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Los Angeles Rams vs Atlanta Falcons: Five Rams to watch

It’s playoff time for the Rams for the first time in since 2004. LEGGO!

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the playoffs, Los Angeles Rams fans.

Man, it feels good to be able to say that. It’s been a long time coming. As fans, we’ve endured Scott Linehan, Steve Spagnuolo, and Jeff Fisher rebuilds to get to this point. It’s been a rough 13(!) seasons, but we made it to the other side.

Ironically, the last time the Rams played in the playoffs, it was a loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round of the 2004 NFL Playoffs. You expect your playmakers to step up in the playoffs, and if the 2017 Rams are going to avoid a similar fate, these players are going to have to have big games on Saturday.

Jared Goff

Suffice to say that Goff silenced his doubters in a big way in 2017. He entered the season surrounded by questions about everything from his leadership to pocket presence to accuracy. I don’t need to tell you that he shook the bust label. But I will. Because he showed he is the Rams franchise QB whether you love him or hate him.

The Falcons boast a pair of very, very good defensive backs in Desmond Trufant and Keanu Neal. However, they only forced 8 interceptions all season and were middle of the pack in sacks.

Expect Goff to have plenty of time to sit back and pick the Falcons defense apart as they look to stifle a scorching hot Todd Gurley.

Speaking of.....

Todd Gurley

Falcons have the 9th best run defense in NFL and only gave up 9 TDs (T-6th) this season. But Gurley isn’t your run of the mill back either.

Gurley would have led the league in rushing if he had played in Week 17, led the league with 13 rushing TDs (19 total), and is at the forefront of the MVP conversation in a QB driven NFL.

It’s a wonderful problem for the Rams to have..... The Falcons are forced to allocate adequate resources on defense to stop Gurley, which will only make things easier for Goff. It’s simple math. The Falcons can choose to slow Gurley or Goff, but I don’t think they have enough to do both.

This is gonna be fun.

Mark Barron

A lot of Rams fans still scoff at the 5 year, $45M contract that the Rams gave Barron following the collapse of “Priority A” a few years ago. Whether you are a fan of him or not, his contract is neither here nor there this weekend.

He lands on this list because he has played pretty well this season and will be playing at less than 100%. An Achilles injury forced him to miss the lass two games of the season and earned him a limited designation as of Wednesday’s injury report.

No disrespect meant to Cory Littleton, but he’s not Barron. If Barron can’t play, it will be a blow to the Rams defense. If he plays, he will be less than 100% and the Rams would be wise to keep a keen eye to see if his limited play is a detriment to the team.

Either way, keep your eye on Barron.

Pharoh Cooper

Coach Bones’ latest Pro Bowler did not practice with a shoulder injury on Wednesday. He’s expected to play though, so I’m not as concerned as I am about Barron.

What excites me here is the possibility for some game changing returns by Cooper. The Falcons aren’t exactly known for their special teams play while the Rams are among the best - if not THE best - in the NFL.

Cooper is a must watch every time he has the ball in the hands.

Sam Ficken

Ficken is the only player who lands on this list for worry of choking. It took Greg Zuerlein 11 games to miss two kicks. Ficken missed two in his debut with the Rams. It’s hard to blame him when he was working at a brockerage firm 3 weeks ago.

But everything is ratcheted up a couple notches in the playoffs. Will Ficken be up to the task? He never played in a game of this magnitude at Penn State and it’s fair to wonder whether he’ll be up to the task after a quick acclimation to the NFL in weeks 16 and 17.

I know Coach Bones is up to teaching him. Let’s just hope he doesn’t clench his buttcheeks too much in the Playoff spotlight.