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Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons: How they match up

Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons: How they matchup
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan reacts after throwing a touchdown pass against the Chiefs during a game on Dec. 4.
(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Rams pass offense vs. Falcons pass defense: Rookie quarterback Jared Goff will make his fourth start, and his second at the Coliseum. Goff is completing 53.7% of his passes, four for touchdowns, with three interceptions. Goff was under constant pressure last week against the Patriots and receivers dropped several passes, but the No. 1 pick in the draft appears to be gaining confidence while going through progressions. The Falcons are giving up 280.8 yards passing per game, which ranks last in the NFL. Linebacker Vic Beasley has 10½ sacks, and end Dwight Freeney three. 

EDGE: Rams.

Rams run offense vs. Falcons run defense: Todd Gurley is averaging 56.6 yards rushing per game and only 3.2 yards per carry. His longest run last week against the Patriots covered nine yards. Gurley, who began his career by rushing for at least 128 yards in his first four starts, has not rushed for more than 100 yards since Dec. 13, 2015, when he ran for 140 yards against Detroit. The Rams might catch a break because the Falcons rank 15th in the NFL in rushing defense, giving up 100.8 yards per game. Last week, the Kansas City Chiefs rushed for 123 yards in a victory over the Falcons. Linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal are the Falcons’ leading tacklers. 

EDGE: Falcons.

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Falcons pass offense vs. Rams pass defense: Matt Ryan leads one of the NFL’s most high-powered passing attacks. He is completing 68.6% of his passes, 27 for touchdowns, with seven interceptions. Eleven Falcons have touchdown receptions. Julio Jones is Ryan’s top target. He has 72 receptions for an NFL-best 1,253 yards and five touchdowns. His status for Sunday’s game is questionable because of a toe injury. Mohamed Sanu, the second-leading receiver with 49 catches, is out because of a groin injury. Aaron Donald has six sacks for a defensive line that failed to get much pressure on Patriots’ Tom Brady last week.

EDGE: Falcons.

Falcons run offense vs. Rams run defense: Devonta Freeman has rushed for 785 yards and seven touchdowns, and also has two touchdown receptions. Tevin Coleman has rushed for six touchdowns. The Rams are giving up 114 yards rushing per game, which ranks 21st in the NFL. Middle linebacker Alec Ogletree has a team-best 112 tackles for a defense that has suffered several run-related lapses the last two games. Saints back Mark Ingram ran for 146 yards two weeks ago, including a 10-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-one play. Last week, New England’s LeGarrette Blount scored on a 43-yard run on fourth and one.

EDGE: Falcons.

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Special teams: The Rams would be far worse off if not for their punt coverage unit. Johnny Hekker’s 45.8 net-yard average ranks first in the NFL. Bradley Marquez has been a season-long standout for a unit that has forced opponents to start inside the 20-yard line 40 times. Greg Zuerlein has made 16 of 19 field-goal attempts. With Benny Cunningham sidelined because of a neck injury, Mike Thomas or Pharoh Cooper could return kickoffs. Tavon Austin has returned from a chest injury so he will probably supplant Cooper returning punts. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant has made 27 of 29 field-goal attempts, including three of five from 50 yards or farther. Matt Bosher averages 46.9 yards per punt. 

EDGE: Rams.

Gary Klein’s pick: The Falcons are averaging a league-best 32.2 points a game, more than double the Rams’ league-worst 15. It’s conceivable that the Rams’ defense could have a great day, but even if it holds the Falcons to half their average, there is little evidence to suggest the Rams might outscore them. On the plus side for the Rams, they will be playing at the Coliseum, presumably not in rain, which affected Goff’s first start. With three games under his belt, Goff is gaining confidence. And the Falcons’ defense is a much easier riddle than the Patriots. Still, it’s asking a lot for Goff to outduel Ryan. 

Falcons 28, Rams 17.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

 

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