The reality is, it’s not so much a rivalry as it has been a collision course, charted because of mutual success.
The New Orleans Saints (1-0) have won the last two NFC South Division titles, and the Los Angeles Rams (1-0) have done the same in the NFC West. As such, they almost have had to cross paths due to scheduling (division champs vs. division champs in 2017 and ‘18) and/or playoff runs (the ‘18 NFC Championship Game).
But because of that, it’s understandable that Sunday’s game between the Saints and Rams at L.A. Memorial Coliseum definitely would have the look and feel of an NFC “SouthWest” Division scrap.
The upcoming game will be the fourth time in the Saints’ last 28 games – including playoffs – that the teams will have played. Which means that other than their true, two-games-per-season division rivals – Carolina, Atlanta and Tampa Bay for the Saints, and San Francisco, Seattle and Arizona for the Rams – the Saints and Rams likely have as good a grasp on the others’ tendencies as any two teams could have.
“It’s become that,” right guard Larry Warford said. “It’s obviously two very good teams going at it for the last three years. We’ve been at the tops of our division for the last few years.
“We face each other and it’s been close games every time. It does have that division rivalry-type thing going on there. But it’s good. Games are more fun like that. I’m excited.”
So are his teammates, though many prefer to punt on the “rival” label.
“It’s just the next game,” left tackle Terron Armstead said. “However everybody wants to approach it, that’s fine. We need this win and we’re going out there to take one.
“Every week we’re in a race to get better. Week 1, we came out with a win (30-28 against Houston). We’ve got a lot of areas to correct, a lot of things to get better in. It’ll be the same after this game, too. So we’re going to try to get this win. We need it. And after that game, we’ll have some things to correct.
“There are some familiar areas, kind of like us playing Atlanta, Carolina. We’ve played them quite a few times these last few years, so there is some carryover. But every year there are new players. We’ve got new guys on our offense, they’ve got new guys on their defense. Some teams do things to fit around that personnel. There’s familiar personnel, but still some wrinkles, too.”
“I don't know if I'd categorize it like (a rivalry),” quarterback Drew Brees said. “I’d say that they're a very good football team that aspires to be exactly where we do. I think that when you look at some of the top teams in the NFC, you absolutely put this group in that club.
“They almost feel like a divisional opponent because we have played them so much over the last three years. But, again we know they're a great football team and we have got to play our best to beat them.”
Too, there’s the possible long-term ramification of a tie-break. Last year, because of the Saints’ victory over the Rams during the regular season, they earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs (both teams finished the regular season with 13-3 records, though New Orleans had clinched entering the finale; the Rams won the NFC Championship Game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome).
“We’ve seen them a lot now, and we’re really looking forward to this opportunity to come out and play them again this year,” right tackle Ryan Ramczyk said.
“It’s a good test, for sure. They’re a good team, we’re a good team so Week 2 of the season, it’s a big game for both of us.”
It seems to have that feel. Even rookie center Erik McCoy, who will get his first taste of it Sunday, can sense the importance of his second NFL game.
“You can definitely see a heightened sense of emotions around the locker room, all the guys,” he said.