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NFC Championship Game 2019: Winner, Score Predictions for Rams vs. Saints

John HealyContributor IJanuary 17, 2019

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 13: Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Divisional Playoff at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 13, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Championship Sunday is going to be straight up offensive.

The top-four scoring offenses have made it to the NFC and AFC Championship Games, and the No. 2 and No. 3-ranked offenses in total points this season will kick things off as the New Orleans Saints host the Los Angeles Rams in the Superdome at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday with the winner headed to the Super Bowl in Atlanta

The Rams are coming off a 30-22 victory over the Dallas Cowboys where they went run-crazy, rushing for 247 yards against a Dallas defense that allowed the fifth-fewest yards per rushing attempt this season. 

The Saints are fresh off a 20-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, as head coach Sean Payton's bold play calling helped put an end to the Nick Foles playoff magic the Eagles had been riding since last year. 

Now these two teams face each other for the second time this season with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. 

Back in Week 9, the Saints topped the Rams in a high-scoring 45-35 affair that ended with Michael Thomas recreating the Joe Horn cellphone touchdown celebration:

New Orleans Saints @Saints

Brees finds Michael Thomas for the dagger! #LARvsNO https://t.co/yhayoE2tEz

Let's take a deeper dive into these two teams and see who will get the call to play in Super Bowl LIII. 

           

NFC Championship Game: How To Watch

Date: Sunday, January 20

Time: 3:05 p.m. ET

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

TV and Live Stream: Fox, Fox Sports Go and FuboTV

Odds, Over/Under: NO -3.5, 56.5 (per OddsShark)

           

Prediction

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

This game could easily become another shootout and turn into whoever has the ball last will win. 

Despite all that, there are a couple of factors working in the Saints' favor. 

First, they hold home-field advantage. Once the Saints got back into the game last week, the home crowd clearly rattled the Eagles offense. There were some false start penalties and Foles had to burn a timeout early in the third quarter to avoid a delay of game penalty and you can bet the crowd played a factor in that. 

Also, Drew Brees is nearly unstoppable at home. In the regular season, Brees had a 21-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio in New Orleans and threw for 510 more passing yards. 

Aside from his home/road splits, the 40-year-old quarterback alone is another factor that favors the Saints. 

Brees has been here before, he has played in this moment, and he has delivered. 

His counterpart, Jared Goff, is new to this situation. It's his first NFC Championship Game, and it comes in a hostile environment on the road. While Goff was able to rely on the running game last week, he is going to need to be more than a game manager and make some plays himself if the Rams stand a chance to beat the Saints. 

In addition to the Brees vs. Goff matchup, there is also the Sean Payton vs. Sean McVay to factor in. While the league has become enamored with McVay and his offensive mind, Payton is no slouch himself and reminded everyone of that last week when he called for a fake punt down 14-0 and went for it on 4th-and-goal. 

While the focus is on the offense, the X-Factor for both teams will be the defenses and which one makes more plays down the stretch. 

The Rams have arguably the best defensive player in football in Aaron Donald, who can get pressure on the quarterback and can force turnovers. There is a reason why the Rams had 30 takeaways—the third-most in the NFL this season. They can pressure the quarterback and have playmakers in the secondary in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. 

The Saints, however, showed they can come up big on defense, too, holding the Eagles to just 51 net offensive yards in the second half last week and picking off Foles twice. 

Saints 31, Rams 27  

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