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Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams Preview, Predictions and Betting Odds

It's been nearly 40 years since the Los Angeles Rams hosted a NFL playoff game at the Coliseum, but that all changes on Saturday as they host the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

40 years is a long time to wait.

The NFL playoffs are back in Los Angeles, and the L.A. Memorial Coliseum will play host for the first time since January 7, 1979, a span of nearly 40 years.

The young upstart Rams, fresh off one of the greatest single season turnarounds in sports history, will play the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons, in an NFC Wild Card matchup on Saturday night.

The Rams are led by the youngest head coach in NFL history to take his team to the playoffs in 31-year-old Sean McVay, and will be guided by a 23-year-old sophomore quarterback in Jared Goff.

So to say that the Rams are inexperienced is an understatement to say the least.

"I don't think it is a concern," McVay said at practice during the week. "When I say that, I have a whole lot of respect for experience and what that does and the value that it provides. But I do think that we've got a confident group, a mature group for a young football team." 

On the other side of the ball is the experienced and veteran-laden Falcons. One year removed from arguably the greatest collapse in Super Bowl history.


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Atlanta has had their share of ups and downs in 2018. After losing their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to the San Francisco 49ers, and their quarterbacks coach, Matt LaFleur to the Rams, the Falcons had to replace a lot of coaches on the staff this season.

One of those coaches is new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian who fans in Hollywood know well from his troubled days as the head coach of the USC Trojans before he was fired for showing up to a practice drunk and disorderly.

Sarkisian struggled early in the season and the Falcons offense suffered. However, Atlanta has won four of their last six games, including victories over the Saints and Panthers, to playoff teams out of the NFC South.

The Falcons are led by reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan, who is more than ready to shed the demons from a 28-3 disintegration that occurred in front of the world on national television.

"I love the resiliency and the toughness of this team," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. "When you've been through some of the fire together, you come out the other side stronger as a brotherhood."

The first step in the Falcons journey of a redemption trip back to the Super Bowl begins in Los Angeles, where the Rams franchise will be playing in it's first prime-time game of the season, and their first playoff game in Southern California since 1986 when they shutout the Dallas Cowboys, 20-0 at Anaheim Stadium.

The Rams expect a packed house within the friendly confines of the Coliseum as they reportedly have sold over 70,000 tickets for the game (the Coliseum's capacity is over 90,000, but they lowered the capacity in order to improve the overall fan experience).

"It's definitely a cool thing," Goff said. "After football has been gone here for so long and we came back year two and being able to bring a playoff game to the Coliseum is very cool." 

Celebrities across Tinseltown are expected to come out to the game, which should feature a star-studded atmosphere as the Rams look to advance to the second round of the NFC Playoffs in a rematch from earlier in the season with the Minnesota Vikings. 

One of those stars is running back Todd Gurley, who has become the face of the Rams since the team relocated from St. Louis before the 2016 season.

Gurley led the NFL in total yards, touchdowns, and rushing touchdowns this season, and is many experts favorite to win the 2018 NFL MVP Award. First however, he and his teammates must go through the reigning MVP in order to accomplish their goals. 

The Rams come into the game well rested after 20 of the team's 22 starters did not play in the team's Week 17 loss to the 49ers.

Meanwhile, the Falcons enter the contest bruised and battered, and on short rest, after dispatching the rival Carolina Panthers in Week 17 to punch their ticket to the playoffs.

In order to secure the victory, and advance deep into the playoffs, the Rams will need to strike early and often, allowing their Top 10 defense, led by Pro Bowl tackle Aaron Donald, to pin their ears back and go after the quarterback.

If the Rams come out struggling, and the game remains close, the absence of Pro Bowl kicker Greg Zuerlein could loom large for Los Angeles, who does not have the postseason experience that Atlanta does.

In the end, we expect the Rams to come out rolling after the extra week of rest, and control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Enabling Goff and Gurley to operate with space on offense, and putting pressure on Ryan on defense.

Prediction: 30-24 Rams

Betting Odds (Courtesy of Bovada):

Atlanta Falcons: +6 (-115)
Los Angeles Rams: -6 (-105)
Over/Under: 48.5

The game will kickoff at 5:15PM PST from the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles and will air live on NBC. The game can be livestreamed here.

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