This is a rather large NFC West game early in the season
The Rams and 49ers meet for the first time this season in a big battle between NFC West rivals. LA swept San Francisco last year, beating the Niners 39-10 on the road and 48-32 at home. Jared Goff threw for six touchdowns with no interceptions combined in the two games. On the San Fran side, C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens had five INTs and were sacked 10 times.
Los Angeles enters this one with a 3-2 record, having lost its last two contests. The defense has struggled mightily the last two weeks, giving up 55 points at home to Tampa Bay and 30 to the Seahawks on the road. Granted, the Rams should probably have beaten Seattle, but they missed a field goal late last Thursday night. Goff has been asked to throw a lot lately, and that's probably not the best strategy with a back like Todd Gurley on the roster.
San Francisco is one of two undefeated teams checking in with a 4-0 record. The Niners have been leaning on running backs Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman on offense, and their stout defense has held each of their opponents to 20 points or fewer. Jimmy Garoppolo has been very efficient, and George Kittle continues to be very productive as well. The tight end finally found the end zone last Monday night against Cleveland.
San Francisco at Los Angeles
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 13 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Rams -3
Three Things to Watch
There are a lot of little angles to this game. The 49ers enter the tilt having one less day to prepare after their easy 31-3 win on Monday night over Cleveland. This is their third road game of the season, although the trek from the Bay Area to Los Angeles isn't that long, but it does a stretch of three of four away from San Francisco. The Rams, meanwhile, are coming off a 10-day break after their tough loss to the Seahawks on "Thursday Night Football" in Week 5. It's the third home contest for the Rams, and their next game is on the road against Atlanta. One has to wonder if the difference in prep time will have an impact on this game.
2. Sack lunch on the menu
The focus could be on the respective offensive lines in this one, as both pass rushes are pretty tough to contain. The Rams have had sacks from five different players, led by Clay Matthews' six. Matthews is out with a broken jaw, so we'll see how his absence affects the Rams' defensive front. Aaron Donald is the player everyone focuses on, but he's got only one sack and five tackles for a loss. San Francisco has a quick passing attack and has allowed just four sacks overall. That's four fewer then the number of sacks the Rams have taken. San Fran has had sacks from eight different players, including three apiece from Nick Bosa and DeForest Buckner. A lot of the guys on the Niners defense aren't exactly household names, but that doesn't matter when your system is sound.
3. Balance is the key to everything
These two teams are very similar in that they can't rely on the pass to win. Granted, the Rams have a lot more weapons, but it's hard to trust Jared Goff to make the right decisions all the time. He's thrown seven interceptions already this season.
Even so, the Rams have shown a serious lack of balance on offense. LA has thrown it 222 times to just 115 rushes. We probably don't know the full story of Todd Gurley's health, as he has just 64 carries on the season. He's listed as doubtful for this one so it could be the Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson show. I like those two even though they aren't Gurley. I'd still run it with them as much as I can.
San Francisco has skewed a lot more to the run, with 154 carries to just 114 pass attempts. The Niners have a better collection of backs and a system that works really well when they are in the lead. But San Francisco also is dealing with several key injuries along the offensive line. Left tackle Joe Staley has been out since breaking his leg in Week 1 and right tackle Mike McGlinchey will miss at least a month after suffering a knee injury in the win on Monday night. Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk, a key piece to the team's offense, also will miss extended time because of a knee injury. So will the 49ers ball carriers find the same success running behind a reshuffled line? Or will head coach Kyle Shanahan have to change things up a bit and rely more on Jimmy Garoppolo to make plays with his arm?
Is it fair to say we still haven't seen the 49ers tested yet this season? They have wins over the Browns, Steelers, Bengals, and Buccaneers. San Francisco is putting up good numbers, but this will be the best defense that this team has faced, and the offense will be without several key pieces. The Rams are on a two-game losing streak and have had extra time to prepare for this game against a banged-up team on short rest. I think for one week, at least, we remember how good LA is, and the Rams win this one easily.
Prediction: Rams 27, 49ers 14
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.