The Rams and Saints will meet on Sunday afternoon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with a trip to Super Bowl 53 on the line. If the rematch possesses the intensity of the first meeting between the two teams, a 45-35 Saints win back in November, then we should be in for quite a game. That leads us to perhaps the most important question ahead of what’s expected to be another high-scoring shootout between two of the league’s best offenses–will the game play out much the same as it did the first time, or are we in store for a different outcome? Let’s get into it.
FanDuel: Saints (-3.5), Over/Under 56
What to know about the Saints
Most bettors will look to the Saints’ excellent playoff history at home under head coach Sean Payton, where they are 6-0 straight-up. Undoubtedly, that’s an impressive stat to rely on, but it’s worth noting the Saints are only 2-4 against the spread in those games, including last week’s ATS loss to the Eagles as an 8-point favorite.
New Orleans has also excelled at home over the last two seasons, compiling a daunting 16-2 record, but again, they are only 9-9 ATS in those games. The lesson here? The Saints are tough to beat in the dome, but getting a win against the number isn’t exactly a Herculean task. Still, the importance of home-field advantage in recent championship game history can’t be understated. Home teams are 10-0 SU in the championship round over the last five seasons. The last time an NFC team won on the road in this spot came in 2012 when the 49ers knocked off the Falcons in Atlanta.
It’s been a bit of rollercoaster for bettors backing the Saints this season. They are a profitable 10-7 ATS, but the path has been a streaky one. New Orleans began the season with back-to-back ATS losses, but then ripped of nine-straight covers before finishing the season 1-5 ATS over its final six games. The Saints are regarded by many as the favorite to lift the Lombardi Trophy next month, but is their lackluster play and inability to cover spreads dating back to December an indicator they are simply not the same squad that was demolishing the opposition with ease earlier this season? For those concerned about their recent lack of success ATS, it’s worth noting the Saints are 7-2 ATS in their last nine tries when entering having failed to cover in consecutive games. In fact, only twice since the 2015 season have Payton teams failed to cover in three-straight contests.
One angle that bettors are sure to look at is the matchup between Drew Brees and Jared Goff. Brees inspires more confidence and with reason. He is 13-3 ATS throughout his career and 10-1 ATS when facing opponents averaging at least 30 points per game, including the win over the Rams earlier this season. For those wondering, Goff is 1-3-1 ATS against teams averaging at least 30 points per game.
While there’s a lot to like about the Saints in this matchup, there are, however, at least some concerns. Despite scoring 30.8 points per game this season, the Saints have averaged just a shade over 24 points per contest over their last eight games. In fact, the offense hasn’t looked particularly crisp dating back to the 48-7 thrashing of the Eagles in November. That includes last week’s rematch in which they managed only 20 points against the Eagles’ decimated defense. In fact, Brees has only four touchdowns to three interceptions in four starts since the beginning of December. Some of those offensive struggles have been masked by a defense that is allowing only 16.9 points per game over its last eight contests. That defense won the game a week ago, but New Orleans is going to need more firepower to keep pace with the NFL’s No. 2 scoring offense.
What to know about the Rams
The Rams gashed the Cowboys for 273 yards and three scores on the ground a week ago. Their ability to replicate that effectiveness on the ground against a Saints team that has excelled at limiting the run this season will be a key factor. The Eagles weren’t able to take advantage of the injury to Sheldon Rankins last week, but the Rams present an entirely different challenge. Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson have formed an explosive 1-2 punch on the ground in recent weeks, and it’s hard to imagine Sean McVay won’t rely on the run game to protect Goff.
One thing I continue to come back to is the Rams’ effectiveness containing Dallas on third down last week. The Cowboys were only 1 for 10 on third down opportunities. Will the Saints be able to convert on third and long the way did against the Eagles a week ago? That may be the key to this game. If the Eagles were even remotely functional on stopping third and long last week, they would probably be playing this week.
Meanwhile, much has been made of the Saints’ stellar play at home, but the Rams have been an outstanding 13-3 on the road under McVay, covering 9 of 16 contests. Amazingly, the Rams are an underdog for the first time this season and for only the sixth time in 35 games under McVay, but they’ve been an excellent road underdog, too, going 3-1 SU and ATS.
While that’s all good, there’s one trend that does give me some pause on the Rams. Goff is 3-9 ATS against Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, making him the least profitable quarterback in this situation since coming into the league in 2016. This trend supports those hesitant to back the experience and productivity of Brees.
While the Saints enter this week struggling ATS, the Rams come in having covered three-straight contests.
A word on the total
These two teams combined to score 80 points in the first matchup, so a spread sitting between 56 and 57 seems rather attainable, and the over has hit in four-straight NFC Championship Games. Keep an eye on the closing total number. Only four play games have ever had a closing total of 57 or higher, two of which were in New Orleans, and all four games went over. HOWEVER, when the total sinks to 51-56.5, the over drops to 8-13-2.
One more note: Bill Vinovich will be the ref in charge on Sunday in the Superdome, and that’s not good for points. The under is 29-18-1 over the last three seasons in Vinovich games.
The Saints opened as a consensus 3.5-point favorite, but have since dropped to -3 at several, but not all, books. As of Saturday afternoon, 51% of the total point spread bets and 54% of the point spread money backs the Saints. In terms of the total, 53% of the bets and 70% of the money is on the over.
So where’s the value?
Those looking to take the Rams with the points should head to FanDuel where as of Saturday afternoon you can get them with the hook at +3.5 (-125) . If you want to lay the points with Saints, then head to BetStars and take them at -3 (-110). Meanwhile, if you want New England on the moneyline, you should head to FanDuel and get them at +152 because they are currently offering the best payout.
It’s hard to ignore the trends in this game, and most of those trends point to a New Orleans win and cover, but I like the Rams. I simply think they are playing better football right now, and something seems a tick off with the Saints, so I’m taking the points. If I can get 3.5 points, even better. The Rams are every bit as good on the road under McVay as the Saints are at home, and I’m concerned about New Orleans’ downward trending offense. I expect Los Angeles to run the ball with some effectiveness, put Goff into manageable situations, and put an end to the recent home team dominance in conference title games.
Rams 29, Saints 26