NFC Championship Preview-Marching In Or Marching Over? 

Ab Stanley

One versus two for the second time around will lead to a one versus one for the ages. It’s simple arithmetic for describing the Los Angeles Rams meeting the New Orleans Saints again this season but this time it’s a for the right to play in Superbowl 53. These teams come in near the top of the league in scoring and racking up yards but this game could easily come down to which defense can flex their muscle the hardest.

Keys To The Game:
The Saints only have two losses when their regular starters have played this season and there are almost no similarities you can point to. The one thing in both games you could see was the offense looked lopsided on the passing side.

New Orleans will need to establish a balanced offense almost split down the middle in rushing and passing. Keeping it balanced will make drives longer and it will cut down the Rams’ chances of blitzing. It will also make the defense concentrate more on Alvin Kamara if he’s running well and catching passes out of the backfield.

The Saints numbers against the run look great but that’s due in part to opponents falling behind and all together abandoning their rushing attack. New Orleans will have to pull up their sleeves and really get down and dirty to stop the Rams’ rushing attack. The Saints also need to keep Los Angeles out of the red zone: they give up too many touchdowns when a team gets inside the 20 yard line.

The Rams offense has been dynamic all season ranking second in points and total yards gained. Establishing a run would be easy for me to say is the key and they should definitely try and get Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson going but that’s obvious. The Rams should attack the Saints pass rushers and linebackers in the passing game. Getting Gurley and tight end Tyler Higbee involved in those short intermediate plays five to ten yards downfield will keep them in mismatch situations all game.

The Rams should try some wide receiver screens that engage the defense right at the line of scrimmage as well. This will force the safeties and even the corners to come up and help out, giving you better chances for the downfield passes to Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. Los Angeles shouldn’t be afraid to try trick plays and take chances on fourth down: the Saints will have no such fear.

Defensively the Rams will need to keep New Orleans in long third down situations and ultimately stop them on third downs. When Brees and company has third in short or even fourth and short it makes it very difficult to call a great defensive play. The Rams will need to bring heavy heat to the quarterback. They need to keep a player in Brees’ face at all times and put their hands up to knock down balls at the line of scrimmage.

Mark Ingram should get some more carries in this one to soften up that front line of the Rams. His running ability between the tackles will help give New Orleans some of that previously mentioned balance.

Tight end Tyler Higbee should be a big part of the Rams’ offensive plans this weekend. Getting him involved will keep double teams away from the deep threats and it will keep the ball moving on third downs.

I’ll take the Rams in an upset 35-31. Los Angeles has the talent to pull it off in the Big Easy.

Ab Stanley

Atlanta, GA

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