The Los Angeles Rams (4-1) and San Francisco 49ers (2-3) are hanging around in the NFC West, which appears to be the most competitive division in the NFL. The Rams have benefitted from an easier schedule, with three of their wins coming over the Eagles, Giants, and Washington. The 49ers have been harder hit by injuries than any other team, with nine players on injured reserve, six others ruled out, and five players still questionable.
Sunday night’s game kicks off at 8:20 P.M. ET with the Rams three-point road favorites. The over/under is 51.5.
Los Angeles Rams – Fire On All Cylinders
The Rams are one game behind Seattle for the lead in the NFC West with a 35-32 loss to the Bills in week 3 as the only blemish on their record.
Quarterback Jared Goff has been serviceable in 2020, but has yet to truly dominate a game. He’s completed more than 71% of his passes, while throwing for 1,372 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions. Goff has also rushed for a pair of touchdowns.
In both of the games where Goff has thrown for more than 300 yards, he’s also thrown an interception. Even against the lowly Giants, Goff mustered just 200 yards and one score. Despite their injuries, the 49ers still have an excellent defense which could give the Rams QB fits on Sunday night.
The Rams utilize a running back by committee approach in their rushing strategy. Darrell Henderson Jr. and Malcom Brown have both passed the 200-yard mark, while rookie Cam Akers is back after missing the last two games with an injury. L.A. is seventh in the NFL in rushing yards per game.
Los Angeles does have one of the better defensive units in the league. They are allowing the fourth-fewest yards, and third-fewest points per game although once again, the strength of schedule hasn’t been the best. The combined record of the teams the Rams have beat this year is 4-15-1.
The Rams will win if they put together a complete game, finish drives, and win the turnover battle. Speaking of finishing drives, Rams kicker Samuel Sloman has made six of eight field goals, but his longest make is from 35 yards out. If L.A. is forced to settle for field goals in the red zone, they’re in trouble.
San Francisco 49ers – Survive and Advance
Getting out of Week 6 without any additional injuries is nearly as important to the 49ers as getting a win. San Francisco has a gauntlet coming up with games at New England, at Seattle, home against Green Bay, then at New Orleans before their Week 11 bye. That’s a tough stretch for a battered team.
Jimmy Garoppolo is healthy (for now), but 49ers fans’ patience is wearing thin. Last year’s Super Bowl run was exciting, but the 49ers made it that far mostly due to their defense and run game. Garoppolo has played more than six games just once in his NFL career, that being last year. Unfortunately for San Francisco, we’ve seen what happens when they hand the ball to C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens.
Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has seen his role expand in the offense. Aiyuk is the 49ers’ third-leading receiver and third-leading rusher. Two of Aiyuk’s four carries have gone for touchdowns, while he is still looking for his first receiving touchdown. Still, it is nice to see the coaching staff finding creative ways to get him the ball, especially while teams may be focused more on stopping George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, and Jerick McKinnon.
San Francisco’s defense is allowing the fifth-fewest yards per game, and third-fewest passing yards. Linebacker Fred Warner is off to a Pro Bowl-caliber start to the season, with 27 solo tackles, 16 assisted tackles, two passes defended and an interception. He’s yet to record his first sack of the season, but Goff has been sacked seven times this season. If the pass rush can get to Goff early, the 49ers defense can keep things close enough for the upset.
The Pick Is In
If both teams were healthy, this matchup would likely come down to the wire, and the 49ers may actually have been favored. Unfortunately for San Francisco, the injury list is too long to feel comfortable picking them at a +3 spread.
While more than 57% of games have hit the over this season, both defenses are excellent and will keep scoring at a premium.
FREE PICK: Los Angeles Rams (-3), Under 51.5.