2019 NFC Championship Betting - LA Rams vs. New Orleans Saints -3.5

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D.S. Williamson

January 17th, 2019

The 2019 NFC Championship betting matchup take place this Sunday and wouldn’t you know it? The four highest-scoring teams in the league battle it out for the golden ticket to Super Bowl 53. In the AFC, the highest-scoring team in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs, host the fourth highest-scoring team, the New England Patriots, as natural home favorites.

Before KC-New England, the 2019 NFC Championship betting showcase features the Los Angeles Rams (32.9 points per) against the New Orleans Saints (31.5 points per). Although LA plays in the NFC West and the Saints play in the NFC South, the two franchises are familiar with each other.

Starting back in 1967, New Orleans first in the league, Saints-Rams was a 2-game a year rivalry. There was no NFC South back then. The NFL placed New Orleans in the NFC West where, after the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, they battled the Rams, San Francisco 49ers, and Atlanta Falcons twice every season.

Rams-Saints used to be one of the top rivalries in the NFC. It became especially heated in the mid-1980’s when Jim Everett sat under center for the Rams and Bobby Hebert, probably still a Top 3 quarterback in New Orleans’ franchise history, played for the Big Easy.

When the Saints and Rams throw down in the Superdome on Sunday, there’s real history behind the game. More history than their recent, regular season meeting where the Saints beat the Rams 45-35.

Can the Rams exact revenge against the 1-seed in the NFC? Or, will Drew Brees and the Saints march into Super Bowl 53 with a date against the AFC Champion?

2019 NFC Championship Betting Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints Saturday, January 20th – Mercedes-Benz Superdome – 3:05pm ET Odds: New Orleans -3.5 (57)

Rams’ Fortunes Rest on Jared Goff

There will be a ton of talk leading up to the game on Sunday about the Rams’ front 7 against the Saints’ two-headed running back monster, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. The talk’s justified, but the Rams most likely won’t win or lose based on how their defense plays.

New Orleans slashed Philly’s front 7 for 137 yards. The Saints are balanced on offense. They’ll move the ball against a Rams’ defense that gives up 122 ground yards per and has suspect linebackers.

That means that for the Rams to pull off the 2019 NFC Championship betting upset, Jared Goff must provide the best game of his career. The Saints commit to stopping the rush. They only allow 80 yards per. The reason New Orleans does that is so they can blitz on passing downs.

By blitzing and committing to stopping the rush, the Saints often leave their cornerbacks and safeties one-on-one in coverage. Goff must go through his reads fast enough to find the open receiver, but even that won’t be enough.

Unless Jared Goff makes perfect passes, New Orleans’ defensive backs, especially corners Eli Apple and Marcus Lattimore, will make him pay. Lattimore picked off Nick Foles twice although the second wasn’t Nick’s fault. Apple shut down Eagles’ WR2 Nelson Agholor, holding the former USC star to 1 catch for 6 yards.

No matter any way you cut it, the Rams will only beat the Saints if Jared Goff plays beyond any capacity he's shown so far in his career. Any slip up from Goff, and the Saints will make his life difficult.

Will New Orleans Employ the Right Strategy?

The Saints looked terrible in the first quarter of their 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The issues stemmed from the first play. Looking to jump ahead of the Eagles as soon as possible, Sean Payton called a fly route to Ted Ginn, who beat his man. Unfortunately, Brees underthrew the pass. The Eagles picked it off, marched down the field, and grabbed a 7-0 lead.

It’s hard to blame Brees for the errant pass. Sure, a hall of famer should make that throw 99% of the time, but Brees had two weeks off. He can be forgiven for showing some rust.

The problem was that Payton called the play in the first place. This is the playoffs. Every possession means something. The Rams are the second highest-scoring team in the NFL for a reason. Yes, the Saints beat LA 45-35 during the regular season, but they got lucky with a 21 point second quarter explosion.

New Orleans won’t win on Sunday exclusively counting on their ability to seemingly score at will. Payton must have the right strategy to wear down the Rams’ front-7 so that by the time the 4th quarter rolls around, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers, and Aaron Donald are searching for the oxygen mask every time they leave the field.

A strategy like that will send the Saints to Super Bowl 53.

2019 NFC Championship Betting Analysis

The line opened Saints -3. Right now, it’s at Saints -3.5. By kickoff, the line should be Saints -3 unless professional handicappers jump on New Orleans. Based on trends, this one’s up in the air. You're pretty much seeing what the line will probably close at because bettors will be attracted to the hook (i.e. the half-point), while others will take the 2019 NFC Championship betting underdog simply 'because'.

The Saints are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 versus the NFC, 0-4 ATS in their last 4, and 0-4 ATS in their last 4 following an SU win. The Rams are 5-15-1 ATS in their last 21 after accumulating more than 350 total yards in their previous, and 1-4-1 ATS versus a team with a winning record.

Who takes it on Sunday won’t be determined by trends. Trends don’t mean much when the two best teams in the conference tackle each other for a Super Bowl berth. The Saints have a massive edge by playing in the Superdome. They also have a massive edge at the quarterback position, and that’s where this game should turn in the Saints’ favor.

Jared Goff is yet to prove he can handle a situation like this. In 5 of the last 7 Rams’ games, Goff completed 57.7% or less. Saints’ defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will be aware of that stat. He’ll design ways to push Goff into errant throws.

That’s how the Saints will win and cover on Sunday. They’ll mess with Goff’s rhythm, pick him off a couple of times, and turn those interceptions into possession changes that lead to scores. Goff is ultimately excellent when he's not forced to win a game, and he picks his spots very well. Place him in a position where he has to win the game, and the Rams sputter. That's the plan for New Orleans.

NFC Conference Championship Betting Free Pick: Saints -3.5