It took a fake punt, a couple of reversed calls, a safety and a field goal with only two minutes remaining for the Los Angeles Rams to keep their undefeated streak alive against the Green Bay Packers, 29-27. The Rams prevented an Aaron Rodgers last minute comeback by recovering a fumble on the Packers’ final kickoff return.
Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff went 19-for-35 in that game, passing for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns, during a season where he’s thrown for 2,425 yards (ranked 3rd), 17 touchdowns (T-3rd) and only 5 interceptions (T-19th). Goff will be facing a Saints defense that allows opponents to pass for 300.9 yards per game, ranking them 28th out of 32 NFL teams.
The New Orleans Saints proved they could win even when quarterback Drew Brees has an ‘off’ night as he did (for him) against the Vikings in Week 8, throwing 18-for-23 for just 120 yards, a touchdown and an interception. It was enough to win 30-20 in a game that looked like it belonged to the Vikings right up until their fumble-turned-Saints-touchdown with less than a minute to go in the first half.
Brees has had anything but an off season, starting with a two-year, $50 million contract extension and then breaking Peyton Manning’s all-time passing yardage record in Week 5. He became the third quarterback in NFL history to beat all 32 teams in Week 7, and in the same game became the fifth quarterback in NFL history to reach 500 career touchdown passes. In 2018, Brees’ Saints are 2-1-0 at home and undefeated on the road (4-0-0).
If the Rams win this matchup, they’ll move to 9-0 and remain high atop the NFC West and remain the only undefeated team in the NFL. But if the Saints come out on top, they’ll be 7-1 and stay at least two games ahead of the Carolina Panthers and fully in charge of the NFC South.
Who’s favored to win this Week 9 Rams-Saints matchup?
Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?
Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?
We’re going to compare the Rams and the Saints and attempt to answer those questions and more.
The 2018 Rams offense unstoppable
Los Angeles head coach (and former college wide receiver) Sean McVay has used last-second audibles to turn quarterback Jared Goff into an offensive powerhouse. Goff passes to a wide range of Rams targets - receivers Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, tight end Tyler Higbee and running back Todd Gurley have all played a part in the Rams’ seventh-ranked passing offense that averages 291.8 yards per game in the air.
Gurley is in charge of the Rams’ ground attack, as well, and he’s not disappointed this season. Gurley is ranked number one in total rushing yards (800), touchdowns (11) and rushing yards per game (100.0). Gurley has the most total rushing attempts in the NFL (169) as well as the most attempts per game (21.1). The New Orleans rushing defense is best in the league, keeping opponents to 74.1 yards per game, so expect a fun battle between Gurley and the Saints.
Receiver Kupp sat out Weeks 7 and 8 with an injured knee (sprained MCL), but according to McVay, the Rams are expecting Kupp back for Week 9.
The 2018 Saints offense scores points
The Saints average 33.4 points per game, second only to the Chiefs, but they’re playing a Rams team who ranks third in that same category, scoring 33.0 points per game. Brees and company will face a better defense than their own, so they’ll have to work hard to keep up with the Rams scoring machine.
In Week 7, receiver Ted Ginn (knee) was placed on injured reserve, so Brees has relied on Michael Thomas (58-for-64 for 669 yards and 4 touchdowns), rookie Tre’Quan Smith (10-for-17 for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns) and tight end Ben Watson (23-for-28 for 230 yards and a TD).
Also very capable of catching the ball are running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Kamara, an All-Rookie and Second-team All-Pro last season, has caught 47 balls for 393 yards and 2 touchdowns while running 92 times for 408 yards and 7 touchdowns. Ingram, who missed the first four games due to a suspension, has caught 7 balls for 59 yards and ran 41 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
Rams Defense ranks 8th in the league, Saints D ranks 23rd
The Rams have a solid defense that keeps opponents to an average of 331.4 total yards per game, 8th best in the league. They only allow opponents to score an average of 19.4 points per game (6th best) and they’ve snagged 7 interceptions (T-14th) and sacked opposing quarterbacks 22 times (T-8th) so they’re going to put pressure on Brees and affect his pocket presence.
One Ram to watch on defense is All-Pro end Aaron Donald, who had 2.0 sacks last week against the Packers and currently leads the league in total sacks with 10.0. He’ll have a tough time getting to Brees, who has only been sacked 9 times this season, tied for 33rd in the league.
The Saints defense is their Achilles heel, allowing opponents to score 26.1 points per game (ranked 23rd) and gain 374.1 total yards per game (23rd). They allow opponents to convert on 43.2 percent of their third downs (ranked 27th) and they’ve only intercepted 3 balls (28th) and sacked quarterbacks 17 times (23rd).
Defensive end Cameron Jordan already has 5.0 sacks by himself, so expect him to get after Goff, who’s already been sacked 17 times (T-15th). Cornerback Marshon Lattimore and safety Marcus Williams, both All-Rookies last season, will no doubt be busy against a passing Rams offense.
Special Teams Stats Comparison
L.A.’s veteran punter, Johnny Hekker, was First-team All-Pro last season and has punted 22 times but for a net average of 39.9 yards per punt, ranked 13th in the NFL. In Week 8, Hekker faked a punt and threw the ball 12 yards to cornerback Sam Shields for a first down.
New Orleans’ punter, Thomas Morstead, was a fifth-round draft pick back in 2009 and so far, he’s punted 17 times for a net average of 43.7 yards per punt, tied for first in the league.
L.A.’s placekicker, Greg Zuerlin, was First-team All-Pro last season but due to a groin injury he’s missed five games this season. Zuerlin is now back in the lineup, and so far in the three games he’s played, he’s 9-for-10, his longest a 55-yarder. He hasn’t missed an extra point attempt (8/8).
New Orleans’ placekicker, Wil Lutz, in his third season, is 15-for-16, his longest a 52-yarder just last week against the Vikings. He has missed one extra point attempt (21/22).
L.A.’s punt returner, wide receiver JoJo Natson, is ranked 5th in the league in return average. He’s returned 14 punts for 208 yards, averaging 14.9 yards per return, his longest for 60 yards.
New Orleans’ punt returner, running back Alvin Kamara, is ranked 34th in the league in return average. He’s returned 6 punts for 43 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 7.2 yards per return, his longest for 15 yards.
Rams–Saints prediction and odds
The oddsmakers have the Saints favored over the Rams by 2 with an over/under of 59.5.
Pete Prisco goes with the over and has it Saints 34, Rams 30.
John Breech takes the over and predicts it Saints 37, Rams 34.