L.A. Rams at New Orleans
When: 3:05 PM ET, Sunday, January 20, 2019
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Saints made a statement by outscoring the high-octane Los Angeles Rams in their midseason meeting, handing the latter its first blemish and ultimately taking a large step toward home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Saints and Rams stayed the course for the duration of the season and each defeated an NFC East foe heading into Sunday’s conference championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
While potential NFL Most Valuable Player candidate Drew Brees holds the all-time league record for completions and passing yards, the now-40-year-old quarterback is returning to the conference title game for just the first time since the 2009 season. Pro Bowl selection Michael Thomas had 12 receptions for 171 yards and a touchdown to toy with Philadelphia’s injury-ravaged secondary in Sunday’s 20-14 divisional-round victory, but his 12 catches in the 45-35 win over Los Angeles in Week 9 resulted in a franchise-record 211 yards and a 72-yard score. The Rams rebounded from that defeat to emerge victorious in five of their next seven and ultimately outlast Dallas to advance to their first NFC title game since 2001. Pro Bowl selection Todd Gurley (115 yards, touchdown) and C.J. Anderson (123 yards, 2 TDs) had their way in Saturday’s 30-22 win over the Cowboys, although the Saints’ No. 2-ranked rush defense yielded just 80.2 yards per game this season and 92 to the Rams in Week 9.
TV: 3:05 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Saints -3.5. O/U: 56.5
ABOUT THE RAMS: Cornerback Marcus Peters found himself covering old ground this week by downplaying a tasty morsel that gained traction shortly after the first encounter. Peters took issue with coach Sean Payton telling reporters in November that the Saints liked the 26-year-old lining up against Thomas, prompting Peters to promote the rematch before sarcastically saying of the coach that “we’re going to have a nice little bowl of gumbo together.” Pro Bowl selection Jared Goff ate up New Orleans’ pass defense by completing 28 of 40 passes for 391 yards with three touchdowns, although he has failed to reach 200 yards in each of his last two outings. Former Saints wideout Brandin Cooks highlighted his fourth career season of 1,000-plus yards by making six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in the previous meeting with New Orleans.
ABOUT THE SAINTS: The electric Alvin Kamara finished second to Gurley (21) in scrimmage touchdowns with 18, although the former had three (two rushing, one receiving) in the previous meeting with the Rams. While New Orleans showed its offensive chops in its high-scoring win over Los Angeles in Week 9, the Saints have shown some moxie on the other side of the ball in the latter half of the season. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore punctuated their divisional-round victory over the Eagles with his second interception in the latter stages of the fourth quarter. Linebacker Demario Davis (club-best 110 tackles) led the team with eight in last week’s contest and seven versus the Rams.
1. Los Angeles features the NFL’s second-ranked offense (421.1 yards per game) and third-ranked ground attack (139.4) while New Orleans resides eighth (379.2) and sixth (126.6), respectively.
2. The Saints have won their last seven home playoff games, with six coming under the watch of Brees and Payton.
3. Los Angeles Pro Bowl DT Aaron Donald registered a league-best 20.5 sacks this season, although the Rams failed to record one on Brees in Week 9.