Not many will have forgotten the week nine meeting of these two in the Superdome – along with the Chiefs-Rams and Chiefs-Pats, it’ll go down as one of the games of the season – but maybe you should if you’re betting on it because it feels like two different teams will meet this Sunday.
In the first half of their previous meeting New Orleans’ offence looked unstoppable. They scored on every possession barring one that Mark Ingram fumbled, and LA’s defence, featuring wrecking ball pass rushers like Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, were helpless as they allowed Drew Brees and Sean Payton run up 35 points.
Then, the Rams fought back to level the game, before Saints came up big late to take the game 45-35.
Don’t expect that kind of game this week.
Yes, the stakes are high, but this won’t just be down to playoff-fuelled conservatism or cautious gameplans. The Saints offence simply have not clicked as well down the closing stretch in the regular season, and didn’t look a fluent, well-oiled machine last week either, with Philadelphia’s defence forcing penalties throughout the game.
That’ll be a hugely encouraging for the Rams, though their play has also regressed from earlier in the season. Cooper Kupp’s injury continues to ring out like a gunshot when you watch their offence, QB Jared Goff missing him as pressure valve receiver. RB Todd Gurley’s also been carrying knocks, and the Rams let slip a possible top seed in the NFC that would’ve reversed the home field advantage for this game in the closing weeks.
Gurley is back now, and they stumbled upon CJ Anderson when he was signed as an emergency fill-in starter, and he still contributed in last week’s win over the Cowboys, giving their star back a breather.
This is a tough game to call. These two are very evenly matched based on their recent play and I’d expect this to go to the wire. What they’re not doing at the moment is scoring as much as they were. So the pick has to be the under on the total points at 56.5.
If you’re interested in a first TD punt, I’d look to the running backs. The Eagles had some joy against the Saints early last week on the ground, sO Todd Gurley at 11/2 looks a tand out choice.
They’re not going to go quietly, are they?
The Pats made fools of plenty of us – not for the first time – with the way they dismantled the Chargers last week. It was as ruthlessly efficient a beating as they’ve delivered in all their years of dominant play, blitzing LA’s defence that had drawn so many plaudits just the week before.
It should be provide a scare to anyone assuming their decline is inevitable given some of the warning signs this season. If they go and beat KC this week, that’ll be full on red alert for another five years of bolshy Bostonian blaring about Brady and Belichick and their love for the dark side of the force.
Last week, the Chargers were certainly a something of a sentimental choice. Factors like home field, where New England are now 9-0 for the season, and the sheer grind of travel LA had to undertake in the preceding weeks, meant New England had more than an edge to start with.
But they don’t have those on their side this week.
The Pats now have to go on the road – they were 3-5 in the regular season, don’t forget – to Arrowhead Stadium and try to take down the most exciting quarterback in the league. In previous years, Andy Reid’s Chiefs, even with home advantage, would look – and frequently were – very beatable when the playoffs came around. This time is different because they have Patrick Mahomes.
In his first year as starter he has made them into true Super Bowl contenders with his dynamic play, incredible arm strength and electric scrambling. This match up will be fascinating because Bill Belichick will certainly have a defensive plan to curtail the youngster, and whether it works will be decide the game.
Personally, I think it’s too much to ask for, and I will take the Chiefs to cover -3, and that will probably mean Tyreek Hill breaks off a few big plays. He’s worth a shot in the first TD scorer market at 13/2.
*All odds correct at time of posting