Rams vs. Saints: Time, live stream, odds, keys to game, pick for 'Thursday Night Football' (2024)

We're into the home stretch of the NFL season, with just three games left for every team in the league. Thursday night brings the second-to-last "Thursday Night Football" game of the year, which pits a pair of NFC playoff hopefuls against each other as the Los Angeles Rams host the New Orleans Saints.

Both L.A. and New Orleans are 7-7 heading into this contest, making them two of five NFC teams with that exact record. The Saints are behind in their division thanks to the tiebreaker, while the Rams are ahead of the Seahawks thanks to the tiebreaker. This game will give the winner the tiebreaker over the loser, which will obviously play a massive role in whether either or both of them can make it to the postseason.

Which of these teams will give itself a leg up in the wild card race? We'll find out soon enough. Before we break down the matchup, here's a look at how you can watch the game.

How to watch

Date:Thursday, Dec. 21|Time:8:15 p.m. ET
Location:SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, California)
Stream the game herewith Amazon Prime
Follow:CBS Sports App
Odds:Rams -4; O/U 46 (viaSportsLine consensus odds)

When the Saints have the ball

New Orleans should be healthier on offense than it has been in a while, as Chris Olave is apparently set to return from injury. That is absolutely massive for a passing attack that is just desperate for high-level threats down the field. Derek Carr has thrown for 226 or fewer yards in five of his last six games, with his repeated check-downs the only thing propping up his numbers.

Olave hasn't been quite as much of a downfield threat this season as he was a year ago, as evidenced by his yards per reception average dropping from 14.5 to 12.8 from Year 1 to Year 2. But he is by far the best weapon the Saints have on the perimeter -- especially with Michael Thomas on injured reserve. The likes of A.T. Perry and Lynn Bowden and Keith Kirkwood aren't scaring defenses, and the Saints appear to want to keep Rashid Shaheed in his pure deep threat role.

Olave is the guy that gives them access to the rest of their passing game. Among L.A.'s corners, it has been easiest to pick on Derion Kendrick, who has allowed 41 of 65 passes thrown in his direction to be completed for 566 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Getting Olave matched up on him as often as possible would be advisable.

Carr, though, continues to crumble under pressure as he has throughout his career. He's completed 49.2% of his passes with just ONE touchdown and two interceptions when pressured this season, per Tru Media, and has seen just 24.2% of his pressured passes result in first downs (25th out of 30 qualifiers). The Rams are only 17th in pressure rate on the season, but we all know that Aaron Donald is capable of wrecking an opponent's game plan at any time.

New Orleans has been extremely inconsistent in its running back usage, alternately leaning into Alvin Kamara and splitting the work between Kamara and Jamaal Williams and at times Taysom Hill. The Rams have been a slightly below-average run defense throughout this season, but New Orleans will be without right tackle Ryan Ramczyk for this game, which could put a damper on its ability to successfully run the ball.

When the Rams have the ball

Since a surprisingly meek performance against the Seahawks after returning from their Week 10 bye, the Rams have put together four consecutive really good offensive outings. They've scored at least 28 points and gained at least 399 total yards in four straight, going 3-1, with the only loss being an overtime game in Baltimore.

Matthew Stafford has completed 66% of his passes at an average of 7.4 yards per attempt, with 12 touchdowns and just one interception, and has also been sacked only five total times during that stretch. He's alternately connected in a big way with Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua, and even players like Tyler Higbee and Demarcus Robinson have gone off for big games. And in the last two, Kyren Williams has really taken the lead, totaling 266 yards on 52 carries. He now leads the NFL in rushing yards per game.

The Saints defense they'll face on Thursday night is maybe not quite as tough as it has been in recent seasons, but it's still good.

New Orleans checks in eighth in pass defense DVOA this season, per FTN, and its use of man coverage (fourth-highest rate in the NFL, according to Tru Media) could pose some issues for a Rams receiver corps that is better again zone. Cooper Kupp hasn't necessarily been at full health since returning from injury, and his yards per route run average is down to just 1.44 when facing man. that figure checks in just 61st out of 140 receivers who have run 100 or more routes against man.

We know Marshon Lattimore loves to get up for big games against star receivers... but he's unfortunately out for this one as he is still on injured reserve. New Orleans' relatively poorer numbers against No. 2 receivers than No. 1s provides hope that the Rams can get their passing attack going in his absence, even if the Saints show them a heavy dose of man, against which Stafford ranks just 20th in EPA/dropback this season.

The Rams could look to base their attack around the run, considering that has been the weaker of New Orleans' defensive units this season. The Saints are just 22nd in rush defense DVOA, and have allowed an average of 1.71 yards before contact per rush -- the fourth-worst mark in the NFL, according to Tru Media. If L.A. gets Williams going on the ground and marries the play-action passing game to his success, it could be a long night for the New Orleans defense.

Pick: Rams 26, Saints 17

If you want a more analytical approach to yourNFL picks, then I highly suggest that you check out theSportsLine Projection Model, which has been on fire this year. Check it out if you want to know which side to bet for every game in Week 16.

Rams vs. Saints: Time, live stream, odds, keys to game, pick for 'Thursday Night Football' (2024)
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