The Los Angeles Rams (1-0) host the New Orleans Saints (1-0) on Sunday in a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship. Kickoff from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is set for 1:25 p.m. pacific time.
To get you ready for the contest, theRams.com compiled a quick preview featuring players to watch, keys to victory for the Rams and what to watch for on offense and defense for both Los Angeles and New Orleans.
Five players to watch
- Rams RB Malcolm Brown: It will be interesting to see how Sunday’s gameflow dictates his role within Los Angeles’ offense.
- Rams DT Sebastian Joseph-Day: He has one of the most important matchups in going up against Saints starting center Erik McCoy. A second round pick out of Texas A&M in this year’s draft, McCoy played a pivotal role in helping New Orleans’ offensive line keep pressure off QB Drew Brees as they allowed only one sack.
- Saints RB Alvin Kamara: One of the top dual-threat backs in the NFL, Kamara’s abilities as a runner and receiver will test the Rams defense similar to how Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey did in the season opener.
- Saints DE Mario Edwards Jr.: His versatility has been huge for New Orleans, starting in place of injured starting DT Sheldon Rankins while Rankins works his way back from a torn ACL sustained in January.
- Rams CB Aqib Talib: He’ll likely match up with top Saints WR Michael Thomas on Sunday, which, similar to Joseph-Day, presents another potential game-defining matchup. Thomas posted 10 catches for 123 yards Monday night against the Texans.
What to watch for…
On offense for the Rams
ESPN’s Ed Werder made an interesting observation earlier this week about Rams RB Todd Gurley’s workload in the season opener. Through the first three quarters against the Panthers, Gurley had just seven total touches for 37 yards. In the fourth quarter alone, Gurley had eight rushing attempts for 64 yards.
Rams head coach Sean McVay said after the Carolina game that Gurley and backup Malcolm Brown’s roles were dictated by the flow of the game, so perhaps too much is being read into it. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how things play out on Sunday against a New Orleans run defense that just gave up 7.8 yards per carry by the Texans backfield, second-most allowed by a defense.
On offense for the Saints
New Orleans returns its familiar playmaking trio of Brees, Kamara and Thomas, and all three are worth tracking. However, what deserves more attention is the play of the Saints’ offensive line.
McCoy’s strong performance in the opener has already been documented, but RT Ryan Ramczyk should receive equal recognition. Matched up with Texans five-time All Pro DE J.J. Watt, Ramczyk helped prevent Watt from recording at least one tackle or one QB hit for the first time in 105 career games per NFL Research. Ramczyk was limited participant in practice this week with a thigh injury but is probable for Sunday’s game, according to Friday’s injury report.
On defense for the Rams
Rookie safety Taylor Rapp's versatility could come in handy against Kamara, while LB Cory Littleton will look to build on an impressive opening performance that earned him the highest grade of any player in Week 1 from Pro Football Focus.
On defense for the Saints
The defensive line as a whole will be much stronger with two key players returning.
DT Mario Edwards Jr., one of the Saints’ top offseason acquisitions, is expected to make his season debut after sitting out Monday night’s game against the Texans because of a hamstring injury. DT David Onyemata will also be back after serving his league-mandated one-game suspension against Houston.
DT Malcolm Brown was another key signing by New Orleans this offseason, joining the Saints after spending his first four seasons with the Patriots.
The Los Angeles Rams will host the New Orleans Saints for the team's home opener this weekend. Check out the practice photos.
Three keys to victory
1. Minimize special teams gaffes: A blocked punt and missed field goal led to 10 points for the Panthers last week.
2. Maximize the run game: The Saints’ run defense surrendered 180 rushing yards to the Texans Monday night, third-most in Week 1.
3. Contain Kamara: Easier said than done, but the less of an impact running backs like Kamara have, the greater the chance at getting a win. Kamara will have the Rams’ full attention after recording a team-high 11 receptions for 96 yards in the NFC Championship.