Wild Card Round Tale Of The Tape: Atlanta Falcons At Los Angeles Rams
- QuarterbackThe presence of Matt Ryan under center gives the Falcons a calming presence and a quarterback who is capable of stringing big plays together and lighting up the scoreboard. Ryan can avoid the rush, by time with his feet and then find open receivers. Ryan had a 20-12 TD-interception ratio this year, and you get the feeling that he could do better.The Rams have written one of the best stories in the NFL this season, and they have become an exciting offensive team under head coach Sean McVay. He has brought out the best in second-year quarterback Jared Goff, and he deserves full credit since the second-year quarterback looked lost a year ago. Goff has excellent pocket presence and is improving at reading defenses.
- OffenseFew teams can match the Falcons when it come to the talent level of the offensive personnel. Running back Devonta Freeman runs with power and speed, and Tevin Coleman is an excellent complementary back. Julio Jones is one of the three best receivers in the game, and he can dominate when he is at his best. Mohamed Sanu is an excellent No. 2 receiver.The Rams are dangerous and explosive on offense, and their best player may be running back Todd Gurley. He has run for 1,305 yards this season and has added 788 more as a receiver. Gurley has scored 19 touchdowns (13 as a runner), and he must be the focus of the opposing defense. Rookie wideout Cooper Kupp can catch nearly anything he gets his hands on.
- DefenseThe Falcons have plenty of speed and power on defense, and they should be up to the physical challenge of playing against a talented offense like the Rams. In previous seasons, the Falcons had a lack of size and strength up front, but Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe cannot be pushed around. Middle linebacker Deion Jones is an unheralded star who recorded 138 tackles this season.The Rams will attack with speed on defense and they are capable of coming up with big plays at big moments. Linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron have combined for 191 tackles and both can range sideline to sideline to make plays. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald had 11.0 sacks and is one of the top pass rushers in the postseason.
- Special TeamsThe Falcons are fairly ordinary when it comes to punt and kickoff coverage, and that could be a big problem in this game. Matt Bryant is one of the best placekickers in the game, but he has not had a great year (34-of-39 on FG attempts). Matt Bosher is an ordinary punter.The Rams do an excellent job of covering kickoffs and punts, and they have a pair of dangerous return specialists in Pharoh Cooper and Tavon Austin. The loss of PK Greg Zuerlein (back surgery) hurts, but Johnny Hekker is an outstanding punter.
The Falcons have not had the same kind of consistency that they did last year, while the Rams appear talented and hungry. Look for the home team to outplay the visitors in the final 15 minutes and come away with the win.