With the Saints and Rams facing off in the NFC Championship, there’s obviously a lot on the line.
If the Rams overcome Who Dat Nation and the Saints, it will be the first Super Bowl appearance in Los Angeles Rams history.
For the Saints, a win would mean their first NFC Championship title since the 2009 season. How long ago was that Super Bowl? Drew Brees was 30. Jared Goff was 15.
So yeah, a lot has changed.
But what hasn’t changed are the fireworks this games can bring. Since 2010 five of the last 9 Super Bowl Champions have been from the NFC, including the most recent victors the Philadelphia Eagles.
But in order to stamp their ticket to the big dance the Saints and Rams have to win one more game. That’s where the challenge lies. In the words of Santana Moss “Big-Time players step up in Big-Time games,” and in order to get your t-shirt and hat, these are the guys to look for when it comes to the NFC Championship Game.
Aquib Talib is one of the most prolific corners in the game. And he’s been here before. Twice with the New England Patriots (both losses) and once with the Denver Broncos (who went on to win the Super Bowl). There are a lot of guys on this Rams team who haven’t forged into this territory before. This is their first time tasting anything this close to the big show so Talib needs to use his outspoken tendencies to his advantage and lead this team into battle.
That’s going to be a tall ask walking into the Superdome. The environment is going to be electric, and the guy standing across the line of scrimmage is going to make things difficult.
That guy is Michael Thomas. Thomas caught 125 passes this season, good for 5th most all time. Casual. Of those 125, only 9 were for touchdowns. What does that say? That Michael’s game isn’t getting those jump balls in the corner of the end zone or flying down the wing for a 70 yard score. Can he do that? Sure.
But his job is to move the chains. With an average of 11.2 yards per catch, Thomas gets the Saints offense rolling. He pulls them into good positions, and sets everyone else up for success. If the ball comes to him he’s going to make the most of it. Rams defense beware.
Jared Goff was the first guy out of the 2016 NFL draft. The Rams were abysmal. They abandoned St. Louis to head back to Los Angeles. It wasn’t looking good for the early stage of this kid’s career. Until LA revitalized this team. Todd Gurley got healthy again and has driven a running game that allows Goff to do what he does best. Spread the football around.
Initially, Goff looked as though he was going to be just a system quarterback. He was set up to succeed by being surrounded with weapons. What most, or at least I, didn’t anticipate was that he would grow into a leader and take charge of those weapons. Goff has a myriad of them at his disposal, and he finds a way to use them all. When his favorite receiver Cooper Kupp went down earlier this year, he made Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks step it up. And they answered the call.
If Goff is able to get into a rhythm and connect with six or seven different receivers, he’s going to punch New Orleans right in the mouth. And could punch a ticket to Atlanta.
One of those weapons has emerged to be C.J. Anderson. Anderson moved to Hollywood late in the season and has helped make an already dangerous running game outright lethal. He started his season in Carolina and had only amassed 104 yards on the ground through the first 15 weeks of the season.
In his first game for the Rams, against the Cardinals, he rushed for 167 and a touchdown. Holy hell. THIS is the supplement to Gurley? In three games, Anderson has picked up 422 yards and 4 TDs. And that includes the Divisional Round matchup against Dallas. That’s absolutely bonkers. If he gets anywhere close to what he’s done in the past three games, he better buy his offensive line something nice.
Josh Hill is going to be an interesting guy to watch. Number 1 Tight End Ben Watson is battling appendicitis, which promotes Hill to the top of the depth chart. He is a good blocker who reeled in 16 passes over the course of the season.
Coming off those blocks and getting himself into space to pull in some receptions is going to be important. Or, at the very least, garner some attention to free up some space for others to make a play. The Saints recently gave Hill a 3-year contract extension, so he’s going to be looking to prove his worth now that his number is getting called. How much trust will Drew Brees put in him? We’ll know soon enough.
Who Dat Nation
In our daily Turf
You can guess which ones we hated, but the overwhelming majority threw the New Orleans Saints faithful into the ring for most liked, myself included. I have never met a Saints fan I didn’t like. Perhaps that’s due to the insane amount of anguish they’ve been through, like not having a winning season for the first 20 years of their existence. Or perhaps it’s because I still think of them as being the team that rallied a city after it was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Regardless of the reason, I have never met a Saints fan who has done anything to make me hate them.
Conversely, the Saints fans in attendance need to make Jared Goff and the Rams hate them early and hate them often.
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