The NFC Championship game is upon us and it is a regular season rematch with the Los Angeles Rams traveling to face the New Orleans Saints. In the first meeting, the Saints held on after a dominating 35-17 first half, eventually winning 45-35. This time, the Rams hope to get not only regular season revenge, but also a chance at going to the Super Bowl.
Against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, the Saints faced a 14-0 deficit, only to rally behind a 300-yard passing game by Drew Brees and a balanced rushing attack from Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. The Saints would score the last 20 points of the game to advance 20-14.
While some players will be similar to the list from the November matchup, there are a couple of new faces sprinkled in this edition of the five Saints to watch.
QB Drew Brees
Brees is the face of the Saints franchise. The all-time NFL passing yardage leader, Brees had another strong campaign at age 40 with almost 4,000 yards (3,992) in 15 games to go with 32 touchdowns and five interceptions. In the regular season, Brees completed 74.4% of his passes while boasting a superb 81.9 QB rating. His season saw a couple of peaks and valleys but in the Divisional Round, Brees was outstanding with 301 yards passing, leading the Saints out of the two touchdown deficit.
An interesting wrinkle the Saints have tried throughout the season is bringing in QB Taysom Hill, who brings a rush oriented approach and can cause mismatches if the defense is not prepared. However, be prepared for focus number one to still be on Brees.
LB Demario Davis
Quietly the leading tackler for the Saints, Davis had 110 total tackles along with five sacks, four passes defended, and two forced fumbles in the regular season. In the contest against the Eagles, Davis led the Saints with eight total tackles. Davis was ranked the 12th best linebacker according to PFF. Look for Davis’ main responsibility to be to slow down Rams RB’s Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson, although the challenge is tougher with Sheldon Rankins being out.
WR Michael Thomas
Brees has a favorite target and the former Ohio State Buckeye Michael Thomas is his guy. Thomas finished the regular season with 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns while catching an astounding 125 passes out of 147 targets (85%). Thomas painfully caught the game-clinching touchdown against the Rams the last matchup and has Rams CB Marcus Peters seeking out an opportunity to get even. To no surprise, against the Eagles, Thomas caught 12 passes (16 targets) for 171 yards and a touchdown.
CB Marshon Lattimore
Another former Ohio State Buckeye, Lattimore has continued to be a major playmaker for the Saints. For the season, Lattimore had 59 total tackles, 12 passes defended, two interceptions, and three forced fumbles. In the Eagles game, Lattimore came up clutch with four total tackles, two passes defended, and two interceptions. Look for the Rams to try and avoid Lattimore if possible.
RB Alvin Kamara (Bonus: Mark Ingram)
The Saints rushing attack is quietly why Drew Brees hasn’t posted 5,000 yards passing the last two seasons. Kamara (883 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns) and Ingram (645 yards, six touchdowns) have been stout on the ground, but Kamara also contributes heavily in the passing game (81 catches for 709 yards and four touchdowns). The Rams were projected to have struggles with Ezekiel Elliott and succeeded, but the Saints offer a unique challenge with two very capable and dangerous backs.