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Falcons at Rams – Playbook for the NFC Wild Card round

Los Angeles has suddenly become the center of attention for football. After UCLA and USC quarterbacks Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold declared for the NFL Draft, the spotlight shifts to the Rams and 31-year-old wunderkind head coach Sean McVay as they host the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in a primetime matchup Saturday night. The Rams enter the wild-card matchup with the highest-scoring offense in the league, a title the Falcons held a season ago. Meanwhile, Atlanta is the only team from the NFC to return to the postseason this year. Here are the three things to watch for:


The highest-scoring offense in the NFL also comes with the potential league MVP in Todd Gurley. The Falcons have the 24th-ranked run defense in the league and they will be tasked to stop the league-leader in rushing touchdowns (13) and second-most rushing yards (1,305) this season. Gurley is also a threat in the passing game, catching 64 passes for 788 yards and six TDs.


One of the greatest strengths the Rams had all season was their special teams unit, but they will be missing a key piece in the playoffs with kicker Greg Zuerlein (back) placed on injured reserve two weeks ago. He had made 95% of his field goals, including six of seven from 50-plus yards. Instead, the Rams will go with Sam Ficken — a 25-year-old rookie from Penn State — who missed a field goal and extra point in his debut and could be a liability for the Rams on Saturday.


One way the Falcons can stop the Rams is by limiting how often they have the ball. Atlanta will need to rely on running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to move the chains and dominate the time of possession in order to keep the Rams offense off the field. Going up against an LA run defense that ranks 28th in the league makes the task much more feasible.

Matt Ryan.

(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)


Falcons: No players were designated an injury game status.

Rams: WR Michael Thomas (ankle) is DOUBTFUL.

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