Another NFL season almost in the books, and why does it always feels like it flies right by? Only three games remain until we have to wait til next September for the action to begin again. But it’s fine for me because I roll right into College Basketball and March Madness which is my 2nd love after Football and then you get a terrific NBA playoffs, the NFL draft, Baseball, the Summer, preseason Football and Wala! We are back to business again. So while the current NFL season is almost over there is still much to look forward to if you a diverse sports fan like me. Besides, I think we all need a break from sitting on our fat asses every Sunday and watching games all day, that includes Monday and Thursday night as well.
Rams @ Saints (-3) (O/U 56)
I would have loved to see the Bears here and I expected them to be, but a unlucky loss to Philly cost them, I was sure they were going to beat the Rams. But in this game we have speed, HOF QB play, great coaching, highly powered offenses, etc. If you aren’t excited to watch football this weekend, then I don’t understand, but I guess I do. You rather use your snowblower, cut firewood, go snowboarding, rewatch GOT in prep for the new season upcoming, bake cookies, drink hot chocolate, work, sleep, play video games, climb a mountain, be adventurer guy. Different strokes for different folks, but IMO, you are missing some of the best action going on in the world this weekend. These games are going to be terrific and there is nothing else I would rather do than watch every minute of each game. That’s me, again I understand you would rather read a book or go for a hike? Idk, but then again if you aren’t watching this weekend, then I highly doubt you are even reading this article. So that whole rant was practically pointless. Ok on to the game.
I went back and re-watched all the games from last week, including both previous match-ups between the 4 remaining teams. Last time these two particular teams met up it was in Week 9, with the Saints winning 45-35 at home. Both QB’s had big days, Brees was 25/36 for 346 yards, throwing four TD’s. Goff was 28/40 for 391 yards, 3 TD’s, 1 Int. Gurley ran well but didn’t get a ton of carries finishing with 13/68/1 for 5.2 YPC. Kamara also ran well with 10 carries for 82 yards and two TD’s. Ingram was 9/33. Cooks was 6/114/1, Woods 5/71 and Cooper Kupp was 5/89/1, his TD breaking away from the defense on the sideline. They will not have him in this game and since he has left, Goff has not been as productive. Notably he has 22 less yards throwing, 1.3 less YPA and also has thrown .3 more Int’s per game. Kupp was his favorite target and he simply as not looked the same since. On the other side, Thomas as we all know had a Monster day mostly matching up against Marcus Peters and breaking away for a huge TD at the end of the game to seal it. He finished with 12/211/1, averaging 17.6 YPC. Ben Watson who will not play in this game either, had a good game catching three balls for 62 yards and a TD. Kamara was 4/34/1.
On defense, neither team had a sack, there was only one INT by the Saints and only three punts, two of them from the Saints. It was essentially an offensive shootout throughout displaying two mastermind coaches in McVay and Payton and showing off two highly talented offenses, led by a HOF QB and a former #1 overall pick in Jared Goff who has played very well the last two seasons.
So how does that Week nine match up translate into Sunday’s game. Well the Saints are home again, and they basically have the same team returning except they have Ted Ginn in this match up and don’t have their talented DT Sheldon Rankins who they lost in last weeks game to the Eagles. The Rams are now using C.J Anderson, do not have Cooper Kupp but also bring back Aqib Talib, their best corner and one of their best defensive players along with Aaron Donald and Cory Littleton. Talib is not only an excellent corner, but an extremely smart player who has a great understanding for what the opposing offenses are trying to do. The Rams have been a less effective offense with Kupp out, but a more effective defense with Talib in. So it kind of washes itself out. Losing Rankins hurts for the Saints, but they still have good depth at the DT position and Ginn is an important piece to have back.
What are the Rams going to do with Michael Thomas? Last time Peters mostly matched up with him, even following him into the slot a few times, but he basically was eaten up by Thomas all game. Not so much because Peters coverage was terrible, but because Thomas was just too good for him. Peters actually was around the ball many of the times, the worst play he made all game was letting up that TD at the end, when Thomas ran right by him in the slot. So in this game lot of people think they are going to stick Talib on him all game or most of the game. But if you know Talib, he plays at LCB basically all game. Thomas will be matched up on him sometimes on that side, but Thomas will also move to the other side to face peters again and Thomas also plays a ton in the slot where he will face off with smallish Robey-Coleman who is only 5’8, to Thomas’ 6’3. But I highly doubt the Rams are going to stick Talib to chase Thomas everywhere, it will just throw off their defense. Peters will likely face off again Thomas more. But maybe Wade could double him and just keep extra attention on him. Whatever happens, I still think Thomas is going to get his whoever is covering him. Thomas is simply just too good of an all around WR to not be effective. He basically does everything well.
The other biggest threat to the Rams D is Alvin Kamara. Kamara had 13 touches for over 100 yards and three TD’s in the Week nine match up. He ran the ball effectively and was a key in the passing game also. On his TD catch he burnt FS Lamarcus Joyner for a TD and Kamara showed off his savvy route running and speed. They tried to cover him with defensive backs and failed. They Rams also used Cory Littleton who is a fast athletic LB and Littleton did actually break up a pass guarding him. Littleon has the ability to cover. Kamara is just simply too good however and so I don’t think the Rams really have an overall answer for him coming out of the backfield. The Saints would be smart to feed him a lot in this game and give Kamara close to 20 overall touches. As I mentioned, Ben Watson did have a good game in the previous match up, but won’t play in this one, so Josh Hill and Dan Arnold will have to step up. Hill played more than any of their Tight Ends last week (78%) so he will be the favorite, but Arnold is a talented player who could make a big play in this game, albeit with very few opportunities. If more emphasis is put on Thomas, then things could open up for Tre’Quan Smith or Ted Ginn. Smith caught a TD in the Week nine match up and certainly could be effective again, as well as Ginn who beat the Eagles coverage on the 1st play of the game and would have had a TD if not for Drew Brees under throwing the football. It also helps that Keith Kirkwood was ruled out for this weeks game. Tommy Lee Lewis and Austin Carr who the heck knows, but if you want to try one of them DFS this week, I would roll Lewis.
There has been a lot of talk about Drew Brees arm health after under throwing both Ginn and Taysom Hill last week, but it could also be the dude is just 40 years old and never really had a incredibly strong arm in his career. He still is accurate, has great pocket presence and knows where to go with the football. I’m not concerned. Brees has been great at home throughout his career and that should continue this week.
How much will the Saints run defense be effected by the Loss of Rankins at DT? I don’t think it will matter all that much, in many cases when a team loses an important player they rally around each other and play better. Gurley and Anderson are probbably going to get what they are going to get anyway. Against the Cowboys it was over 200 yards. Gurley was mostly held in check in the first match up but he did break a big 24 yard run and probably would have had over 100 yards had he reached 20 carries. The Rams Oline just opens massive holes and have been doing it all season long. Their run game is likely to be effective against the Saints.
Goff struggled in December and has not been the same without Kupp, but I thought he looked good against Dallas, even though he really didn’t throw the ball that much. The Rams are protecting him extremely well and last time these two teams played he wasn’t sacked once. Maybe the Saints look to create more pressure in this game and also look to play a little more man defense this time. Cooks and Woods are tough match ups and the way McVay draws up his plays these two guys are going to be running free often. McVay just spreads out his WR’s so well, puts them at different depths and makes it easy for Goff to read, a lot of the times right to left or left to right. They will also utilize everyone, not just Cooks and Woods, but Reynolds, Gurley and Tight Ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. Higbee played a lot more last week, probably because he is the better blocker, but Everett is a good weapon also. I like Woods and Cooks to both have solid games and Gurley is likely be effective in the passing game, although last time these two teams played he only had 11 yards on six catches.
I thought the Bears would be in this game, beating the Eagles and then defeating the Rams. But Philly won and Nick Foles and that offense played very crafty against what I thought was the best defense in the league. Philly was in championship mode and came out strong against the Saints going up 14-0, until Lattimore changed the momentum with an excellent interception while covering Zach Ertz down the field. The Saints pretty much were dominant on D the rest of the game. As stated, I do think the Rams will be able to run and their passing game will hit some big plays, due to McVay’s designs and the Rams Oline. On the other side, I don’t feel the Rams can stop Kamara and Thomas and Brees will find ways to get the ball in the endzone. I think Saints D Coordinator Dennis Allen will play aggressive against Goff with more man and more blitzing than last time. You can’t let Goff sit back there and pick you apart. He doesn’t respond well to pressure. Facing pressure he tends to step back against the rush instead of stepping up in the pocket and it effects his accuracy. I think the Saints will execute this game plan. I also think the Saints will look to score fast and try to build a lead to put this game in Goff’s hands. At home, Brees, Thomas, Kamara, Saints D, I think the Saints get this W here. Goff is a good QB, but in the heat of the battle, I will take Drew Brees every time, especially at home. Saints 31, Rams 26.