Not much was expected of the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams before the start of the season, but expectations change. The two division leaders will square off on Sunday when the Saints put their eight-game winning streak on the line against the host Rams.
Los Angeles leads the NFC West but saw its four-game winning streak come to an end last week in a rare struggle for the offense, 24-7 at Minnesota. “It’s frustrating, but, you know, the reality is we need it. We need some adversity,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth told reporters. “You know, it’s not to say we didn’t need to come back and win that game. But, you know what? Some of the adverse situations in that game -- on the road in a really hard place to play against probably one of the best defenses in the league -- to play the kind of game that we were in, and for this team to be in the game that we were in, I think it shows you that we’re legit and that we’re the real deal. And if we get this opportunity again in the playoffs, and get a chance to get in, then we’ll be prepared for it.” The Rams are in for a test against another top defense in New Orleans, which held six of its last eight opponents to 20 or fewer points. The Saints are starting to show some wear on that defense as injuries mount, and defensive end Alex Okafor will miss the rest of the season after suffering an Achilles injury in last week’s 34-31 win over Washington.
TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Rams -2.5. O/U: 53.5
ABOUT THE SAINTS (8-2): New Orleans is averaging 30.2 points -- third in the NFL -- and is taking the pressure off quarterback Drew Brees and the passing game with a ground attack led by veteran Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. Ingram was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week after rumbling for 134 yards on just 11 carries in last week’s win and is over 1,000 yards from scrimmage on the season (806 rushing, 213 receiving). Kamara is on the verge of 1,000 yards as well (459 rushing, 447 receiving) and scored at least one TD in each of the last four games.
ABOUT THE RAMS (7-3): Los Angeles is one spot ahead of New Orleans in scoring offense (second in the NFL at 30.3 points) but will be without top wide receiver Robert Woods for the next couple of games due to a shoulder injury. Rookie Cooper Kupp is second on the team with 481 receiving yards and will be expected to pick up the slack along with Sammy Watkins (408 yards, four TDs) and Tavon Austin, a former first-round pick without a reception in any of the last three games. “I don’t expect much of a fall-off,” Rams quarterback Jared Goff told reporters. “I know Robert Woods is special, and his production has been great this year, but I‘m looking forward to seeing guys step up this week.”
1. Saints rookie CB Marshon Lattimore (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday and is questionable for Sunday.
2. Los Angeles LB Mark Barron, who leads the team with 72 tackles and three interceptions, is questionable due to a hand injury.
3. New Orleans signed CBs Sterling Moore and Dexter McDougal this week.
PREDICTION: Rams 31, Saints 27