We might not get to make predictions again until September. The 49ers are too talented to turn the page to the offseason and get back to conjecture and rumors. Here’s to hoping the season extends Sunday.
Here are our predictions for Sunday.
Marc: Rams 31, 49ers 17
Maybe Kyle Shanahan’s recent dominance over Sean McVay will continue, but Los Angeles remains a more talented and better coached team. The fact is, the 49ers have squandered must-win games all season long, and with an uncertain quarterback decision, I feel even more tentative about their chances.
I’ve firmly believed Trey Lance should start over Jimmy Garoppolo all season long, but even I have to acknowledge that the Rams are one of the few teams where Jimmy G is a better matchup. The problem is, I think that leads Shanahan to start a severely injured Garoppolo. Despite all the talent around him, I don’t think Garoppolo is in a position to succeed if he plays. On the flip side, Lance’s inaccuracy in the short passing game and tendency to hold the ball for a long time seems like a dangerous combination against the Rams defense. Unless the 49ers rush for 200+ yards, I do not see the offense putting up more than 20 points without their defense forcing turnovers.
McVay and the Rams are as frustrated as anyone about their losing streak against the Niners. But, playing for playoff seeding, they have even more incentive to try and pour it on. Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has done a fantastic job all season without healthy corners, but I don’t think he has the same success this week. Granted, if Emmanuel Moseley returns to form, Ambry Thomas continues trending in the right direction, and San Francisco dominates on the ground, this could be interesting.
Rob’s prediction: Rams 30, 49ers 13
I can’t escape the feeling in the pit of my stomach that Kyle Shanahan is going to stick with Jimmy Garoppolo this week. If this season has taught us anything, it’s that Kyle Shanahan does not like the unknown. He has been reluctant to play basically the entire rookie class unless circumstances have forced his hand, and he continued to throw Josh Norman out onto the field despite numerous examples that he’s completely washed up.
Even if Garoppolo’s thumb is somehow able to hold together well enough for Jimmy to throw, we have no idea how much it will impact the rest of Kyle Shanahan’s usually perfect game plan against L.A. Will Jimmy have to be in the shotgun every play to make it easier for him to handle the snap? Last week every single run to Elijah Mitchell came with Trey Lance under center. Garoppolo never throws very deep down the field, but will that range be reduced even further thanks to that injured thumb?
The bottom line is that there are far too many coin flips on both sides of the ball that have to come up heads for the 49ers to be able to win this game. Maybe Jimmy G. holds together, and maybe they can run the ball, and maybe the entire secondary comes off the COVID list, and maybe they can piece together a game plan to stop Kupp and OBJ, and maybe Stafford throws some picks. Or perhaps none of that will happen, and the 49ers will get their doors blown off.
Kyle: 49ers 28, Rams 27
The offense during the last two first halves would suggest the 49ers aren’t up to the task of keeping pace with the Rams. Likewise, the previous eight games would suggest the Rams will start slow. The Niners also have recent history on their side against Sean McVay’s group.
Los Angeles has the advantage on the perimeter, but that only goes so far if you can’t block. The 49ers are better in the trenches defensively and more physical than the Rams offensively. Big plays will happen on both sides of the ball.
We don’t know whether the Niners' special teams will screw the pooch. Or if the quarterback will turn the ball over. Shanahan can scheme around Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald, while DeMeco Ryans will live with a big gain here and there. Unfortunately, neither can overcome a special teams’ gaffe.
I think we see a relatively clean game from the 49ers when they need it most as they lean on the players that got them to this point. For the fifth time in six games, San Francisco upsets the Rams, which means we get to talk about football for at least another week.
Yinon: Rams 31, 49ers 22
With so many DBs still in protocols, I see this becoming a shoot-out. Our pass rush and linebackers will hold things together as long as they can, but eventually, the DPIs will come, and it’ll just be unavoidable. A 9-6 affair, this shall not be.
If Trey Lance was taking the podium every day and Jimmy wasn’t throwing in practice all week, I’d be a lot more confident in our squad. Maybe Kyle is almost as good at gaslighting as he is at scheming up plays, but it’s so hard to see Jimmy not start on Sunday, given how this season has gone. I’ll assume that Jimmy is starting - thanks to the innovations in sports medicine and numbing drugs - because of this pervasive belief that the complex, short-middle Jimmy offense is better than the dumber, simpler, more explosive Trey offense.
Much like a thumb, I’m opposed. The Jimmy offense has beaten the Rams many times, yes, and McVay knows that and he hates that, and they’ll figure out how to take away the middle and stuff the run… forcing a (quite limited) Jimmy to throw to the sideline and deep. Which won’t happen, he’ll just keep trying to shove it to Deebo in triple coverage (whenever our run game isn’t getting the thumbs down from the stacked boxes). It just sounds like a bad idea.
Winning this game will take luck, and you could do worse than counting on Matthew Stafford to throw picks. But as one of the best pure throwers of the game, he can also throw bombs, and he’s in better sync with Odell and Kupp. Maybe they’re the ones who break our back in the end to set up a game-winning field goal, or maybe it’s a terribly timed turnover when the offense is right there. However it’ll happen, the way this season has gone, I know it’ll be frustrating as all hell. When Bay Area sports teams get frustrating, they get REALLY torturously frustrating. Until I see more of the magic, we have with Lance, that’s all I’ll expect on this monumental Week 17 battle... to be frustrated.
Jordan Elliott: 24-20 49ers
Whenever I make predictions, I always try to approach my analysis with objective logic propelling my decisions. The problem is, this matchup has defied logic for multiple seasons now. On paper, given the circumstances, the Rams SHOULD win this game. They boast a superior quarterback and arguably the greatest defensive player of this generation. They have studs on both sides of the ball, are playing at home, and playing for a chance to lock up the division and avoid starting the playoffs on the road.
Having said that, I simply cannot ignore my gut. And my gut is telling me that the 49ers are making the playoffs. While that might come via some assistance from Atlanta ( I actually think the Falcons have a great shot at playing spoiler by beating New Orleans this week), I am going to lean on the optimistic side and predict that the 49ers handle business with their destiny in their own hands.
For whatever reason, the Rams have been unable to make the necessary adjustments to Kyle Shanahan’s offense, particularly the way Shanahan has utilized Deebo Samuel. The Rams' greatest weakness on paper is their linebacker group, and regardless of who starts at quarterback for the 49ers this week, I think that is a matchup that heavily favors Shanahan and this scheme. As a result, the Niners will march into SoFi and win a game for the second time this season (If you count week 2 of the preseason vs. the Chargers).
Tyler: 49ers 27, Rams 24
One thing becomes apparent when you look at this game and all its history. It’s going to be close. You can just feel it. The entire season has been close, and there’s no reason for this one to be any different, especially when you consider the talent and coaching of the Rams.
However, the Niners have eaten that talent and that coach’s lunch for years now, and it has a lot to do with what Kyle Shanahan draws up against this defense. In many ways, it’s almost perfectly built for this team to exploit. The linebackers can’t cover, and in lieu of stopping the run,er they play to take away the deep pass game. Well, what can’t Jimmy do, and Kyle wants to do more than anything? Throw deep passes and run the ball.
If Shanahan can lean heavily on Elijah Mitchell and his other big playmakers, then it makes sense to me that they can take advantage of what’s given them. This reads to me as a classic last team to have the ball wins scenario, and out of false hope, I’ll go ahead and predict that will be the Niners.
Xavier: Rams 31, 49ers 21
Something is telling me that the dominance against the Los Angeles Rams will expire Sunday. I think playing an injured Jimmy Garoppolo will backfire for Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan. San Francisco will need their sharpest offensive performance of the year, and I don't know if Garoppolo can get them over the hump.
It’s up to the defense to slow down Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford has not been the sharpest in the last few weeks, but Los Angeles has figured out ways to win despite his struggles. Los Angeles is bringing reinforcements as they are scheduled to play Cam Akers after he tore his Achilles in July. Rams head coach and offensive play-caller Sean McVay look to pair Akers with Sony Michel, who is having a strong December.
Ultimately, I think Los Angeles has too much offensive firepower for the Niners. However, San Francisco’s defense has outperformed their talent threshold all season. I can feel Garoppolo having a turnover or two that would put the defense in a bad position. Hopefully, I'm wrong, and the 49ers handle business to secure their playoff spot.