NFC Championship Game: Who will advance to the Super Bowl?


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The Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints both survived their Divisional Round match ups to advance to the NFC Championship Game. The Rams defeated the Cowboys by the score of 30-22, while the Saints came back from a 14-point deficit to overtake the Eagles by the score of 20-14.  The Saints won the first meeting between the two teams on November 4 by the score of 45-35 as a home underdog.

This time the Saints are a 3 1/2 point favorite and have a consensus slightly better than 50 percent chance of victory. Taking a closer look at the teams statistically, the Rams were second this season in scoring, while the Saints were third. Defensively, New Orleans was 14th and Los Angeles ranked 20th.  All indications point towards another high scoring game.

The Rams gashed through the Cowboys on the ground, gaining 273 yards. The Saints had the second best run defense in the league during the seaosn, so it will be interesting to see if Todd Gurley (1252 yards, 17 touchdowns) and C.J. Anderson (299 yards, 7. per carry in two games) can find room to operate.

In the air, Rams quarterback Jared Goff will look for his top targets Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, who combined for 168 receptions, 2423 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season. If the Saints find a way to contain them, they have to deal with Gurley out of the backfield, who caught 59 passes and four touchdowns this season.

The Saints feature certain future Hall of Famer Drew Brees at quarterback and it's remarkable how the teams moves the ball. Michael Thomas had 125 receptions for 1403 yards, while Alvin Kamara hauled in 81 and four touchdowns. Only three other players on the team had more than 20 receptions.  On the ground, Kamara and Mark Ingram rushed for 1528 yards and 20 touchdowns.   The Saints rely heavily on relatively few players, but they are extremely effective in executing their game plan.

Both teams have premiere pass rushers in Aaron Donald for the Rams (20.5 sacks) and Cameron Jordan for the Saints (12.5 sacks). However, both teams have protected the quarterback as well.  The kicking games are even as well, with Greg Zuerlein and Wil Lutz combining to hit 55-of-61 field goal attempts this season.

As should be the case, the best two teams are clearly playing in this conference championship. The edge goes to the Saints because they are nearly unstoppable at home in the post season with Brees at quarterback. His experience in the big game will be the deciding factor. The Saints will win and advance to the Super Bowl.

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