The magical season continues with the biggest game of the year coming on Sunday as the Los Angeles Rams travel to face the New Orleans Saints for the third time this year.
The two prior meetings were a preseason thrashing 28-0 favoring the Saints, and a week nine 45-35 victory for the Saints. The Rams will look to avenge the earlier regular season loss as it was a tightly contested game that went down to the wire.
Let’s take a look at the matchups to watch:
CB’s Aqib Talib/Marcus Peters vs WR Michael Thomas
The Rams’ cornerbacks are going to have their hands full this week as they face one of the most unique and dominant wide receivers in the league. Thomas’ 2018 campaign was one for the books as he pulled in 125 receptions for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns on an unprecedented 85% catch rate (147 targets). As we all know, Thomas abused the Rams in their first encounter with 12 receptions for 211 yards and a touchdown. The major positive for the Rams this time around is that CB Aqib Talib is healthy and playing, and his body style/game matches up well with a player similar to Thomas’ play style. Notably, Marcus Peters had an awful game, so look for the matchup between these two and Mike Thomas to be a back-and-forth one.
WR Brandin Cooks vs CB Marshon Lattimore
Former Saint Brandin Cooks also had himself a nice return to the Superdome as he reeled in six receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown in week nine. This week he’ll likely see a ton of Marshon Lattimore in coverage as Lattimore can be seen travelling with teams’ #1 receivers at times, and the Saints will likely view Cooks as that after the first matchup. Cooks (as well as running mate WR Robert Woods) will need to create as much separation as possible to create open throwing lanes for QB Jared Goff.
RB’s Todd Gurley/C.J. Anderson vs Saints’ front-seven
The duo of Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson combined for 39 carries, 238 rushing yards, and three touchdowns on the ground last week against the best rushing defense remaining in the playoffs (Dallas Cowboys). This week, they’ll get another solid defense, but one that is absolutely a step down from the Cowboys’ caliber. The rushing attack for the Rams’ offense has thrown a wrench into what everyone thought they knew about the Rams, keeping defenses off-kilter. Good luck to the Saints’ defense, as they’ll need to prepare to stop everything from an explosive passing game with multiple weapons, to a backfield with multiple runners who spell each other creating freshness and a full compliment of varying skill-sets.
Rams’ OL vs Saints’ DL
The Rams’ offensive line is simply one of the best (if not the best) units in the league. Their ability to perform at an elite level both in pass pro and in the run game is what makes the offense click. When Jared Goff is given a clean pocket, he can look unstoppable. As well as the run game, which we all seen the capabilities of last week. In the first contest, Jared Goff went un-sacked and the rushing attack gained just over 100 yards on the ground. The Saints’ key weapon on the defensive line will be DE Cameron Jordan, who’ll require extra attention. The recent loss of DT Sheldon Rankins will prove to be a large feat to overcome for New Orleans, though rookie DE Marcus Davenport can still be an impact second defensive lineman.
ILB’s Cory Littleton/Mark Barron vs RB Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara is a massive issue, and the Rams will need to find a way to at least limit him out of the backfield. In the week nine contest, Kamara had 19 rushes for 82 yards and two touchdowns, though he also chipped in with four receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown. Everything the Rams tried failed. From covering with Cory Littleton or Mark Barron, to moving FS Lamarcus Joyner down in man coverage, or even bracket coverage, nothing worked. It might be best to take a page out of the Cowboys’ playbook and allow a secondary member (Joyner, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Marqui Christian, Blake Countess) to come down and man cover Kamara one-on-one.
DT’s Aaron Donald/Ndamukong Suh vs OG’s Andrus Peat/Larry Warford
Aaron Donald — as always — had an incredible impact in the first contest as he registered a tackle-for-loss, four QB hits, a pass deflection, and a fumble recovery. The duo of Donald and Ndamukong Suh didn’t register for any sacks in the contest, so that’ll hopefully change in this edition. Andrus Peat struggled mightily against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, and it was revealed that he was playing with a broken hand. On the other hand, Suh arguably had the best game of his career in horns.
QB Jared Goff vs Saints’ secondary
Jared Goff toasted the Saints’ secondary in the first contest as he went 28/40 for 391 passing yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. The interception actually came from LB Alex Anzalone who made a tremendous play changing directions on a whim and picking the ball of while diving, so that one wasn’t necessarily a bad play from Goff (nor from the Saints’ secondary). For whatever reason, in three games against the Saints, Goff has had incredible success as he’s combined for 76 completions on 115 attempts, 959 passing yards, eight passing touchdowns, and three interceptions.
Get ready for this game folks. At this point, the season comes down to every week. The Rams are only 60 minutes away from the big ticket.