NFC Championship Game

Okay, so what does it mean to be at home for the NFC Championship Game?

Well, check out the accompanying chart below and you'll notice that home teams have survived and advanced to the Super Bowl for the past five years in a row - with home teams covering the all-important pointspread in four of these last five title tilts - and so you gotta go all the way back to the 2012 NFL season to find the last NFC Championship Game road team to win (that was 4-point favorite San Francisco 28, Atlanta 24).

Does that cause you to worry, Los Angeles Rams?

When the NFC West champs - and the conference's #2 seed - venture into the always-raucous Louisiana Superdome this Sunday (kickoff at 3:05 p.m. ET) for their winner-moves-on game against the Saints, they will bring a mixed bag of success/failure with 'em as LA's a dead-even but vig-losing 4-4 ATS (against the spread) on the road this year and, of course, that includes the 45-35 loss at then 2-point underdog New Orleans way back in Week 9. Dig a little deeper and you'll find this will be the irst time that the Rams are snapping up points since very late in the 2017 season when LA lost a meaningless Week 17 game at 6.5-point fav San Francisco 34.13.

 

LAST 5 NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
(Home teams in CAPS below)

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSERSCORE
2017PHILADELPHIA+ 3Minnesota38-7
2016ATLANTA- 6Green Bay44-21
2015CAROLINA- 3Arizona49-15
2014SEATTLE- 8.5Green Bay28-22 (OT)
2013SEATTLE- 4San Fran23-17

 

Here's some other key numbers as we head towards Rams-Saints this Sunday ...

In last weekend's NFC Divisional Playoff round games, the Rams famously rushed for a franchise playoff-record 273 yards (while averaging an eye-popping 5.7 yards a pop) but how about no turnovers, no sacks of QB Jared Goff and keeping Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott to just 47 yards rushing.

One last thing: The Rams' defense collected a single sack to go along with seven other tackle-for-losses - a/k/a negative yardage plays on Dallas' part - and that could be one recipe for a mild upset in the dome this Sunday afternoon.

 

COLLEGE BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK

True, we're still several weeks away from the start of "March Madness" but - then again - it's never too early to start making some declarations. In today's Jim Sez, we'll place the spotlight on a couple of teams - neither of whom is in the current Associated Press Top 25 at this very moment - and let you know to keep an eye on 'em now and for the immediate weeks to come as potential party-crashers:

TEMPLE (13-3, 3-1) - This oft-overlooked American Athletic Conference squad won't necessarily wow you on either end of the floor as the Owls rank 159th nationally in points per game and 145th nationally in points allowed but veteran boss Fran Dunphy is a sharp cookie and you might have noticed that that Philly squad enters the Jan. 16th game at East Carolina having won three in a row by a grand total of 10 points ... with two of the wins coming in overtime! Guard Shizz Alston, Jr. (19 ppg and a 92 percent free-throw shooter) is the biggest name on this Owls' roster.

ARIZONA STATE (11-5, 2-2) - Right now there's no great hope to "win it all" hailing from the once-mighty Pac-12 (there's not a single team from this league in current AP 25, folks) but let's keep tabs on this A-State Sun Devils' club that may play a bit too hot-and-cold but has a fiery head coach in Bobby Hurley. Jr. who's helped to engineer "name wins" this season against the non-conference likes of Kansas, Miss State and Georgia. Let's see what the Devils do in this week's conference home games against Oregon State and Oregon / then road games at UCLA and at USC.