Breakdown: After a rocky up and down season that still resulted in a 10-6 regular season record, the Falcons are back in the postseason. They are also the only NFC playoff team from 2016. Their first test of the 2017 playoffs are the surprising 11-5 Rams in Los Angeles in the wild card round. The last time the Rams were in the playoffs was in January 2005 in which they were still located in St. Louis. They fell to the Falcons in Atlanta who were led by Michael Vick’s two passing touchdowns and 119 rushing yards.
Coming into Los Angeles, the Falcons have an advantage in terms of playoff experience. The Rams have not been in a postseason game in 13 years. They are still not to be taken lightly though as they are led by one of the best running backs in the league in Todd Gurley. If the Falcons’ defense can contain Gurley, that may very well be the x-factor that determines a Falcons victory.
The Falcons are also 10-0 this season when scoring 20 points or more. They are 0-6 when they fail to do so. If Atlanta lessens their penalties on offense and executes in the red zone, they will come out with the win. Relying on kicker Matt Bryant to knock down five field goals every game isn’t realistic as was the case in the Falcons’ Week 17 win vs the Panthers. Matt Ryan and the offense must show why they were so explosive and led the NFL in every category a year ago.
In Los Angeles, I expect Todd Gurley to get his numbers but the Falcons’ top 10 defense will do just enough to limit his explosiveness. I think this will also be the game that the Falcons finally earn their first road playoff win since the 2002 season. Many teams in the NFL do not fear having to play in Los Angeles due to the lack of a loud environment and fan involvement.
Final: Falcons 24 Rams 20