2017 NFC Wild-Card Playoff Game Odds – Atlanta Falcons vs Los Angeles Rams
The Case for the Los Angeles Rams
When you take a look at the Los Angeles Rams’ season, the only words you can use for the turnaround they’ve had is “sensational.” They had originally retained veteran coach Jeff Fisher with the idea that they needed someone like him as they made the move from St. Louis, but it was readily apparent toward the end of last season that things had gotten very stale. So during the off-season, they hired the youngest coach in modern NFL history in 31-year-old Sean McVay. Some people scoffed at that, including former Rams head coach Mike Martz, who had opined that quarterback Jared Goff, who had been taken #1 in the draft last season, needed a real mentor rather than a “buddy.” Well, McVay has confounded all the experts, helping to bring about a transformation of the offense. These Rams go into a playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, kicking off at 8:15 PM at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It will be televised by NBC, and VietBet customers will have the opportunity to place wagers even after everything gets underway, accessing the state-of-the-art software provided through Live Betting Ultra.
Falcons vs Rams – 2017 NFC Wild-Card Playoff Game Odds:
In the NFL playoff odds posted on this game by the people at VietBet, the Rams are favored, although the line has been dropping:
Los Angeles Rams -5.5
Atlanta Falcons +5.5
Over 48 points -110
Under 48 points -110
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McVay is a genuine offensive “guru,” who helped work wonders with Kirk Cousins, while he was an assistant coach with the Washington Redskins. The Rams scored the fewest points in the NFL last season, but this season they were #1 in that category, and that had not happened at all during the expansion era. Goff did not play in the early part of his rookie season, and when he was eventually inserted, he looked very erratic and confused. That has not been the case this season, as he has thrown for 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, averaging eight yards per attempt.
What doesn’t hurt is having a running back who is arguably the best in the NFL. Todd Gurley is being touted as a possible MVP candidate, and he’s got the numbers to back it up. Gurley has rushed for 1305 yards and caught 64 passes (most on the team) for 788 yards. No one in the league has scored more than his 19 touchdowns from scrimmage.
Remember that this was a team that lost eleven of its last 12 ball games last season, while the Falcons a Super Bowl appearance. This year, the Rams are 11-5 straight-up (9-7 ATS) and they beat out the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West title. Perhaps the most impressive outing they had was a 42-7 beat down of those Seahawks just a few weeks ago in Seattle. Last season they were outscored by 170 points; this season they have outscored their opponents by 149. Part of that is the stewardship of Wade Phillips over the stop unit. The defense had a lot of quality to begin with, but Phillips has fine-tuned them a little more. And there is no reason for this team to be intimidated by facing off against last year’s MVP, Matt Ryan, who only has a 20-12 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions.
The Rams often played from ahead; their average lead was the highest in the NFL. And that probably explains why they had the fastest offensive pace in the first half of games, and the second-slowest in the second half. They were protecting leads, and they are fortunate to have the kind of ground game where they can afford to do that. What might be a handicap for them is the fact that only four of their starting players has had any previous playoff experience. But let’s keep in mind that they are going up against an Atlanta team that has seriously underperformed on offense, at least compared to last year’s bonanza, when they scored 540 points over the course of the 16-game schedule. This season, Atlanta has tallied only 353 points. And even though the Falcons probably have the best receiver on the field in Julio Jones, the Rams have enough potent receivers so that Goff can spread the ball around, and that includes Sammy Watkins, who caught eight touchdown passes after he was acquired from the Buffalo Bills. Maybe these Rams can go the distance after all.
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The Case for the Atlanta Falcons
If you are a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, you are probably very thankful that they been able to make the playoffs. After all, this is a team that scored almost 200 fewer points than it did last season, and looked at times to be rather disjointed on offense. But at the same time, let’s not forget that these guys really dialed it up when they had to in the post-season last year, and they looked almost superhuman through the first three quarters of the Super Bowl, only to fall victim to that furious comeback on the part of the New England Patriots. While a lot of Atlanta fans would like to forget that, perhaps it should be a reminder to them as to how awesome this team could be at its best. We will see what they can summon up as they take the field on Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC wild-card round, with the kickoff scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. This is an NBC-televised contest, and Vietbet customers can place wagers in real time as they access the state-of-the-art software that is available through Live Betting Ultra.
One of the key changes that was made in the off-season involved the departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who went off to coach the San Francisco 49ers, with management bringing in Steve Sarkisian in his place. Sarkisian made most of his bones at the college level, and in fact was an assistant coach and head coach of the USC Trojans right there in the Coliseum. But just as Shanahan had a hard time getting on the same page as Matt Ryan early on, Sarkisian is not necessarily fully connected with Ryan. Maybe we are drawing that conclusion from a couple of things, including the fact that Ryan’s touchdowns are down from last season (from 34 to 20) and his interceptions are up, from seven to 12. And of course, while Atlanta averaged 33.8 points per game last year, they have scored only 22 per contest this season. They also suffered three home losses.
However, with six wins in their last eight games, they managed to cross the finish line with a wild-card spot and a 10-6 straight-up record (7-9 against the points). They also carry a big edge in playoff experience into this game.
Last year the Falcons hammered the Rams to the tune of 42-14. Things are obviously different now, but make no mistake about it – Atlanta can still move the chains. They were second in the NFL in yards gained per drive this season, and they had the most time of possession on a per-drive basis as well. Opposing defenses forced them to punt less than 34% of the time, and that was also best in the league. Of their six losses, five of them have come against teams that are in the playoffs.
They can also throw a rather potent backfield duo at their opponents. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman rushed for almost 1500 yards combined, and together they were on the other end of 63 of Ryan’s passes. You can be assured that someone fresh will always be in the game.
And something that was underreported this season was the play of the Atlanta defense. They were in the top 10 in terms of yards allowed, and get this – only the Seattle Seahawks scored more than 26 points against them in any individual game. So Dan Quinn, who was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks in a Super Bowl-winning season, is slowly but surely starting to turn things around on that stop unit. Don’t be surprised if that’s the side of the football that comes up big for them on Saturday.
By Charles Jay
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