The high-scoring shootout between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 4 put two of the top teams in the NFL on display. The 45-35 final score involved over 900 yards of total offense and an average of 7.5 yards a play.
The Saints and the Rams are vying not only for a high playoff berth, but for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Homefield advantage is given to the team with the best record within each conference, so being that New Orleans and Los Angeles are in the same conference, only one of them will be granted home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Through week nine of the regular season, New Orleans sits at 7-1 and Los Angeles is sitting at 8-1. With New Orleans on a seven-game win streak, they are certainly making a case as the hottest team in football.
The Saints are headlined by an all-star coach, Sean Payton, and a handful of Pro-Bowlers on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Drew Brees, running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas are primed to keep this elite offense humming. Also, lets not forget the recent singing of Dez Bryant, a player that can potentially add an entire new layer to the offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive back Marshon Lattimore and defensive lineman Cameron Jordan lead the way. Brees is playing at an MVP-caliber level, with the highest quarterback rating in the league and 18 touchdown passes on the year. He has found comfort in his top two options, Thomas and Kamara, with them both proving to be elite players at their respective positions.
Los Angeles has an MVP candidate of their own: Todd Gurley. With young quarterback Jared Goff and up-and-coming coach Sean McVay at the helm, Los Angeles leads the league in offensive yards per game, with Gurley leading the league in rushing yards and touchdowns.
Wide receivers Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks all provide sure-handed targets for Goff and serve as exceptional compliments to Los Angeles’ elite running attack. Their defensive line is stacked with finesse and strength, with all of their starting defensive linemen being former first-round picks.
Dante Fowler, Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers make for a scary challenge for opposing offensive lines. All-Pro cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib reside in their secondary, but injuries and inconsistency have left them playing far below where they expect to be.
The key difference between these offensive powerhouses is their defensive consistency. Wade Phillips, Los Angeles’ defensive coordinator, believes that their play has not reached the standards they should be reaching.
New Orleans’ defense has been stout against the run, allowing the least rushing yards per game in the league.
They brought in Peters, Talib, Suh and Fowler over the past season, and it still seems that they are all trying to mesh together and become comfortable. By the time the playoff push comes around, both teams should be equally fired up to prove they are the best team in the NFC.
At this point, the battle for the title pits two different cultures against each other. The wisdom and experience of Brees and Payton against the youth and tenacity of Goff and McVay.
For now the Saints will have a big advantage over Los Angeles after their win on Sunday, but there’s still plenty of ground for the Rams to cover. It is only a matter of time until it’s seen who claims the NFC.