HEAD-TO-HEAD: Saints-Rams Showdown to Decide Who's "Top Dog" in the NFC
In the NFL, things can change from one week to another, rather quickly. And with that in mind, the next item on the agenda for your New Orleans Saints is one of epic proportions: the biggest test of their entire 2018 Season when the UNDEFEATED (8-0) and undisputed #1 team in the NFL — the "red hot" Los Angeles Rams — come to NOLA for a little visit.
With a win next Sunday the Saints would be (7-1) but would still be a half-game behind the Rams (who would be 8-1 if they lose), but they’d still hold the tiebreaker over Los Angeles due to the head-to-head victory. A Saints loss on the other hand. would obviously drop them down a few spots.
"Man, it's just going to take some hard work, man, a lot of focus this week and making sure we're coming in locked in, not making any mistakes," 4th year CB P.J. Williams — last night's hero in the Saints' 6th straight win after their season-opening loss at home to Tampa Bay — told Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network.
"We've definitely got to play — I feel like we've got to play better than we played today. So I feel like we're going to come strong and we'll be ready for them."
Saints RB's Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara also were interviewed by Pelissero, and joked about the pending showdown at the Superdome before the conversation turned to a much more serious tone.
"Who?" Kamara laughed, before getting serious during the NFL Network special interview session. "No, I'm just playing, yeah, we know."
And Ingram then chimed in: "Hey, we ready, though. Everybody gotta come see us. Everybody. We ain't scared of nobody. We ain't intimidated by nobody."
While the Saints might not be easily intimidated, they certainly hold the Rams in high regard.
"Listen, we're going to have to grind this tape," 3rd year defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins told Pelissero. "We played (the Rams) last year, but they're a whole different animal this year. So it's definitely going to be our biggest task yet. But we're confident in the guys we have and it's going to be a fun battle."
The Saints were also on a long winning streak (eight wins in a row) when they faced the Rams last year at Los Angeles on November 26th (Thanksgiving Weekend), but lost a close one by a score of 26-20. That game was at the Coliseum though, and not within the comfy confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"We respect them. They a great team," Ingram told Pelissero. "But we know when we do, when we play the way we play, in our dome — psssh, it's hard. It's tough sledding."
The Rams remained undefeated out in sunny Los Angeles yesterday at home inside the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. with an exhilarating 29-27 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein booted a 34-yard field goal with 2:05 left in the game; and special teams ace Ramik Wilson forced and recovered Packers RB Ty Montgomery’s fumble on the ensuing kickoff return, allowing the Rams to remain unbeaten without their defense having to face Packers QB Aaron Rodgers for one last final drive.
3rd year Rams QB Jared Goff passed for 295 yards and three touchdowns while the Rams "all-star" defense led by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips; got sternly tested by the Packers offense and Rodgers in particular, who threw for 286 yards.
RB Todd Gurley continued his All-Pro caliber of play, as he racked up a season-high 31 touches (25 rushes, 6 catches) for 195 yards combined. He led the Rams in catches and receiving yards while scoring on a 30-yard catch and run. Gurley leads the NFL in touchdowns (15), rushing attempts, and rushing yards at the halfway point of the season.
And of course there's the red-hot Rams WR corps. led by Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and former Saints WR Brandin Cooks. Put all of those elements together with a talent-laden defense led by the NFL's leader in sacks (10), Rams All-Pro and former League Defensive MVP Aaron Donald; and it's pretty easy to understand just why this current season's (8-0) mark is the best start to a season for the Rams franchise in nearly 50 years (since 1969).
Bottom line: it sure ain't gonna be easy for either team to "handle up" on the other one, in what should be a very hotly-contested (and possibly contentious) match-up.
“They’ve got a great team,” Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore told USA TODAY Sports NFL writer Jarrett Bellas he headed toward the buses. “Todd Gurley’s my dog. I’ve got major respect. But we can’t worry about that. We’ve got to take care of ourselves before we can worry about anybody else.”
One thing is for certain: the Saints have now proven that they are capable of winning games in a variety of different ways, whether it be a "shootout" or in last night's case, even with a little bit of defensive prowess of their very own.
They've also proven to be incredibly resilient and are pulling out wins in ways that some Saints fans never dreamed possible, like opposing kickers missing extra points after a TD that could have sent the game into overtime; rather than handing New Orleans the easy win instead.
In some instances, the Saints have clearly had to "win ugly" at times.
But are the Rams actually BETTER than the Saints?