The much-anticipated NFC playoffs get started when the Los Angeles Rams host the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card Round. Game time is set for 8:15 EST on Saturday, January 6 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC. Oddsmakers view the Rams as 6.5-point favorites at home with an over/under of 48.5 points.
Falcons vs Rams Vegas Odds & Game Preview
The Rams have been one of the biggest revelations in football this season under first-year coach Sean McVay. Jared Goff has made huge strides in his second season while Todd Gurley has emerged as one of the league’s elite running backs. There’s no denying that Los Angeles lacks playoff experience. But the Rams have definitely looked the part of a playoff team all season.
Meanwhile, the Falcons may be defending NFC champions, but they were fortunate to have made it into the playoffs. Atlanta needed a win over Carolina the final week of the regular season in order to ensure a wild-card spot. That being said, the Falcons won six of their last eight games to close out the season. Despite some rough patches this year, they seem to be playing some of their best football heading into the playoffs.
Free Pro Football Pick Against the Spread: Falcons +6.5
To be honest, I went back and forth when picking this game. In the end, I decided to lean toward the Falcons to beat the spread. I can see the Rams winning this game and advancing because I think they’re the better team. However, Atlanta’s playoff experience has to be worth something. I’ll take my chances that the Falcons will at least keep this game close.
Of course, I do have concerns about the Falcons heading into the playoffs, most notably their running game. Devonta Freeman has struggled to get going the past couple of weeks and is battling a knee issue heading into Saturday’s game. Tevin Coleman has also had limited productivity late in the season, so it may be tough for Atlanta to lean on him as their primary rusher. If the Falcons can’t get their running game going, winning a playoff game on the road is going to be a difficult task.
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The good news for the Falcons is that Matt Ryan has started to get back on track. Ryan’s production this season has been akin to a rollercoaster. A few weeks ago, Ryan’s play was problematic for Atlanta. But he’s played better the past couple of weeks. Despite the fact that the Falcons had to keep settling for field goals last week against the Panthers, Ryan and the Atlanta offense were able to move the ball against a quality defense, which is a good sign heading into this week’s game.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcons have a top-10 defense that may be able to slow up the Los Angeles offense. The Falcons have allowed just one team to rush for over 100 yards in their last six games. Obviously, containing Gurley is a tough test, but even against playoff teams, the Atlanta defense has remained stout against the run. Also, the Falcons have only allowed more than 23 points twice this season. If that trend continues, I feel good about their chances to keep this game within a touchdown.
For the record, I like the Rams to win this game. However, I don’t think the league’s top-scoring offense will find it easy to move the ball against the Atlanta defense. I also think Ryan will be at his best and capable of carrying the Falcons if they struggle to run the ball. Finally, I believe Atlanta’s playoff experience will factor into this game and help them to beat the spread, even if they can’t pull off the win on the road.