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5 Qs and 5 As: One last look at the Rams before Round 3

The 49ers, and by extension their fans, might know the Rams better than any other team in the league, but it never hurts to get an insider’s perspective before a big game.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Going into this weekend’s NFC Championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers, you might believe that you know every angle of this matchup from top to bottom.

These teams have faced off twice already this season, and, as has been pointed out by everyone everywhere all week, the Niners own a six-game winning streak against the only team standing in their way of a second Super Bowl berth in three years.

However, the Rams aren’t anywhere near the same team as they were in Week 10, and after two impressive playoff performances, they seem to have made a jump since Week 18. With all this in mind, it felt right to reach out to my counterpart over at the Turf Show Times to gather a little more intel before kickoff.

A huge shout out to Evan Craig, who thoroughly answered all these questions on short notice, even after my email to him referenced a game-tying drive with 1:27 on the clock and no timeouts. He’s a real mensch!

1. These two teams faced off in Week 18, a short 21 days ago. In that time, the Rams dismantled the Cardinals in the league’s first Monday night Wild Card game, then went into Tampa Bay and quite possibly ended Tom Brady’s career maybe… Do you feel differently about this team given that information, and if so, how?

I feel better about this team now than I have for most of the season. Following the Rams’ loss to Green Bay, I decided to be a Debbie Downer and crap on the team’s chances by labeling them a pretender.

At that point, LA was mired in a three-game losing streak. Nothing seemed to be going right, so no one could’ve faulted me in that thinking. Then, the Rams went on to win five straight, and the balance of the universe was restored again. Before the playoffs started, I didn’t see a deep playoff run unfolding for Los Angeles.

Jokes on me now, right? I’ve seen their dominance against the Cardinals and their resilience against Tampa. Being dominant and showing resilience is generally a strong sign of a championship-aspiring team. I can’t wait to see what the next game reveals about the Rams in their Super Bowl push.

2. Matthew Stafford was the team’s biggest offseason acquisition after it became clear that Jared Goff was not the long-term answer at quarterback. He’s had high highs and low lows this season. Considering that variance, how confident do you feel in his ability to secure a win today?

Matthew Stafford has been thoroughly dominant this postseason. He’s essentially flipped his playoff narrative with one run. All doubts will be forever silenced should he win a Lombardi down the road. I would say I’m feeling very confident in his ability to secure a win.

Last week’s heroics against the Bucs showed Rams fans and the NFL world what he could do when the game’s on the line on a bigger stage. Stafford doesn’t necessarily need to be perfect against SF, but if he continues to produce in big moments, he’ll be playing at home on February 13.

On a side note, I wrote a very flattering article this week about Matt’s changing narrative, so I’m praying he doesn’t do anything to change my mind.

3. This Rams defense has been a top unit all year, even with the exit of Brandon Staley and several role players. Obviously, the mega-watt stars, like Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and, as of late, Von Miller, are all key contributors. Who’s someone that Niner fans might be unfamiliar with but could have a huge impact on this game?

Starting safety Nick Scott is a player who could have a huge impact on today’s game. Scott has played 100 percent of the defensive snaps so far in the postseason, so I have to believe LA would continue to keep him on the field. He had himself a game aside from possibly being the last player to pick off Tom Brady. Besides his interception, this play against the Bucs showcases his rangy playmaking abilities.

4. In regards to the 49ers’ current six-game winning streak over the Rams, Sean McVay was asked about whether or not Kyle Shanahan, his long-time friend and one-time boss, is quote-unquote in his head? He responded with a flat, “No.” As an outside observer, what do you make of that narrative?

Coach McVay might not wanna admit it, but Shanahan and the 49ers are in the Rams’ heads. You don’t lose six straight without having all those mental gaffes and missed opportunities weighing on you at some point. In week 18, LA held firm and kept the Niners in check.

Then, they continually shot themselves in the foot, leading to McVay’s first loss as a head coach when leading at halftime. I’d have to believe McVay will replay those previous mistakes and try to correct them as much as he possibly can. Also, it’s very difficult in this league to beat the same opponent three times. Given their tense rivalry, both teams, along with Shanahan and McVay, know each other’s tendencies extremely well.

There’s just not really much that can be done to surprise the other. Something’s got to break in the Rams’ favor eventually. Will that come today? See my answer below to find out.

5. What’s your prediction for today’s game?

Oh man, I think you’re trying to get me to jinx the Rams by answering this question. The Rams win this game if they can limit Deebo and other key playmakers. That’ll obviously be easier said than done, of course, but with how LA’s defense has performed in these playoffs, it can be done.

Never mind that they nearly choked away a 27-3 lead last week. That was more on the offense than anything. This game will be very close. I’m predicting a 27-24 win in Los Angeles’ favor. Stafford and company will be determined to wash the sour taste of week 18 out of their mouths.

As long as Cam Akers and the rest of the offense don’t overdo it with the pregame Butterfingers, the Rams will play with determination in trying to become the second consecutive team to host the Super Bowl.