Falcons vs. Rams: Odds, Stat Predictions for 2018 NFC Wild-Card Game

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJanuary 5, 2018

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 24:  Todd Gurley II #30 of the Los Angeles Rams runs the ball during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Rams defeated the Titans 27-23.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Rams were NFC West rivals from 1970 through 1994. Atlanta and L.A. were up and down during that 25-year period, with the Rams coming closest to a Lombardi Trophy with a 31-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIV.

L.A. moved to St. Louis in 1995, and the NFL changed its division structure in 2002, which moved the Falcons to the new NFC South.

They never faced each other in the postseason while the Rams were in L.A. the first time around (the Falcons and St. Louis Rams did meet in the 2004 divisional round).

However, Atlanta and L.A. will meet Saturday at 8:15 p.m. ET as they face off in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Per OddsShark, Los Angeles is a 5.5-point favorite, with an over/under total of 48.5 listed.

Here's a look at some stat predictions for notable offensive players in addition to picks for the three stars of the game.


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Rams Stat Predictions

QB Jared Goff: 23-of-35, 250 yards, 2 TD

RB Todd Gurley: 22 carries, 115 yards, 1 TD; 6 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD

WR Robert Woods: 5 catches, 55 yards

WR Cooper Kupp: 6 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD

WR Sammy Watkins: 4 catches, 45 yards

TE Tyler Higbee: 2 catches, 20 yards


Falcons Stat Predictions

QB Matt Ryan: 25-of-40, 265 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

RB Devonta Freeman: 15 carries, 70 yards, 1 TD; 5 catches, 50 yards

RB Tevin Coleman: 9 carries, 35 yards; 3 catches, 30 yards

WR Julio Jones: 7 catches, 90 yards

WR Mohamed Sanu: 7 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD

TE Austin Hooper: 2 catches, 15 yards

WR Justin Hardy: 1 catch, 10 yards


Score Pick

Rams 27, Falcons 24


Three Stars

Rams RB Todd Gurley

No one in the NFL is as hot as Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley following two incredible performances against the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans to close his regular season.

Against Seattle, Gurley scored four touchdowns in addition to 180 yards from scrimmage. Somehow, the former Georgia Bulldog then proceeded to crush that yardage total with 276 more versus Tennessee.

With two more touchdowns against the Titans, Gurley finished with 19 in just 15 games (he sat out the finale against the San Francisco 49ers to rest for the playoffs).

Now he faces an Atlanta Falcons team that hasn't fared well against pass-catching running backs. Per Football Outsiders, Atlanta ranked just 21st of 32 NFL teams in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) against running backs through the air.

Teams also threw to running backs 8.6 times per game against Atlanta, a mark that ranked third in the league.

Considering Gurley's pass-catching prowess this season (64 catches, 788 yards, six touchdowns), he may end up as the Rams' leading receiver.


Falcons WR Mohamed Sanu

Although the Rams pass defense has been stingy this season, Evan Silva of Rotoworld noted one particular advantage the Falcons may have through the air:

"The Rams' secondary struggles most with interior receivers, namely Adam Thielen (6/123/1), Larry Fitzgerald (10/98/1), Eric Decker (6/73/0), Sterling Shepard (5/70/0), Nelson Agholor (8/64/0), Bruce Ellington (4/41/1) and Trent Taylor (3/32/1). This bodes well for Sanu (6'2/211), who has a major size advantage on Rams slot CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (5'7"/169)."

Sanu could be the X-factor for the Falcons passing attack. If the Rams key in on stopping Jones the slot receiver could be the beneficiary. While slot corner Robey-Coleman is solid in his own right, Sanu's size could present a problem, as Silva noted.

After four years with the Cincinnati Bengals, the former Rutgers Scarlet Knight has formed a solid rapport with quarterback Matt Ryan in his two seasons in Atlanta, catching 126 passes for 1,356 yards and nine touchdowns in 30 games.

If the Falcons are forced to play from behind and abandon the run, Sanu can be the key to moving the chains.


Rams WR Cooper Kupp

Sanu may not be the only slot receiver to have a productive game, as Rams rookie Cooper Kupp could also be in line for a nice night.

According to Pro Football Reference, Kupp finished tied for third in the NFL in red-zone targets (23) despite missing the season's final game. His 13 receptions were sixth in the league.

Kupp led the Rams in both categories, and he's probably the team's second-best bet to score a touchdown once they cross the 20-yard line.

Per OddsShark, the Rams have an implied team total of 27 points. L.A. averaged a league-best 29.9 points on the season, so barring this game unexpectedly turning into a defensive slugfest, the Rams should see a handful of touchdown opportunities.

That could mean an end-zone trip for Kupp, who caught 62 passes (on a team-leading 94 targets) for 869 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games.