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Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams Point Spread - Pick

Atlanta Falcons (10-6 SU, 7-9 ATS) vs. Los Angeles Rams (11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS)
NFC Wild Card Playoff
Date/Time: Saturday, January 6, 2018 at 8:15PM EST
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
TV: NBC

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: ATL +6/LAR -6
Over/Under Total: 48.5

The Atlanta Falcons come to the LA Coliseum on Saturday to face the Los Angeles Rams in NFC Wild Card playoff action. It's a high-powered matchup between last season's conference champion in the Falcons and the most-improved team in the league in the 11-5 NFC West Champion Rams. Atlanta earned their playoff spot with a win over the Panthers on Sunday, 22-10, and with 6 wins in their last 8 games have shown some better upside than what was seen at points earlier in the season. For the LA Rams, this season has represented a tremendous turnaround under first-year head coach Sean McVay. Their team, without the big stars playing, lost to the 49ers on Sunday, but they phoned it in with nothing to really gain. Regardless, it's been a bonanza this season for the Rams, as they look to make a deep playoff run. To do so, they will need to upend the defending NFC champs in what should be a hotly-contested wild card game from the Coliseum.

The Rams went from the worst offense in the league to a top one in 2017. With a good defense, the boost in offense really transformed the team and we're seeing the fruits of their labor manifest now. The season was pretty smooth. They'd win 2, 3, or 4 games and then absorb a loss, before getting back on the winning track. Things never got too sideways for the Rams, as their season-trajectory was without any seriously-rocky passages. And along the way, they beat some good teams, further suggesting that they are indeed for real.

Atlanta showed some of their championship mettle this season in overcoming some tough stretches. A 3-0 start offered promise, before we saw a lot of the things that make Atlanta sketchy in a 1-4 patch that threatened to sidetrack their season. A 6-2 second-half was enough to right the ship and once again put the Falcons in the postseason. Their offense might not have the dependable firepower that we saw last season, but their defense has played a lot better and they should be dangerous in this spot.

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While not applied as regularly as last season, the Atlanta offense still has massive big-play ability. Matt Ryan was still good with over 4000 yards passing, but his 20-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio was well off his MVP form of last season. He still connects well with Julio Jones, who could be a big factor in this game. Mohamed Sanu, TE Austin Hooper, Taylor Gabriel (questionable), and Devonta Freeman are also useful aerial pieces, though less people have shined this season aerially in this offense than last season. Freeman has battled some injuries this season, but is still a major weapon on the ground and in short passes. The same applies to a slightly lesser degree with Tevin Coleman, as these diversely-talented backs are a big part of the Atlanta formula for offensive success.

The Atlanta defense has been a saving grace this season, keeping Atlanta afloat when the offense didn't fire on all cylinders. It might surprise some to know they were 8th this season in points allowed at just 19.7 a game. They had really good balance, as well, solid against both the run and the pass. They got fewer turnovers than their opponents, but everything else was in place. They were clutch in a lot of spots and got a mean pass-rush, with Adrian Clayborn, Grady Jarrett, Brooks Reed, and Vic Beasley getting to the quarterback with regularity. Linebacker Deion Jones was really big this season, aided in the middle by DeVondre Campbell. DT Dontari Poe helped in the run-stop in his first season with the Falcons, with Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant becoming a nice corner tandem.

Hats off to the Rams for the sudden reversal of form on offense. To go from worst-to-first is a real accomplishment and tells a story of what this Rams' squad was able to accomplish this season. Jared Goff went from a quarterback people were thinking might be a bust to a guy who was able to commandeer the league's most-potent offense. With 3804 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 7 picks, he was tremendous. With 1305 yards on the ground, 788 passing yards, and 19 total touchdowns, Todd Gurley was magnificent this season and a potential MVP. Getting WR Robert Woods back is huge, as he was connecting well with Goff before getting hurt. Cooper Kupp has been great as a rookie receiver. And while Sammy Watkins might not have been a model of consistency, he was also a dangerous weapon with 8 TD grabs on the season. Add in guys like Tavon Austin and tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett, there are a lot of weapons to use on this side of the ball. They can get it done on the ground and through the air and had the O-line to make it stick this season. One thing that really hurts is losing a great kicker like Greg Zuerlein, who is on IR. The automaticity he brought to the table is an asset they would love to have this postseason.

The Rams' defense might not have been as great as they were in past seasons, but with a far better offense, they had more room with which to work. It was still a good "D." And they still made a lot of plays and had 8 more turnovers than their opponents. The pass-rush was massive, with Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn leading the way on a D-line that can control games. Connor Barwin, Michael Brockers, and Ethan Westbrooks also pitched in up-front. Linebacker is a strong suit, but one that is banged-up with Mark Barron and Alec Ogletree listed as questionable. Having lost CB Kayvon Webster hurt the secondary, as late-season injuries are a looming issue on this side of the ball. They will really need their secondary in this game, with LaMarcus Joyner, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Trumaine Johnson, and John Johnson, III. being counted on a lot this week.

This isn't easy and regardless of which side you pick, you can only feel so confident. These teams have shown a wide range of possible form this season and the matchup components here could manifest in any number of different ways. I see the Rams having a typical game on offense where they get a lot of good things done. Now how well the defense can withstand the Atlanta attack is what will decide this game from an ATS standpoint. I see a well-contested game where having the points will be a good feeling.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Atlanta Falcons plus 6 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Falcons vs. Rams wild card game from home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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