Postseason: L.A. Style

NFC Wild Card

(6) Atlanta Falcons at (3) Los Angeles Rams

Falcons: They’re back again in the playoffs and they’ve made it in consecutive years for the first time since 2013. This is a team that has been the subject of many jokes and memes all year long because of holding the 25 point lead in the Super Bowl but that’s in the past and the only thing that they can focus on right now is the task ahead which I think they’ve done a good job at as of late. The year didn’t go as they planned it, but they’re still in the playoffs as the sixth seed. All year in the NFC, you heard about Dallas, Green Bay, Seattle, the Saints, Rams, Vikings and Eagles. Let’s look back now: the Packers, Seattle and, Dallas are all on vacation and the Saints, Vikings, Rams and, Eagles are all playing postseason football. In all the years that I’ve been watching and breaking down this game, I’ve never seen a defending conference champion really not get some more recognition as they’ve been under the radar throughout the year. When the Falcons play a complete game for 60 minutes, they are a very difficult team to defeat especially when Matt is handling the ball well, Freeman and Coleman are getting their touches and leaving their mark on the game and the receiving core is all on the same page. The Falcons defense isn’t that bad either and one of the more underrated off-season signings was them getting Dontari Poe to beef up their defensive line. If they want to get back to the Super Bowl and go on a run in January, they’ll need to bring down arguably the most improved team in the national football league on Saturday night in the Los Angeles Rams.

Rams: They’ve been such a great story this year. They were a 4-12 team with so many questions about the future surrounding them. In comes Sean McVay, a one-time offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins was hired by the team to be the new head coach and the youngest head coach in the league is a favorite to win the coach of the year. He’s come in and taken a Rams offense that was at the bottom of the league in Jeff Fisher to the top of the offensive rankings this year as they averaged 32 points a game. The defense was also sharp and you almost expect that when you’re being coached by Wade Phillips, after all, look what he did with the Denver Broncos in 2015 and look where it got them. I love how in sync the Rams offense has been this year. They’ve been one of the very best when it comes to making a play happen against the blitz. Jared Goff has made tremendous strides and has looked like the franchise quarterback he was expected to be when he was selected first in the 2016 draft and the biggest thing to happen to this entire team has been a healthy Todd Gurley who I think has a really good shot at capturing his first league MVP. This will be the first playoff game in Los Angeles since 1985 and Saturday night can’t get here soon enough.

Falcons Player To Watch: Alex Mack– He missed the season finale against the Carolina Panthers with a calf strain. The Falcons offensive line was able to handle a solid Panthers defensive front without him. Now, it’s on to a bigger task which is the Rams front four and the best defensive player in the NFL in Aaron Donald. I see him being available for this game and let’s not forget that this is the same guy who played in the Super Bowl last year with a fractured fibula. He’s a mentally tough football player and who really wants to miss this time of the year?

Rams Player To Watch: Cooper Kupp– I’ve been a big-time fan of watching him this year. When you need those yards over the middle to move the chains, he’s the guy that’s usually targeted and he’ll make the catch. He moves well in space to get open and with the ball in his hands. He reminds me of a bigger Wes Welker when I watch him move.

Final Analysis: What a scene this will be on Saturday night. A big market like Los Angeles will be on full display, the sun will just be setting and the Coliseum will be rocking. The Falcons have been a team that’s had to fight all year to get to this point. Even after losing their offensive coordinator and losing some of the games that they have, they’re here and ready to defend their conference title. Their defense has been playing better as of late which I’ve been impressed with. This game will come down to a few things. First, who will run the ball more productively? This game will feature two of the best running backs in the business in Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley and which team will stop the run better? This is why the Falcons signed Poe, for games like this. The Falcons need to shut Gurley down and allow Goff to make some plays with his arm. They will also need to get their passing game going to test this Rams defensive backfield. The Rams need to account for all these weapons of the Falcons and force Matt Ryan to throw the ball sooner as he likes to buy his time to throw it.

Prediction: Falcons 27 Rams 24