NFC Championship - NFL Betting Preview
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NFC Championship - NFL Betting Preview


As with the AFC Championship, No.1 and No.2 seeds in the NFC clash for the right to play in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on Sunday, February 3.

The New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams earned the two best regular-season records in the NFL, each recording 13-3 marks, but it is the Saints who have the No.1 seeding and therefore host the NFC Championship game for the first time since they won the Super Bowl XLIV nine years ago.

The teams met at the Superdome in Week 9, with that early November clash going 45-35 to the Saints. It was the Rams’ third successive defeat by the Saints on the road and in the last 51 years of playing games in New Orleans, they have never lost four consecutive trips.

Those who love stats and conspiracy theorists will point to the fact the referee for the game is Bill Vinovich, who officiated their previous clash when there were only six accepted penalties in the game, with four going against the Rams. The Rams are also 0-8 in games in the last six years when Vinovich has been the referee.

The Rams have not been in the Super Bowl since losing 20-17 to the New England Patriots at the end of the 2001 season, a game ironically played in New Orleans. They seek a fourth title, having won the 1945 and 1951 NFL Championship, before winning their first Super Bowl at the end of the 1999 season.

The NFC South-winning Saints are 6-2 at home this season. Those two losses came against divisional rivals – dropping their opening game against Tampa and resting their starters for their Week 17 finale against Carolina.

The Rams topped the NFC West, having lost two of their eight games on the road – at the Saints and at NFC North winners Chicago (losing 15-6) in Week 14. They defeated Wild Card winners Dallas Cowboys 30-22 last weekend on the strength of a strong running game, while the Saints downed last season’s Super Bowl winners Philadelphia Eagles 20-14.

This will be the first time all season that the Rams have been considered the underdog. They were 1.5-point favourites for their Week 9 clash, but this time they are in receipt of 3.5 points on the Genting Casino handicap at odds of 5/6. Rams can also be backed at 6/4 to win on the moneyline. Saints are 8/15 favourites to win, and they can also be supported at 11/8 to successfully concede 6.5 points.

The under/over points total line is set at 56.5, which has been eclipsed in four of the last six meetings in New Orleans. It is 17/20 that there will be fewer than 56.5 points scored.

Saints are the current Super Bowl LIII favourites at odds of 17/10, while of the quartet still remaining, the Rams are the outsiders at odds of 7/2, drifting from 10/3 on Monday.


The Rams’ offense will be a little different to the one that the Saints faced in November, as they now have C.J. Anderson complementing Todd Gurley in a backfield that ran all over the Cowboys to the tune of 273 yards.

Gurley finished third in the league in rushing (1,251 yards), but when he was slowed by a knee injury, the Rams picked up Anderson, and the veteran running back has been a revelation. He’s averaging 140 yards per game and 6.4 yards per carry in three games with the Rams. He tallied 123 yards on the ground against the Cowboys, while Gurley racked up 115.

This figures to be a strength on strength, as the Saints have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 25 straight games, but the hosts will be without defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who tore his Achilles on Sunday and he has been a key component in a defense that has conceded just an average of 80.2 yards per game on the ground, good enough to rank second-best in the NFL.

Part of the reason why they appear to have such a good run-defense is opponents know their pass defense is vulnerable and the Saints rank 28th in the league, conceding 268.9 yards per game.

Rams ran just 19 times in their first meeting, largely because they were playing from a 35-17 half-time deficit. In contrast, they ran the ball 43 times against Dallas, largely because they knew that the Cowboys did not boast a prolific air attack.

Rams have one of the most potent attacks in the NFL, with QB Jared Goff throwing for 4,688 yards this season. He completed 28 of 40 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting with the Saints and is a large reason why the Rams were second in the league in scoring (32.9 points per game). The Kansas City Chiefs topped the scoring charts. Former Saints receiver Brandin Cooks (six catches, 114 yards and a touchdown in first game against Saints) and Robert Woods (five catches, 71 yards) are Goff’s main targets.

One of the major reasons why the Rams have been so competitive in the last couple of years has been their cohesive offensive line. All five players up front have played all 17 games this season and the Rams rank among the best at protecting their quarterback. Indeed, Goff was not sacked and suffered only one hit in the win over the Cowboys.


Quarterback Drew Brees led an attack that piled up 487 yards (346 passing, 141 rushing) in the regular season and also scored on all five trips to the red zone. They converted seven of 12 third-down attempts and successfully made both attempts on fourth-down.

There have been a couple of notable changes to the Rams’ defense since, though. Outside linebacker Dante Fowler had just joined the Rams the week before the last meeting after being acquired from Jacksonville. An elite pass-rusher off the edge, Fowler has been a significant force since and he compliments one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, with Aaron Donald as disruptive as it comes – as a league-leading 20.5 sacks attests – along with Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers.

Brees will also have to deal with an improved secondary. Cornerback Marcus Peters struggled against Saints’ top receiver Michael Thomas in the last meeting, but he probably won’t draw that assignment this week, as Aqib Talib, who was on Injured Reserve after ankle surgery in Week 9, has made a strong return.

The secondary has been a weakness, allowing a middling 236.2 yards per game (14th), while the run defense is even more suspect, having conceded 122.3 yards per game on average (23rd). Talib’s return has helped shore up that secondary and Dallas struggled on the ground, with Ezekiel Elliott managing just 47 yards from 20 carries.

The Saints also receive a boost, with receiver Tedd Ginn Jr, who missed the first game, in the line-up.

Brees will have to be wary of an opportunistic Rams defense, which finished third in total turnovers with 30.

The Saints boast the No.3 attack in the league, generating 31.5 points per game, and are eighth in terms of yards (379.2 per game). Head coach Sean Payton has not had to rely so much on the prolific Brees, who was eight yards shy of 5,000, as the running game has been excellent. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara provide a one-two punch that the Rams will do well to harness. Unlike the largely one-dimensional run-first Cowboys, the Saints have several ways to beat you.

The key is how many stops each team can make and the Saints knew at the start of the season that they had to reinforce their defense, hence the arrival of Marcus Davenport and Demario Davis.

The Saints will certainly get their yards on the ground.

Many will feel that if New Orleans’ offensive line can manage Donald and get to the second level, their running backs can run on the Los Angeles defense, and conclude that Ingram might be a bit of value to be the first touchdown scorer at odds of 8/1.

One of the best ways to counteract the aggressive nature of a defense is to use plenty of screen passes or utilise running backs in wide areas, and Kamara’s speed will cause problems if he can be put in space. Kamara is 5/1 to be the first touchdown scorer with Genting Casino.

This figures to be another close, exciting game. You can see all the odds for the NFC Championship game by clicking here.  

Those seeking educated picks against the handicap spread may wish to take a look at, America’s leading football authority.

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V: 1.38.0 All rights reserved. August 2021