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An early look at the Rams: The 49ers open up as 7-point underdogs

San Francisco has failed to cover in its past three games.

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers return to action this Sunday as they travel to take on the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams. The Niners are 7-point underdogs with the total on the game set at 45. Vegas is predicting a 26-19 Rams win.

As we saw earlier this season, the 49ers match up well with the Rams. They have the speed, physicality, and coaching to offset what Los Angeles does well on both sides of the ball. Deebo Samuel put on his Instagram that he’s going to play this week. The expectation is Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., and Tevin Coleman returns as well. It’d be nice to have Richard Sherman back in the lineup, too.

The biggest difference between Sunday’s matchup and the last time these two teams played is under center. We are going to argue all offseason about what the 49ers should do with Jimmy Garoppolo. A big reason why it’s tough for fans to move on from Jimmy is that the quarterback play we’ve seen while he’s gone.

Their numbers on the season aren’t too far apart. Here’s a look at Garoppolo’s numbers side by side with Mullens. Jimmy is listed first:

EPA per play: .201 | Success rate: 50% | CPOE .3 | Air yards: 6.4 | DVOA: 3.1% | QBR: 59.1

EPA per play: .11 | Success rate: 50% | CPOE: 2.5 | Air yards: 6.2 | DVOA: -10% | QBR: 43.1

Garoppolo’s numbers are below average across the board, but because Mullens is worse, it makes it easier to forget Jimmy’s struggles for some. Still, there’s no doubting the Niners’ ceiling, and efficiency on offense is better with Garoppolo under center. Both quarterbacks make mistakes, but San Francisco can’t overcome mistakes with Mullens. The Niners’ backup must find a way to limit mistakes while still being aggressive.

On the other side of the ball, as we’ve seen in every game, Jared Goff will give you chances. He threw two interceptions against Tampa Bay and missed a slant late in the game that would have sealed it. Don’t let a poor Tom Brady performance fool you into thinking Goff played well. He did not. The Rams also struggled on the ground.

Where the Rams made life easier on Goff was getting him into 3rd & 5. It felt like every third down was manageable for Goff. They went 8 for 15 on third down and also had two penalties where they converted on third down. Of those plays, 13 were 3rd & 5 or less. That’s great coaching by Sean McVay. If San Francisco is going to pull off the upset, they must find a way to win on early downs and make Goff uncomfortable.