Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
Sun. 1/20, 3:05 p.m. ET
Five things you need to know before betting on Rams-Saints:
1. Although the Rams and Saints enter the NFC Championship Game with identical 14-3 records, Los Angeles failed to cover the spread in any of the final seven regular season games the team played against teams that finished (or will finish) with a winning record. The Rams went 4-1 against the spread over their five road games in which they faced opponents that ended the season with a losing record—all five had 10 or more losses and combined to win less than 30% of their games with a 23-57 record. In the three 2018 road games it played against opponents that will end the season with winning records, L.A. went 0-3 against the spread.
2. One of the Rams’ three aforementioned against-the-spread road losses to teams that ended 2018 with a winning record was a double-digit defeat as a small favorite in New Orleans in early November. Both quarterbacks were effective in the Saints’ 45-35 victory, with Drew Brees completing 26 of 35 passes for 346 yards and four touchdowns while L.A.’s Jared Goff passed for 391 yards and three touchdowns. If there was a key to the victory for New Orleans, it was the play of the team’s offensive line. The Saints used a variety of blocking schemes to hold star Rams defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh to a combined three tackles and no sacks.
3. New Orleans outrushed Los Angeles by a relatively wide margin in the November meeting between these teams, gaining 141 yards on the ground compared to 92 for the Rams. Todd Gurley, who had entered the game as the NFL's leading rusher, was held to 68 yards on 13 carries. The Saints’ Alvin Kamara, meanwhile, racked up 116 yards from scrimmage on 23 touches and scored three first-half touchdowns as New Orleans raced to a 35-17 lead before the break. The strength of the Saints’ defense is a front seven that allowed an average of only 80.2 rushing yards per game during the 2018 regular season, which ranked second only to Chicago’s 80.0.
4. Due largely to an offense that’s been difficult to contain inside the Superdome, New Orleans has won 15 of its last 16 home games, including playoffs, if you discount the meaningless 2018 season finale that Brees and several other key New Orleans players sat out after the team had locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. In these 16 contests, New Orleans has averaged 33.2 points per game with 12 games of 30 or more points. The last time the Saints hosted the Rams prior to the November meeting was in 2016, when Brees completed 78% of his passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-21 blowout. Los Angeles has struggled against accurate quarterbacks, going 4-13-3 against the spread since the start of the 2016 season when facing an opponent that’s completing at least 64% of its pass attempts.
5. The Saints possess the ability to outscore the high-powered Rams, as New Orleans has gone 12-3 agaInst the spread since the start of the 2016 season when facing an opponent that’s averaging at least 24 points per game. And since Sean Payton became the Saints’ head coach in 2006, New Orleans has gone 18-4 against the spread when facing a team that’s scoring an average of at least 27 PPG. Payton’s Saints have also enjoyed success against formidable opponents, as New Orleans has gone 16-5 against the spread under its current head coach when facing a team with a winning percentage of at least .750.
Pick: New Orleans -3.5
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)