The NFL is about set to wrap up the 2017 regular season. All 16 games will take place on Sunday, and the NFL has removed a Sunday Night Football game from the slate to ensure competitive balance for playoff spots. There are a host of AFC teams competing for a wild card berth, and all of them will be playing at the same time.
The San Francisco 49ers are back in action one last time this weekend as they travel to Southern California to face the Los Angeles Rams. It’s a fitting close to the season. The 49ers are not going to the playoffs, but we are seeing quite the resurgence in the NFC West. The Rams have claimed the division crown, while the 5-10 49ers are looking nothing like the team that opened the season 1-10. Four straight wins with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm will do that.
We’re back with a look at Week 17 NFL power rankings around the media, and I’m sticking with the look at our media sources for both the 49ers and Rams. Last week, the 49ers had their biggest matchup of the year, and put a hurting on the Jacksonville Jaguars No. 1-ranked defense. The 49ers almost blew the game late, but they held on for a 44-33 win that has most everybody plenty optimistic.
This week, the 49ers face a Rams team that is coming off back-to-back road wins, including a 42-7 thumping of the Seattle Seahawks. With Carson Wentz done for the year, the Rams, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints are arguably the three best teams heading into the NFC playoff. The Rams seem just a step off in this, but Todd Gurley and that defense could carry them far. Jared Goff is playing good football, but if they win the Super Bowl it will be because of the defense and/or Todd Gurley.
The Rams are going to be either the third or fourth seed after this weekend. It remains to be seen what they will do with some of their starters. I am hoping we see them all out there for purposes of evaluating the 49ers, but either way, a fifth straight win to close out the season would be a strong message for 2018.
49ers: In a week where playoff scenarios dominate the NFL news cycle, the 49ers have reason to be extremely optimistic, despite getting eliminated from postseason contention a month ago. And it’s all because of Jimmy Garoppolo. The former Patriots quarterback had people buzzing with his two-minute drill to beat the Titans, but putting up 44 points on the top-rated Jaguars defense is even more impressive. And it has hopes sky high in San Francisco. No team has a longer winning streak than the 49ers, and the Garoppolo hype train is chugging along at full steam.
49ers: Clearly the win total came well before the Jimmy Garoppolo deal. Garoppolo is now 4-0 as the starter in San Francisco, the only undefeated quarterback in the league since Week 13.
Jaguars: You know you're having a special season when you hit your preseason over/under halfway through the schedule. That's what Los Angeles did this year. And while Jared Goff's improvement has been key, give some love to Todd Gurley, who eclipsed 2,000 yards from scrimmage in Week 16.
49ers: Niners Nation talked about the possibility of extending receiver Marquise Goodwin, who has another year left on his deal. It makes sense. Goodwin has been a great find. It’s worth it to invest now rather than pay more later. He should have a fine 2018 with a full year of Jimmy Garoppolo throwing him the ball.
Rams: In the final 12 minutes of a 27-23 game, the Rams defense got three stops in three tries against the Titans in a win that clinched a division title. Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Sean McVay’s play-calling get a lot of the attention, but the Rams have a good defense too. This a team without a real weakness.
Last Week’s Rank: 20
Points in MMQB Power Poll: 178
Highest-Place Vote: Ninth
Lowest-Place Vote: 18th (2)
Last Week’s Result: Win vs. Jacksonville, 44-33
Week 17 Opponent: at L.A. Rams
Last Week’s Rank: 4
Points in MMQB Power Poll: 288
Highest-Place Vote: Second (2)
Lowest-Place Vote: Fifth (7)
Last Week’s Result: Win at Tennessee, 27-23
Week 17 Opponent: vs. San Francisco
49ers: Games like Sunday's show why the future is bright for the San Francisco 49ers. We got to see how special Kyle Shanahan is as an offensive play-caller. We also got to fully experience the energy he and Jimmy Garoppolo have brought to the franchise.
The Jaguars are one of the most physical teams in football, and the 49ers smacked them around early.
With Shanahan and Garoppolo on board, the 49ers have the potential to field one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL next season. They have the confidence, they have the key pieces in place, and they have a ton of cap space to utilize in free agency.
Rams: The Rams didn't have kicker Greg Zuerlein on Sunday, and that stood out. His replacement, Sam Ficken, missed an extra point and his lone field-goal attempt. Zuerlein is out for the year, and the kicker position will be something to watch moving forward. Zuerlein was a big and reliable weapon for Los Angeles.
Even with a kicking issue, the Rams are able to win in all three phases. They still have tremendous special-teams players, an opportunistic pass defense, a quality pass rush and a bevy of offensive weapons. They also have Todd Gurley, who would be my pick for NFL MVP.
A year after going just 4-12, the Rams have a legitimate shot at going to the Super Bowl.
49ers: They have to be thrilled with the 4-0 start by Jimmy Garoppolo. They need to sign him to a long-term deal as soon as they can.
Rams: They are going to be a real problem for any team in the playoffs. They can run it with Todd Gurley and now the defense is playing better.
49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo can do no wrong right now. Win out and extend your undefeated record as an NFL starter into 2018? Sure, why not? Chuck touchdown passes sidearm? Sure, why not? Dissect the top pass defense in the league? Sure, why not? Throw in a rushing touchdown for all the chicks? Sure, why not? Stare 10,000 bands and their songs into an iPod? Sure, why ... wait, that was a Chuck Norris joke. Have your agent ask for $25 million a year this offseason? Sure, why not?
Jaguars: The Rams earned a quality road win Sunday, even if it was a bit closer than most pundits anticipated. Todd Gurley continued to stake his claim -- and, by extension, the claim of every overlooked running back over the years -- to the league MVP award. Ezekiel Elliott should have received serious consideration last year. Hopefully, Gurley, who racked up 276 (276!!!!!) yards from scrimmage Sunday, will do better with the voters this year. The effort of the day, though, must go to Connor Barwin, who was all motor on that final Titans play to corral ... or upend ... or discombobulate Marcus Mariota. Heck, I don't know what to call that final sack/tumble/Vlade flop.
49ers: The success of QB Jimmy Garoppolo playing in Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense provides plenty of hope for next season in Year 2 of the Niners’ new regime. The 49ers are playing like a playoff team right now. Unfortunately for them, it took them until December to get Garoppolo into the lineup.
Rams: Todd Gurley is very unlikely to be the league’s MVP. It’s difficult to imagine the award going to anyone but Tom Brady. But Gurley is having a terrific season and he certainly belongs in the conversation.
49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo is now 4-0 as the 49ers starter and has teammates talking about winning the Super Bowl next season.
Rams: Christmas came early for the Rams with their first NFC West championship since 2003.