The Falcons were supposed to be here — they’re the defending NFC champions. The Rams, on the other hand, were coming off a 4-12 season and breaking in the youngest head coach in the NFL. Despite those disparate pasts, it’ll be Los Angeles — and not Atlanta — playing host to Saturday’s Wild Card Game.
The two teams will kick off the NFC side of the 2018 playoffs. Kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on NBC (live stream).
Despite starting last season’s MVP, the Falcons may not have the edge at quarterback Saturday. Matt Ryan saw his completion rate, touchdown rate, and efficiency drop down in his team’s 10-6 campaign. Jared Goff, on the other hand, took a major step forward in his second season as a pro, posting a top-five passer rating and a stellar 28:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns to hold off the Titans in his last start of the season.
Time, TV channel, and streaming info
- Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
- Location: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
- TV: NBC
- Streaming: NBC Sports Live, fuboTV
- Odds: Los Angeles is favored by 6 points.
Falcons at Rams news:
- The Falcons’ return to the postseason may be fueled entirely by thoughts of revenge.
A renewed defensive effort has been paramount to the team’s late-season revival. Since Week 8, only two opponents have scored more than 21 points against Atlanta’s swarming D. Young contributors like Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, and Takk McKinley have set a high standard not just for 2017, but for years to come. Through 15 games, the club ranks in the top 10 in total defense, red zone defense, and they’re 14th in total sacks.
- The Rams thrived after surrounding a growing quarterback with weapons — a blueprint other teams will look to follow in 2018.
Look no further than the Rams. Out is Jeff Fisher and in is Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in the NFL. He was brought in to fix Jared Goff. What did the Rams do right away? They signed left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan. Give Goff protection. They drafted Cooper Kupp, signed Robert Woods and traded for Sammy Watkins. Give Goff weapons.
- Only one team on the NFC side of the playoffs was there last January ... and it’s the team that won the conference.
A year later, the Atlanta Falcons are the only NFC team from that field that returned to the postseason. The Packers lost Aaron Rodgers and couldn’t overcome that loss, the Giants sucked out loud and cleaned house, the Lions muddled through another mediocre season that got coach Jim Caldwell fired, and the Cowboys fell apart without Ezekiel Elliott and with Dak Prescott suffering a protracted sophomore slump. Somehow, despite all their struggles, Atlanta still went 10-6 and returned as the #6 seed. They’re still, somehow, a team no one really wants to play.
- The Rams looked bad in Week 17 — but that’s because they emptied their bench to keep their star players healthy.
Take this game with the largest grain of salt you can find. The Rams effectively benched everybody, and their 2nd stringers simply couldn’t claw the 49ers enough to win. The real test starts this week.
Will Atlanta’s struggles against good teams last into the playoffs?
The Falcons returned to the postseason thanks to a 10-6 record, but the tough schedule that follows a Super Bowl appearance threatened to derail their NFC championship defense. Atlanta went just 2-5 against 2018 playoff teams this fall, one season after a 4-3 record against postseason competitors. Los Angeles, in contrast, was 3-2 against teams still playing this January.
Falcons at Rams prediction:
Our experts agreed on just about everything in their Wild Card Weekend picks — but they couldn’t find any agreement on who would win this game. Four of our seven human experts say Atlanta will win, while OddsShark’s computer says that Los Angeles will.