A year ago, the San Francisco 49ers went on the road and thumped the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17. Jimmy Garoppolo and Carlos Hyde each had big days, but the Rams had benched several starters with their playoff position effectively settled. It was useful game experience for the 49ers, but it came with the asterisk.
This season, the 49ers travel to face the Rams in Week 17, but they should face a full strength Rams squad (well, as full strength as a team can be in Week 17). The NFL has moved the Chicago Bears season finale against the Minnesota Vikings from 10 a.m. PT to 1:25 p.m., the same time as 49ers-Rams. The Rams are 12-3, while the Bears are 11-4. If the Bears win and the Rams lose, Chicago moves into the second seed and the much appreciated first round bye. If the Bears lose or the Rams win, LA gets the bye.
This gives the 49ers one last significant challenge to close out the season. With nothing else to play for, I love the idea of seeing the 49ers defense face the dynamic Rams offense, and the 49ers offense face an aggressive Rams defense. Win or lose, I would much rather face the Rams starters in this kind of situation to provide a measuring stick for the 49ers.
The 49ers opened the season with a tough slate, but as the season progressed, it became clear these final five games were going to present a serious challenge. The 49ers are 2-2 heading into the finale, and we’ve seen a lot to give us reason for optimism on both sides of the ball. This season finale gives us a chance for one last look at what they can do against one of the best teams in the NFL.