NFL Playoffs NFC Wild Card Game Betting Preview: Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams

2018 NFL Playoffs
NFC Wild Card Game
#6 Atlanta Falcons at #3 Los Angeles Rams
Saturday, January 6, 2018, 8:15 pm Eastern, TV: NBC
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – Los Angeles, California
Opening Line: Los Angeles -5
Current Line: Los Angeles -5 1/2
Opening Total: 50
Current Total: 48
Opening Money Line: Rams -225 / Falcons +185
Current Money Line: Rams -250 / Falcons +210

The Falcons travel to the Rams Saturday in night in wild card action.

The 11-5 Los Angeles Rams are back in the playoffs for the first time since the  2004 season. The Rams won the NFC West tittle and are the #3 seed in the NFC. Los Angeles will host the 10-6 Atlanta Falcons in the wild card game Saturday night. Atlanta slipped into the playoffs as the #6 seed after winning the NFC Championship last year. If the Rams win, they will travel to the #2 seed Minnesota Vikings in the divisional playoffs next Sunday. If the Falcons win, they will travel to the #1 seed Philadelphia Eagles next Saturday.

Atlanta leads the series 47-29-2 against Los Angeles/St. Louis. The Falcons have won four straight games against the Rams including 42-14 in Los Angeles in 2016. This is only the second playoff meeting between the Rams and Falcons. Atlanta won 47-17 at home in the 2004 playoffs, That was the last playoff game for the Rams who were then located in St. Louis. This series dates back to 1966 when the Falcons were an expansion team. These teams were long time rivals in the NFC West for decades.

Atlanta is coached by Dan Quinn. The Falcons have road wins over the Chicago Bears 23-17, Detroit Lions 30-26, New York Jets 25-20, Seattle Seahawks 34-31 and Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-21, plus home wins over the Green Bay Packers 34-23, Dallas Cowboys 27-7, Buccaneers 34-20, New Orleans Saints 20-17 and Carolina Panthers 22-10 last week. The Falcons have home losses to the Buffalo Bills 23-17, Miami Dolphins 20-17 and Minnesota Vikings 14-9,  plus road losses to the New England Patriots 23-7, Panthers 20-17 and Saints 23-13.  The Falcons have won six of the last eight games. Atlanta was a 5 point favorite against Carolina and the total was 44.5. The Falcons are 7-9 ATS and the total is 5-11 this season.

Los Angeles is is led by first year coach Sean McVay. The Rams have home losses to the Washington Redskins 27-20, Seattle Seahawks 16-10, Philadelphia Eagles 43-35 and the San Francisco 49ers 34-13 last week, and a road loss to the Minnesota Vikings 24-7. LA has home wins over the Indianapolis Colts 46-9, Houston Texans 33-7 and New Orleans Saints 26-20, plus road wins over the 49ers 41-39, Dallas Cowboys 35-30, Jacksonville Jaguars 27-17, New York Giants 51-17, Arizona Cardinals 32-16, Seahawks 42-7 and Tennessee Titans 27-23. The Rams also have a neutral site win over the Cardinals 33-0 in London.  The Rams were 6 point underdogs against the 49ers and the total was 44.5. Los Angeles is 9-7 ATS and the total is 11-5 this season.

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Atlanta is outscoring teams 22-20 this season. The Falcons are #8 in points allowed. The Falcons average 365 yards per game on offense including 249 passing yards and 115 rushing yards. Atlanta is #8 in total and pass offense. On defense, Atlanta allows 318 yards per game including 214 passing and 104 rushing yards. Atlanta is #12 or better in all three categories. The Falcons are 92/210 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 88/215. Atlanta has forced 39 sacks and allowed 24 this season. The Falcons are -2 in turnovers and have  scored three defensive touchdowns. However, they have also  allowed  2 defensive touchdowns.

Quarterback Matt Ryan has completed 64.7% of his passes for 4,095 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, plus 32 carries for 143 rushing yards. He has been sacked 24 times. Ryan won the MVP last year but has struggled somewhat this season.

Running back Devonta Freeman has 196 carries for 865 yards and 6 touchdowns and also has 36 catches for 517 yards and a touchdown. He is probable with a knee injury. Tevin Coleman has 156 carries for 628 yards and 5 touchdowns, and also has 27 catches for 299 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Tarron Ward has 30 carries for 129 yards.

Receiver Julio Jones has 88 catches for 1,444 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is probable with an ankle injury. Mohamed Sanu has 67 catches for 703 yards and 5 touchdowns, and also threw a touchdown pass. Tight end Austin Hooper has 49 catches for 526 yards and 3 touchdowns. Taylor Gabriel has 33 catches for 378 yards and a touchdown. He is probable with a hamstring injury. Justin Hardy has 20 catches for 221 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tight end Levine Toilolo is probable with a knee injury. He has 12 catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. Five defensive players and two offensive linemen are listed on the injury report for the Falcons.

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Los Angeles is outscoring teams  30-21 this season. LA is #1 in scoring and #12 in points allowed. The Rams average 362 yards per game on offense including 239 passing and 122 rushing yards per game. LA is #10  in total and passing offense and #8 in rushing. On defense, the Rams allow 340 yards per game including 217 passing and 122 rushing yards. The Rams are #28 in rush defense. LA is 93/226 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 95/242. The Rams have forced 48 sacks and allowed 28 this season. Los Angeles is +7 in turnovers and has scored seven defensive/special teams touchdowns. They have allowed two defensive touchdowns.

Quarterback Jared Goff has completed 62.1% of his passes for 3,804 yards with 28 touchdowns and and 7 interceptions, plus he has 28 carries for 51 rushing yards and a touchdown. He has only been sacked 25 times. Sean Mannion has thrown for 185 yards

Running back Todd Gurley has 279 carries for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns, along with 54 catches for 788 yards and 6 touchdowns. Tavon Austin has 59 carries for 270 yards and a touchdown, plus 13 catches.  Malcolm Brown has 63 carries for 246 yards and a touchdown, plus 9 catches.  Lance Dunbar will get some carries.

Receiver Cooper Kupp has 62 catches for 869 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is probable with a knee injury. Receiver Robert Woods has 56 catches for 781 yards and 6 touchdowns. Sammy Watkins has 39 catches for 593 yards and 8 touchdowns.  Tyler Higbee has 25 catches for 291 yards and a touchdown.  Tight end Gerald Everett has 16 catches for 244 yards and 2 touchdowns. Eight defensive players and two offensive linemen are listed on the injury report. Kicker Greg Zuerlein is out for the season with a back injury. The Rams signed Sam Ficken to replace him.

The favorite is 13-3 ATS in this series recently. The Falcons are 5-2 ATS in the series recently. The over is 16-5 ATS in this series recently, including 5-2 when the Rams are the home team.

The Falcons have struggled on offense at times this season despite having mostly the same personnel that lost in the Super Bowl last year. The main difference is offense coordinator Kyle Shanahan is now with the 49ers and Steve Sarkiasian replaced him. Sarkisian is no stranger to this stadium from his days at USC several years ago. The Rams have thrived under first year coach Sean McVay and lead the league in scoring. I like the Rams to win a close high scoring game.

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