
Even though all of the early line movement came in on the Rams, we suspect that is going to calm down as the week progresses with money coming back on the Falcons at all of the top NFL sportsbooks.
Experience might be worth a ton, but the Falcons don't pass the eye test to us. They really look like they had a massive hangover from blowing that lead in the Super Bowl against the Patriots, and though they did get into the playoffs, that was just as much a product of everyone else collapsing around them as it was their own doing.
The Rams were consistently overachieving all season long, and their blowout win in Seattle told us all we need to know about them. They weren't ready for the moment when Seattle came to the Coliseum early in the year, but now, they are. Don't be shocked if this team goes on a huge run all the way to the Super Bowl in February.
NFL ATS Pick: Rams -4.5 at BookMaker.eu
NFL Score Prediction: Rams 38, Falcons 14