Surprise, surprise. The top two seeds in the NFC advanced to the conference title game—which isn't much of a surprise at all. These are the two teams who earned the best records in the NFL (both 13-3). This sets the stage for what should be a hotly contested and highly entertaining NFC Championship Game.
This is a rematch, of course, and the Saints took the first meeting 45-35. However, both teams have changed quite a bit since that Week 9 matchup, so anything can happen this time around.
Missing this game would be a regrettable transgression for any football fan. We're here to help get you ready for it with full viewing information, the latest odds and over/unders from OddsShark, our score prediction and some of the latest buzz.
Where to Watch: NFL playoff games, studio shows and more are available through Fubo.TV/welcome.
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints
When: Sunday, January 20 at 3:05 p.m. ET
TV and Live Stream: Fox, Fox Sports Go and FuboTV
Odds, Over/Under: NO -3.5, 57
Prediction: Saints 37, Rams 33
Rams Run Game Rolling
The Rams powered past the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, thanks to the strength of their newfound two-headed rushing attack. C.J. Anderson was signed late in the season and filled in for star Todd Gurley the final two weeks.
Against Dallas, both Anderson and Gurley topped the 100-yard mark. With the offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage throughout the game, the Cowboys couldn't find an answer for the powerful pair. The Saints are likely to have their hands full as well.
"It's scary," Anderson said, per Greg Beachem of the Chicago Tribune. "we've got two different styles, and we can keep teams off balance."
This is going to make for one of the more impactful matchups of the NFC title game because the Rams didn't even have Anderson the last time around. The Saints have a run defense capable of slowing this rushing attack—it ranked second during the regular season, allowing just 80.2 yards per game—and the winner of this matchup is likely to go on to win the game.
Rankins out with Torn Achilles
Unfortunately, New Orleans' defense took a hit on Sunday when standout defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins suffered a torn Achilles. As NFL Next Gen Stats shows, the Saints defense is much more effective when he's on the field.
Rankins, who produced 40 tackles and 8.0 sacks in the regular season, is equally disruptive against the run and the pass. His absence will make containing Anderson and Gurley a tougher challenge, and it will make life easier on Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
With Rankins out, we'll likely see a lot more of third-year pro David Onyemata.
Michael Thomas Will Be a Challenge
The Los Angeles offense will have an easier time with Rankins out. The Los Angeles defense is going to have a big-time challenge in the form of wide receiver Michael Thomas.
The Rams, who allowed 236.2 yards passing per game in the regular season, have been good at times against the pass but rarely great. Saturday saw one of the secondary's better performances, with L.A. holding Cooper to six catches, 65 yards and a touchdown.
As good as Cooper is, though, Thomas is on a different level. He racked up an incredible 172 yards and a touchdown on 12 receptions against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. He played a huge role throughout the game—and a big part of the comeback from 14 points down.
Drew Brees threw an interception on his first pass of the game, and the Eagles quickly went up 14-0. However, a Marshon Lattimore interception gave New Orleans momentum, and Thomas ensured the Saints would never relinquish it.
"I didn’t want [Brees] to get frustrated or panicked," Thomas said per Jori Epstein of USA Today. "I wanted to prove to him if he let the ball go, I’ll take care of myself. After Marshon got the pick, I was like, 'Man, I’ll take over this whole drive for you right now.'"
The Eagles couldn't survive their furious start largely because they couldn't contain Thomas. If the Rams fail to do the same, they'll struggle to reach Super Bowl LIII.