Boy, these are a pair of sad sacks coming into this "Monday Night Football" showdown. Last Sunday the Rams (7-2) couldn’t beat the Tennessee Titans at home despite not having to deal with Derrick Henry. Then the 49ers (3-5) went out to face the Arizona Cardinals but still couldn't come up with a win despite not facing Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins or J.J. Watt. This seemed like a welcome mat to victory for both. What the hell is going on here?
You can look at it in two different ways. The Rams had a four-game win streak before last weekend and, obviously, are motivated to stay in playoff contention. So that thud of a game against the Titans may have just been an aberration. The Niners rolled into that Arizona game having lost four of their last five and still couldn’t get a signature win on the left side of the ledger. Now, apparently, the Niners are a spinning ball of confusion.
The loser here could see a turning point in their season… and not in a good way.
Monday Night Football: Los Angeles (7-2) at San Francisco (3-5)
Kickoff: Monday, Nov. 15 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Rams -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Jimmy G’s last stand?
The handsome quarterback could be making his final start of the season against the Rams this week. And it's not really his fault. In his defense, Jimmy Garappolo has NOT been the problem in San Fran's 3-5 start. It's just that wins aren't piling up and the fans (and maybe the coaches too?) want to see the guy that the Niners spent their first-round draft pick on. Trey Lance started one game this year - a forgettable 17-10 squashing by the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5 - and has played in three others, going 25-of-48 for 354 yards, three touchdowns, and one pick. He also is third on the team with 133 rushing yards while averaging an impressive 4.9 yards per carry. No matter who is at the controls, the offense is starting to spark with Deebo Samuel stepping up, the return of George Kittle, who missed over a month, and Brandon Aiyuk who could be an emerging target.
2. Will Matthew Stafford look like Matthew Stafford again?
Up until last weekend, Stafford was looking like All-Pro material, leading the NFL with 2,771 yards and boasting a 23:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Against the Titans, Stafford was looking like a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of a businessman's shoe coming out of the bathroom (who is also inexplicably still zipping up his fly at the same time). Two terrible-looking picks turned into touchdowns for Tennessee and Stafford finished the day with a putrid 17.3 QBR, his lowest of the season to say the least. Pressure was definitely part of the problem, as he was sacked five times (compared to 13 total prior) and the Titans were credited with 11 QB hits. Also keep in mind that Stafford will be facing a 49ers D that made Colt McCoy (yes, he's still in the league) look Canton-bound, as he went 22-of-26 with a 119.4 QB rating. The Niners are still fourth in the NFL, giving up just 207 passing yards per game, so this will be another big challenge for Stafford and Co. But I've got to believe that Titans game was an aberration for this Rams offense.
3. Rams defense could get even more Ram Tough
Despite the loss, the Rams held the Titans to a measly 194 total yards. That's an impressive statistic. (It also shows how impactful those two interceptions by Stafford and the 12 penalties for 115 yards were, but I digress). Jalen Ramsey has become a real force since he's been allowed to roam all over the field more compared to matching up one-on-one with the opponent's WR1 like he did last year. His size and ability have allowed defensive coordinator Raheem Morris to move him around. In addition to that, Von Miller looks like he is good to go for this week after being traded last week from the Broncos. It will be really interesting to see how much Morris uses Miller, especially if he is lined up next to Aaron Donald. That should be fun to watch.
Oh, Due to Breaking News At Press Time Let's Do A Bonus "Thing To Watch"
While it's not a guarantee, newly-signed Odell Beckham Jr. is expected to make his Rams debut on Monday night even though he will have been with the team a few days. The move by the Rams takes on even more significance considering the developing news regarding a torn ACL suffered by Robert Woods during practice on Friday.
With Woods lost for the season, the Rams need Beckham to produce sooner rather than later. Woods is second to Cooper Kupp on the team in receptions (45), receiving yards (556), and touchdown catches (4). Besides Beckham, Los Angeles also needs Van Jefferson and tight end Tyler Higbee to help make up for Woods' absence.
As touched on a bit above, both the Rams and the 49ers are pretty good defensive teams. One oddity to this series is that Kyle Shanahan seems to have Sean McVay's number of late as the Niners have won four straight games between these two Golden State rivals.
Everything that goes into this prediction is predicated on the fact that we have to look at the Rams' performance last week was an outlier. I think it was and I think they’re going to want to show the pigskin world that they are a team to contend with down the stretch. And besides, I haven't really yet seen the 49ers beat a good team, so until they do, it’s the Rams for me.
Prediction: Rams 28, 49ers 20
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.