Oh, this is gonna be good (claps hands, rubs them together). San Francisco and Los Angeles going at it again. The towns named after the sainthood of Francis of Assisi and the City of Angels. But tell me, if this is a bunch of saints and angels here, why so much hate?
These two Golden Staters just don't get along. Nope. Not after the Rams ended the 49ers' season last year and not after the 49ers have beaten the Rams seven straight times in the regular season. And as Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald famously said, "We don't like them. They don't like us." Yep, it's that simple.
These two last faced off four Mondays ago when the 49ers put a boa constrictor's grip on the Rams' offense in a 24-9 squashing. San Francisco harassed and harangued Matthew Stafford as the Rams were held without a touchdown and amassed just 257 yards of offense.
It's widely known that the Niners have dominated this series in the regular season, winning seven straight matchups vs. the Rams going back four years. But the Niners also are coming off a bruising 44-23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that was the marquee game in the NFL last Sunday. Arrrrgh.
San Francisco (3-4) at Los Angeles (3-3)
Three Things to Watch
1. It's Christian McCaffrey's REAL coming-out party.
Well, here we go. It has been widely reported that when Rams head coach Sean McVay heard the Niners got McCaffrey his reaction was an NSFW, "Oh sh*t, they get another great player." The Rams were one of the top suiters for the dynamic running back but couldn't match the 49ers' offer. And we all got a little appetizer of what the 49er offense would be with the newly acquired McCaffrey as he ran for 38 yards and caught two passes for 24 yards against the Chiefs last week. And that was after studying the Niners playbook for just two days. Now, he'll have a whole week of work under his wheels and will be ready to unleash his full fury on the Rams' defense. But don't sleep on Jeff Wilson Jr., who still ran for 54 yards on seven carries vs. the Chiefs after a "bad" outing the week before, so don't expect his role to shrivel to nothing.
2. Can the Rams keep Matthew Stafford vertical?
As mentioned above, the Niners made Stafford's Monday night experience a living hell when they played earlier this month. Nick Bosa and Co. sacked Stafford seven times that night. The Niners QB pressure rate is an impressive 31 percent, led by Bosa's NFL-best seven sacks on the season. Stafford went into the bye week with just six touchdowns and eight interceptions and an 84.6 passer rating, all numbers that could be so much better. This Rams O-line is made of swiss cheese and is not a positive going into this showdown against one of the best defenses in the league. And this all goes along with the fact that Stafford has been sacked 22 times in six games. Despite giving up 529 yards to the Chiefs, the Niners' defense is still third in the NFL giving up just 295 yards per game.
3. Should the Rams follow the KC playbook?
It goes without saying that the Rams are not the Chiefs when it comes to offensive personnel. KC is No. 1 in the NFL at 31.9 points per game. The Rams are 29th in the league, averaging a paltry 17.3 points per game. But there are a few things that the Rams can glean from the Chiefs piling up 535 yards and 44 points on the 49ers. Kansas City was especially effective with misdirection runs and jet sweeps, getting three touchdowns from Mecole Hardman, who scored all of them while getting the ball after running in motion. You can imagine the Rams will be ready to use Cooper Kupp in multiple ways and hope running backs Darrell Henderson Jr. and Kyren Williams can find some lanes to run in and keep the Rams balanced.
In my preview for the last game between these two four Mondays ago, I talked about San Francisco's "dormant offense." And to be fair, they were coming off a dreadful 11-10 loss to Denver. But now the offense looks much different with the addition of McCaffrey, the emergence of Brandon Aiyuk (15 catches, 165 yards in the last two games), and the running of Wilson. Something tells me this will be a different team down the stretch.
And that's good because the 49ers are off to their second straight 3-4 start to a season, but they are a team worth keeping an eye on as a dark horse when January rolls around. The 49ers already beat the Rams once this week in winning the McCaffrey sweepstakes, now I think they're about to add insult to injury.
Prediction: 49ers 28, Rams 24
— 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.
*Price as of publication.