A year ago, the Atlanta Falcons were ripping their way through the NFC en route to an eventual Super Bowl appearance, while the Los Angeles Rams were stumbling to a 4-12 record and their 10th losing season in a row. But things change quickly in the NFL. They’ll meet Saturday for a spot in the divisional round, and it’s the defending NFC champs who will enter as underdogs.
Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. ET and will be broadcast nationally on NBC. If you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can watch NBC live online, on your tablet or on another streaming device via one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services. They cost a monthly fee but all come with a free trial, so you can watch tonight’s game for free if you’re in a select market:
DirecTV Now: NBC (live in 15 markets) is included in all four channel packages, ranging from $35 to $70 per month. It comes with a free 7-day trial, and you can watch on your computer via your browser, or on your tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app
FuboTV: NBC (live in 11 markets) is included in the “Fubo Premier” channel package, which is $19.99 per month for the first two months and $39.99 per month after that. It comes with a free 7-day trial, and you can watch on your computer via your browser, or on your tablet or streaming device via the FuboTV app
Sling TV: NBC (live in 11 markets) is included in the “Sling Blue” channel package for $25 per month. It comes with a free 7-day trial, and you can watch on your computer via your browser, or on your tablet or streaming device via the Sling TV app
Watching on Your Phone: If you want to watch the game on your mobile device, you can do so via either the NFL Mobile app or Yahoo Sports app, which are both free to download from both the App Store and the Google Play Store
Both of these teams have been primes examples of the importance of good coaching.
Under 7-9 specialist Jeff Fisher, the Rams finished 25th, 21st, 21st, 29th and 32nd in the NFL in scoring. But in 2017, after ridding themselves of Fisher for rookie head coach Sean McVay, they led the league in scoring. Jared Goff looked like a No. 1 pick is supposed to look, Todd Gurley transformed into the most dangerous back in football, leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2,093 in 15 games), and the Rams’ 29.9 points per game was the most in a season since, well, last year’s Falcons.
Speaking of which, you probably recall how that Falcons team had a historic offensive campaign under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. But with Shanahan in San Francisco turning Jimmy Garoppolo into the next big thing, Atlanta settled back into mediocrity offensively, finishing 15th in the league in scoring (22.1 points per game), while Matt Ryan reverted closer to his career averages rather than his 2016 MVP numbers.
That being said, this sets up as an entertaining offensive slugfest. We’ve seen all year that the Rams can move the ball in the hurry, and while the Falcons have struggled with consistency, they’ve hit 30-plus points four times this season and still have the offensive firepower to potentially play keep-up. Moreover, both defenses have been vulnerable in certain regards this year, as the Rams are just 22nd in Football Outsiders’ rush defense rankings, and the Falcons 22nd in their overall defensive rankings.
Put it all together, and the over/under of 48.5 points looks attainable. Playoff games tend to be a little more physical and slower paced, but with the amount of weapons on the field in this one, points shouldn’t be difficult to come by.
The Rams, who went just 4-4 at home this year compared to 7-1 on the road, are favored by six points. If they win, they’ll head to Minnesota to take on the Vikings next week, but if the Falcons pull the upset on the road, they’ll travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles.