Rams vs Saints Game Preview
A classic divisional rivalry is renewed as the Rams and Saints collide in the Superdome. The two were NFC West rivals for almost 25 years and their fair share of dominance against the other.
The two are Super Bowl favourites heading to 2018 and are loaded on both sides of the ball. Despite the backups playing most of this game, expect a prolific match-up.
Los Angeles Rams
No NFL team created more buzz than the Rams this offseason. They acquired a slew of big-name talents like defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. This is a team that already went 11-5 in 2017 and had a loaded roster.
But with the big moves come even bigger expectations. Plenty of teams have rolled into a season with hype yet so few live up to it. The Rams will have a tough schedule and an improved conference to deal with. Anything short of a deep playoff run is a bust.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints were one blown tackle away from advancing to their first NFC Championship game since 2009, the year they won the Super Bowl. They return with almost the same team that ranked in the top-ten in both offence and defence.
Brees is still an elite quarterback and now he has the best offence in front of him as well as the best defence the Saints have had during the Sean Payton era. A Super Bowl run is highly plausible.
These are two well-coached teams with plenty of depth on multiple positions. The Saints are a wee bit more talented on offence, especially when it comes to the back-ups. Tom Savage should lead the second unit past the Rams in a back-and-forth duel.
Rams vs Saints Head-to-Head Records
This 50-year-old rivalry saw the Rams and Saints first play in 1967, the Saints’ first season in the NFL. The Rams beat the Saints and won their first four meetings. The two would become divisional foes in 1970. In the next decade, Los Angeles would dominate New Orleans winning 15 of 18 meetings.
It would take New Orleans 14 seasons before they would finally record consecutive victories against the Rams (the 1981 season). Yet the Rams would continue to control the series. But from here, the series would finally swing to New Orleans’ favour. The Saints would win 15 of the next 19 games from 1985 to 1994.
When the Rams relocated to St. Louis to 1995, they would again seize ownership of the series and win five of their first six games. But the series would become more even around the 2000’s.
As both teams are now Super Bowl contenders, future meetings between the two will be marquee matchups. The two could also meet in the playoffs for the first time since 2000 when the Saints upset the defending champions.
Los Angeles Rams Recent History
The Rams were a decent team in the pre-Super Bowl NFL winning two titles (one while in Cleveland) in four title game appearances. They would return to relevance in the ’70s where they would take control of the NFC West and be a perennial Super Bowl contender though would only make one appearance (1979).
While still a good team in the ’80s, the Rams collapsed in the ’90s and relocated to St. Louis. They would become a rags-to-riches story in 1999 when little-known quarterback Kurt Warner would orchestrate one of the greatest one-season turnarounds in NFL history by taking the last-place Rams to a Super Bowl title.
They would return to the Super Bowl in 2001 but would lose to the Patriots and begin to crumble from there. The Rams eventually moved back to Los Angeles in 2016 and have since just returned to the playoffs.
New Orleans Recent History
The Saints might be hot right now but they were quite the laughing stock during most of their existence. It took the Saints 20 years to post a winning record and make the playoffs and it took them 33 to win their first playoff game.
Everything would change in 2006 when the team would hire Payton as the coach and acquire Brees as the quarterback. The duo would lead the Saints to multiple division titles within the next decade including two 13-win seasons and the franchise’s first and only Super Bowl.
Like their NFC South brethren, the Saints have endured inconsistency and have had difficulty posting winning records in consecutive seasons. But so long as Payton and Brees are in the driver’s seat, the Saints aren’t far from contending.
Los Angeles Rams Outlook
The Rams are stacked in every position but one: linebackers. They lost edge rushers Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin and middle linebacker Alec Ogletree and they did little to address this. The Rams loaded up on the front, however, pairing Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald with Suh.
They also remixed the secondary replacing Trumaine Johnson and Kayvon Webster with Talib and Peters as safety Lamarcus Joyner continues to blossom into a solid player. LA is hoping the strength of their the d-line and secondary is enough to offset the lack of elite pass rushers.
The offence got a bit of a makeover too. Sammy Watkins is out, Brandin Cooks is in. Jared Goff and Todd Gurley will look to build on career years in 2017 albeit without both their offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The Rams have little margin for error as they go for broke this season.
New Orleans Saints Outlook
The Saints quietly built another Super Bowl contender amidst their past three losing seasons. Brees used to be the only reason this team was competent but they finally have a stacked roster. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have become the best running back tandem in the conference. Kamara has revolutionized the offence.
On defence, the Saints have a solid unit with stars on every level. Cameron Jordan has become one of the best edge rushers in the division. Marshon Lattimore is the playmaking corner that energizes the unit. Safety Marcus Williams has been tremendous despite infamously costing the Saints in the playoffs.
New Orleans has also been nigh-unbeatable at home and a soft schedule to begin 2018. They will have a hot start and will get tested just before the playoffs. If all goes well, they could carry the momentum all the way to another Super Bowl.
New Orleans is fortunate to not lose any key personnel during the offseason. Unlike the Rams who lost both their OC and quarterbacks coach, New Orleans is returning their major play-callers. This continuity will be why the Saints will be readier than the Rams and why they will win this game.
The Saints will use Tom Savage to lead the second unit, which is already among the best. New Orleans is stacked and has the likes running back Shane Vereen (RB) and receivers Brandon Tate and 2018 third-round pick Tre’Quan Smith who could make plays.
Los Angeles isn’t quite as deep. Quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Brandon Allen are fringe players at this point and their second and third units consist mostly of late-round picks who will be too green at this point. Most notably, the Rams will still be adjusting to Aaron Kromer and Shane Waldron calling the plays.
If the first units play, Los Angeles will have a bit more of a chance but it’s highly unlikely although Goff might get a few reps in. The Saints should roll here and make a statement between these two Super Bowl favourites.