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49ers/Rams NFC Championship predictions: Expect another rollercoaster win for the Niners

All of us except for one staffer is on the road team

NFC Divisional Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Green Bay Packers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Let’s not waste your time. Let’s get right into the predictions. We’ve broken down this game as much as we could. You know the Rams. I know them. Will this time be any different?

Jordan’s prediction: 49ers 31, Rams 20

You didn’t think I’d start picking against this team of destiny, now did you? But, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, something special is going on with this 49ers team (feels like that win at Lambeau vindicated that for what it’s worth). I think the mojo they’re cooking with right now, coupled with a favorable matchup they have against a Rams team they’ve beaten six times in a row, bodes well for their chances in this one.

I’ve been sitting on this statement for a few days, wanting to make sure I am confident before I throw it out there, but I am ready to say that I think this game ends up being more like the Week 10 matchup than the regular-season finale in week 18. I think we see the 49ers be able to move the ball much more consistently over the course of the full four quarters, and they end surprisingly most with a statement win at their second home in SoFi Stadium.

The 49ers' pass rush pressured Matthew Stafford 28 times in their last matchup, logging 5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits as well. Stafford has torched teams that chose to blitz him, but the 49ers have been able to get pressure regularly with four, registering a 41% pressure rate while only blitzing 14% of the time vs. Los Angeles this season.

Jimmy Garoppolo is at his best, throwing between the numbers, and coincidentally the Rams defense’s weakest link is arguably their pass defense over the middle. In two meetings this season, Garoppolo has an 80% completion percentage and averages 8.8 yards per attempt when throwing over the middle. I think Shanahan finds a way to expose a vulnerable spot in an otherwise strong Rams defense.

Physicality ends up being the difference in this one, and the 49ers' ability to wear down the Rams' defense with players like Elijah Mitchell, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle proves to be too much for Los Angeles to handle. The 49ers handle business, and all eyes turn towards a super bowl rematch (whether it is one from two years ago or one from 33 years ago, depending on the outcome of the AFC Championship game).

Akash: 49ers 27, Rams 23

Styles make fights.

The Rams are extremely talented, well-coached, and capable of beating the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. They came very close in Week 18, blowing a 17-point lead at home.

That being said, I think the 49ers are built to defeat a team like the Rams. They can rush the passer with four and stop the Rams’ rushing attack. On the opposite side of the ball, their physical rushing game should have success against the Rams’ front, and Jimmy Garoppolo’s quick release should help mitigate the Rams’ pass rush.

Kyle Shanahan has had Sean McVay’s number in the last three seasons, winning six straight times. Jimmy Garoppolo has the best winning percentage of any NFL quarterback as an underdog, and he’ll be one this weekend in Los Angeles.

If McVay is a king, Shanahan is the kingmaker, and I’ll take the 49ers in a close battle on the road for the NFC crown and the legacy points.

Rob’s prediction: 49ers 27, Rams 20

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern, but six times? There’s not even a saying for that. The 49ers have beaten the Rams with Jared Goff. They’ve beaten the Rams with Matthew Stafford. They’ve beaten the Rams with not two but three different defensive coordinators. At some point, even the most ardent of Rams fans would have to admit there is something about this matchup that tilts in the 49ers’ favor.

That doesn’t mean there’s no way the 49ers lose this game. That’s not the case at all. In my mind, however, the only way the 49ers lose is if they aren’t able to do things that they’ve done pretty consistently throughout these last six games, and I don’t see why that would change.

In two games this year, the 49ers have run the ball 75 times for 291 yards. If the Rams were capable of stopping the ground attack, surely they would have done it by now. To the people suggesting that the Rams are going to be more physical on defense, I would ask this: What have they been waiting for? They had to lose six straight before they got really mad?

One other thing to consider: Matthew Stafford hasn’t gone three straight games this season without throwing an interception, and he has 4 picks in two games against San Francisco this year. As much as we talk about Jimmy Garoppolo potentially giving the ball away, it’s entirely possible Matthew Stafford gives the 49ers some extra possessions as well.

It won’t be easy and probably won’t be pretty, but I see a second Super Bowl in three years coming for San Francisco.

Marc’s prediction: 49ers 34, Rams 17

Unlike Green Bay, the Rams have the on-paper talent to stack up against the 49ers beyond their significantly better quarterback. Of course, that has not played out in their matchups this year and throughout Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan’s tenures.

The 49ers have always done a fantastic job removing an opponent’s best defender from the game. Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald are probably better than any player on the Niners' defense, but Shanahan has more consistently found a way to limit their impact than McVay has done with Fred Warner or Nick Bosa. Part of that is Shanahan’s superior schematic ability, but it also is a difference in philosophy.

The Rams might have slightly better stars on both sides of the ball, although that’s more up in the air on offense, the way they use them is quite different. Los Angeles builds its units around its stars, funneling as many opportunities as they can to them. The 49ers obviously like their best players to be as involved as possible but are more trusting of other players on their roster.

Think about this, Shanahan is 4-1 in his postseason career. In those five games, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle have combined for just one game with more than 100 yards from scrimmage. They have been content and successful, trusting the likes of Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Juszczyk, Elijah Mitchell, and Jauan Jennings in huge moments.

As low as I am on Jimmy Garoppolo, the stage is set for a big game from him. Rams signal-caller Matthew Stafford is a superior player, but the gap between him and Jimmy G is much smaller than it was against the Cowboys or Packers. Stafford has struggled mightily against the 49ers and other defenses that have generated pressure with their front four. I think Garoppolo will outplay Stafford, and if that’s true, Los Angeles does not really have a shot.

Xavier’s prediction: 49ers 35, Rams 24

I’m going to do my best to keep mine short and sweet. The offense hasn’t been great in the last two playoff games, and I think that changes Sunday. It worries me that Trent Williams has missed practice all week, but I think the offensive line will have an improved performance from last week.

This leads me to Elijah Mitchell—his physical running has helped this offense move the ball. Although I think this game will be won with a Garoppolo’s arm—it's important to note the need for the run game to be consistent.

The defense (like the offense) is in great hands. DeMeco Ryans has been one of the rising head-coaching candidates this season. Ryans’ secondary continues to line up against talented receivers. Keeping Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford off-beat with pressure will help out these 49er corners.

Tyler’s Prediction: 49ers 24, Rams 21

I have a similar sense coming into this game as I did the Packers. Sure, the matchup data, the styles, and the six-game winning streak all favor the 49ers, buuuuuut... It’s Matthew Stafford vs. Jimmy G, and when you have two quarterbacks as prone to volatility as these two, anything can happen.

If the 49ers’ offense manages to come out and run the ball like in the first two times these teams met, then you have to like their chances. If the 49ers’ defense manages to pressure Stafford like the first two games, then you have to like their chances. However, the flip side is still the flip side. Von Miller looked like Von Miller against the Bucs, and he’ll either be lined up against Tom Compton or, quite possibly, Colton McKivitz. Oh, and they still have Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd. If Garopplo is under pressure, anything can happen.

You do have to feel that coming into this game, after basically six quarters of no offensive production, the dam is going to burst. There are just too many playmakers for the unit to be held out of the end zone like they were in what felt like 0 degrees at Lambeau. It probably won’t hurt that the stadium will be bumping with Niners fans like in Week 18. So, with all this said and believing that anything can happen, I must once again take the Niners.

Kyle’s prediction: 49ers 23, Rams 21

As you’ve read above, Stafford is due for regression to the mean — whether that’s against the blitz or, in general, the Rams QB has been lights out. I tend to think the Rams playing with the lead has been a big reason why.

The Rams cannot block the 49ers' defensive line. Stafford hasn’t attempted more than 40 passes in a game in any of the previous nine games. If we assume the 49ers don’t spot Los Angeles a 17-point lead and use the evidence we have in the second half of the season that no team can run the ball on the Niners, we’re bound to see a different version of Stafford when he’s not playing with the lead.

The 49ers have to find a way to put pressure on Stafford by getting out to a lead. The Rams, while talented, haven’t had to jump through the same types of hoops or faced the adversity San Francisco has this season.

I’d like to see Shanahan come out with the game-plan we saw in the second half of Week 18, where it was a mix of run and pass and not one-sided where Garoppolo was forced into third and long situations.

The pressure is on the Rams. They’re at “home” and went all in to make the Super Bowl. At this point, it feels like the 49ers are playing with house money. They’ve won games in ways that I didn’t know existed.

I’ve seen McVay in big moments. He gets greedy, wants to get everything back in one play, and crumbles. The superstars on the Rams will get theirs, but the 49ers come out on top. Why? Because they have when it matters most all season.

Yinon’s prediction: Rams 28, 49ers 24

I’ve seen everybody here picking the 49ers, and I’m worried we’re jinxing them. The key for the 49ers to win is for us to lose hope. The moment I give up on them, they come through with something ridiculous. I wrote a whole article about paranoid optimism earlier this year, but a more appropriate title would have been “optimistic paranoia.”

So that’s where I’m at with this game. No analysis, just vibes. I’m optimistically paranoid that the Rams are too mad about the streak, Stafford is playing too well, Jimmy is too chaotic, and that Kyle didn’t tell Sean a happy birthday, which is just *terrible* for good luck.

I won’t say that I think Deebo is better than Jalen Ramsey, our defense is playing like the best defense in the league, and that Jimmy loves picking on Rams LBs more than he loves seeing longboarders get hit by cars. I believe those things to be true, but I’m not rational enough to officially pick them on the World Wide Web. I’ll take one for the team and be miserably pessimistic, and I hope that I get proven wrong, and everybody laughs at me—Bang bang.