This Sunday in Inglewood, California, the last two NFC champions will meet in an NFC West showdown. The San Francisco 49ers (4-6) need a win to continue their outside hopes of reaching the playoffs, while the Los Angeles Rams (7-3) are hoping to distance themselves from the rest of the pack and win the division.
Here is a preview for Sunday’s game between the 49ers and Rams, complete with a free pick. L.A. is a sizable seven-point favorite at home in this one.
This season has been tough sledding for last year’s No. 1 seed and eventual Super Bowl runner-up. Hit with injuries all over the field, the 49ers have lost three in a row, all to current playoff teams and all by double-figures. But prior to those, they had won two in a row, a drubbing of the Patriots and an eight-point defeat of the very same team they’re playing this week, the Rams.
With backup quarterback Nick Mullens leading the way, San Francisco is 19th in the NFL with 23.8 points per game on a respectable 384 yards on average. Contrary to last year’s run-dominant team, the Niners are just 16th with 112 rushing yards per game, although they’re 13th in passing yards. They’re also 16th with a 42.4 percent success rate on third down.
The injuries have impacted a championship-caliber defense as well. San Francisco is 11th with 23.4 points allowed per game, but still rank fourth with just under 327 yards allowed. They’re top-10 against both the run and pass, and also top-10 in third down percentage defense. The Niners have 18 sacks as a team as well, which is the eight-fewest in the NFL.
After a down year in 2019 following a trip to the Super Bowl, the Rams seemed primed to return to the playoffs in 2020. A 4-1 start helped put them on the map, but a couple of bad losses in the middle of the season kept them outside of first place. However, L.A. has come out firing after their bye week, getting back-to-back wins against two of the conference’s top teams in the Seahawks and Buccaneers.
Quarterback Jared Goff is overseeing an offense that is averaging 24.3 points per game, 18th in the NFL. However, they are gaining plenty of yardage, ranking fifth with 407 yards per game and top-10 ranks in both rushing yards and passing yards. Los Angeles also has the sixth-highest third down percentage at 46.8.
Across the board, you’d be hard-pressed to find a defense in the NFC that is better than the Rams’. L.A. is allowing a league-low 312 total yards per game, sitting in the top-five in both passing and rushing yards allowed.
Only the Steelers are allowing fewer than the 19.2 the Rams give up per game. In addition to also being in the top-five on third down defense, Aaron Donald and the rest of the Rams pass rushers have 32 sacks as a team, the fourth-most in football, in addition to 10 interceptions.
In their last seven games, the 49ers are not only 2-5 straight up, but also 2-5 against the spread. However, they are 7-3 in their last ten against the Rams both straight up, and ATS, and are 10-4 straight up in their previous 14 road games.
Meanwhile, the Rams are 4-2 ATS in their last six games overall and a perfect 6-0 straight up in their previous six home games. However, as mentioned earlier, they struggle against San Francisco, and surprisingly are just 2-4 ATS in their last six games played on a Sunday.
First off, I don’t think we’ll see a lot of points in this game, as both defenses are capable of dominant stretches. While the Rams are healthier and playing better at the moment, coming off of a bye week should help the Niners prepare for their opponents. Ultimately, I like L.A. to win, but with their offense not blowing anyone away and San Francisco’s familiarity with them, I think the 49ers cover and make the game close.
Pick: 49ers +7