Thursday Night Football: New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams

Thursday Night Football: New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams

Welcome to Week 16 NFL Thursday Night Football! (Yes, the logo colors in the featured image are reversed. My son did it for me and I thought it was cool and different. Thank you, Drew!)  Last week I accurately predicted that both the Las Vegas Raiders would defeat the Los Angeles Chargers AND that Branden Staley would lose his job because of it. I had no idea that it would be as embarrassing as it was, but who could have called that 63-21 drubbing!? This week we get the gift of two teams that NEED to win to keep their post-season dreams alive. The New Orleans Saints, who are coming off back-to-back victories and giving up only six points in each game (albeit to the Panther and the Giants), travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams, who have won four out of their last five games. So, who is going to get an early lump of coal this holiday season? Let’s take a downfield read…

New Orleans Saints (7-7):

The Saints are currently sitting in second place in the NFC South, behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are also 7-7. If the playoffs were to start this week, New Orleans would be the “odd team out”, sitting in the ninth spot behind the Vikings, Rams, and Seahawks, who are all 7-7 as well. With three weeks to go, this is almost a “must win” for the Saints to get back in the post-season. After playing the LA Rams, New Orleans will travel to Tampa Bay to play the Bucs, which could determine the division winner, and then host Atlanta, who is right behind them at 6-8. For the Saints, it’s an easy scenario: win and you’re in.

New Orleans has as average of an offense as you might imagine a 7-7 team would have.

They are 14th in average yards per game, 15th in passing yards per game, 19th in rushing yards per game, and 13th in points scored per game. They are tied for 12th in the NFL at protecting the ball, with only 17 giveaways, and they have allowed the eighth least number of sacks (29). While Quarterback Derek Carr is 8th in pass completion (67.4%), he’s 16th in passing yards (3,098), 18th in passing TDs (16), 20th in INTs (7), 21st in QBR (49.9) and 16th in Passer Rating (92.5). “Dear Santa, these action figures are good, but I was really hoping to get some with a few more cool features and accessories…”

Worst "action figures" ever!

The Saints run what I would call a “non-traditional” or “Swiss army knife” offense (not the really cool Swiss army knife though, just the basic one) behind Carr…when he’s behind center. Running Back Alvin Kamara, who has only played in 11 games, is 31st in rushing yards (630) with an average of 3.9 yards per carry and 57.3 yards per game. Taysom Hill has been a good boy and shared in the rushing duties, and has accumulated 347 yards with 4.9 yards per carry and 26.7 yards per game. Kamara is second on the team and 22nd in the NFL in receptions (68) with 446 receiving yards. Wide Receiver Chris Olave is leading the Saints with 72 receptions (18th in the league), 918 yards (21st) and four TDs. Behind Olave is WR Rashid Shaheed with 36 receptions for 570 yards and three TDs. WR Michael Thomas has been on the IR for about five weeks now.

Defensively the Saints have been nice…and not so good. They’re 11th in yards allowed per game, 6th in rushing yards allowed per game, 24th in passing yards allowed per game, and 6th in points allowed per game. New Orleans ranks ninth in takeaways, are tied for fifth in team interceptions (14), but are the fifth WORSE team in getting sacks (30). Linebacker Demario Davis leads the D in tackles with 102 (27th in the league), is second in sacks with 6.5 (T34), and second with nine tackles for a loss (T37). Defensive End, Carl Granderson leads the Saints with 7.5 sacks (T26), and twelve tackles for a loss (T15), but is currently listed as “Questionable” to play with a shoulder injury. Cornerback, Paulson Abedo and Safety Tyrann Mathieu lead the team in interceptions with four and three respectively.

Los Angeles Rams (7-7):

The Rams are also sitting in second place in the NFC West, but unfortunately for them, it’s behind the San Francisco 49ers, who have already locked up the division title. Meaning, the Rams can’t do any better than getting into the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Seattle Seahawks are currently tied with the Rams in the NFC West but lose the tiebreaker. If the playoffs were to start this week, the Rams would barely sneak into the seventh seed behind the 7-7 Minnesota Vikings. After hosting the Saints this week, the Rams go on the road to face the New York Giants (who aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs yet but might as well be) and then go to San Fran. The Rams might get EXTREMELY lucky and play a 49ers team that rests some of their starters if they can lock up the number one seed in the next two weeks, depending on how the Cowboys, Eagles, and Lions do.

Offensively, the Rams have been getting healthier, and therefore playing better in their last five weeks, losing only to the Baltimore Ravens in overtime. LA is eighth in average yards per game, ninth in points per game, and 11th in both rushing yards and passing yards per game. The Rams don’t give up the ball much either, only throwing ten INTs and having lost only four fumbles, which is tied for second best in the NFL. Quarterback, Matthew Stafford has only completed 61.4% of his passes (40th in the NFL), has a Passer Rating of 90.9 (19th), with the 12th most INTs (9). However, he’s also 10th in TD passes (21), has the 12th most passing yards (3,320), and has a QBR of 62.8 (7th in the NFL).

Weapons! Weapons everywhere! Running Back, Kyren Williams has been a second-season surprise for the Rams, leading the team with 953 rushing yards (4th in the NFL) for eight TDs (T9), averaging 5.1 yards per carry, and 95.3 yards per game.

Williams also has 30 receptions for 192 yards and three receiving TDs. NICE LIST! Rookie WR Puka Nacua has 87 receptions (12) for 1,163 yards (6) and four TDs. WR Cooper Kupp has 49 receptions for 658 yards and four TDs. WR Tutu Atwell has 37 receptions for 403 yards and three TDs, and Tight End Tyler Higbee has 38 receptions for 403 yards and two TDs. “On Cooper, on Puka, on Kyren and Tutu…” Yes, it’s “Stafford Claus”.

Defensively, Los Angeles is as average as New Orlean’s offense…so this game should be averagely interesting. The Rams rank 18th in total yards allowed per game, 21st in passing yards allowed per game, 14th in rushing yards allowed per game, and 19th in points allowed per game. While the Rams don’t give up the ball that much, they also don’t get make takeaways, posting a turnover differential of -2. They’re seventh worst in interceptions with eight, and they are the second worst in fumble recoveries behind the Carolina Panthers with four. Linebacker Earnest Jones leads the Rams with 125 tackles (9th), and also has 3.5 sacks with 11 tackles for a loss (T23). Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald is tied on the Rams for sacks (6) with linebacker Byron Young, and leads the team in tackles for loss with 13 (tied for 11th in the NFL).


On paper, this game looks like one that is pretty evenly matched. What I would like to tell you is that this game is going to be close with a score of somewhere around 20-17 in favor of the Rams. In reality, the Rams are a way better team than the Saints right now. The Saints are inconsistent on the road, they’re a little banged-up (Cameron Jordan, Carl Granderson, Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, Marshon Lattimore), and they have had the THIRD EASIEST schedule in the NFL behind the Dolphins and the Falcons. The Rams, after losing some hard games earlier in the season, are starting to find their groove and are looking like a dark horse that you don’t want to see in the playoffs. They’re also tied for seventh for the HARDEST schedule so far this year. They’re playing at home, on a short week, but with a lot of talent. Rams 28-20 over the Saints, and nobody gets fired before Christmas. Thanks for the “read” everyone, and have a happy and safe Christmas weekend!


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