According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Niners are one-point road favorites against the Los Angeles Rams in their second matchup this season. Compared to last year, when these teams didn’t meet until November 15th and finished up against one another in Week 18, they’ll have played both of their divisional games before Halloween.
This means no climactic showdown to determine who wins the NFC West or playoff positioning, but, as we cover below, that might not have been on the table for these teams anyways.
For the Niners, there’s a lot riding on this one. They need a win to get back to .500 before the bye week, to have a shot at a share of the division lead, and to extend their winning streak against the Rams to eight straight (or, in other words, FOUR YEARS). With all that in mind, let’s let Evan Craig educate us on the state of Sean McVay’s team.
1. First things first, how’s that shoe feeling on the other foot? That’s right, for once, the Niners dumped a whole mess of draft capital on a premium veteran player and snaked him away from their equally interesting division rival. Are you mentally prepared to face Christian McCaffrey this week and twice a year for the foreseeable future? (Side note: What’s the deal with Cam Akers? I thought only Kyle Shanahan put players in the doghouse.)
Honestly, I’m okay with the trade, and I’ve mentally prepared myself accordingly. What that entailed is a secret you’ll never get out of me. (Hint: it involved a lot of crying myself to sleep and screaming profanities into my life-size Cooper Kupp plushie)
I say I was okay with the trade as I wanted the Rams to be realistic with their options, and they also have more dire needs to address (cough ... O-line ... cough). I wrote a post earlier this month where I talked about running backs the Rams should trade for.
Obviously, McCaffrey was in that mix. But I figured he would be far too expensive, and the Niners proved me right. LA should trade for someone on the cheap, like D’Ernest Johnson, a backup on the Browns, for instance. A couple of months ago, as I’ve probably mentioned before, I even said the team should trade for James Robinson, who the Jets acquired for next to nothing. He would’ve been the perfect fit in this offense.
The Rams could’ve given up a late-round pick and gotten the Cam Akers stink off their hands but clearly, that window’s closed. Too often, LA swings for the fences for these home-run trades when an inside-the-park homer could be just as effective. I swear, if anyone from the Rams even skimmed through my article, I would’ve had a job in the front office by now. Oh well, wishful thinking, I suppose.
As for Cam, Sean McVay hasn’t ruled out his return to the offense. Akers just doesn’t seem to have a lot of confidence to the point of being ineffective. He has trouble finding the correct running lanes and hasn’t been the same back since returning from injury. Staying in the doghouse is the best possible thing for him to see if he can get his head straight.
They might not get anything in return for him if they trade Cam by himself, so the Rams could be stuck with him for the time being.
2. I think it’s safe to say that everyone who’s anyone predicted that by Week 8, when the Niners and Rams would face off for the second and final time of 2022, they’d both be looking UP at Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West standings. I’m aware of how the Niners got here, but what about the Rams? Can you pinpoint the root cause of this unexpected slow start?
Never did I expect to see Geno Smith gaining at least some consideration for MVP. Perhaps we are in the darkest timeline after all. Although the REAL darkest timeline would end with a 49ers Super Bowl win. (Sorry, Niners fans)
The Rams have gotten off to a slow start due to not playing complementary football. They can’t run the ball to save their lives. Part of this is due to poor play by the offensive line, not to mention the nagging injury bug that has been feasting on the unit, but that shouldn’t be an excuse.
LA hardly addressed the O-line in the offseason, and they’re paying severely for it. Instead of making a blockbuster trade, the Rams have to play it smart and instead go for need. However, at this point, Snead will do whatever he pleases because F Them Picks, am I right, kids?
Another issue has been that the Rams haven’t found a reliable receiving option outside of Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee. No one has really stepped up so far, which is concerning. Allen Robinson, who had his best game with LA right before the bye, has largely been a disappointment. Tutu Atwell hasn’t been given many opportunities, nor has preseason superstar Lance McCutcheon.
Although Ben Skowronek has been a pleasant surprise so far but aside from him, the cupboard has been bare for Stafford. It also would sure be nice if they brought OBJ back. Not that he would solve all their problems, but he has familiarity with the offense, so I don’t know why the team is taking their sweet time with a reunion. He won’t be on the market for long. Once they put a ring on that finger, they should’ve made a long-term commitment. Oh well, that pairing lasted about as long as a Hollywood marriage, anyways.
3. It sounds as if Van Jefferson, who stealthily amassed 800 yards receiving last season, could be making his debut after spending time on the IR rehabbing his twice surgically-repaired knee. What does Jefferson bring to the table, and how much of an impact do you expect him to have against the Niners?
The return of Van Jefferson is huge. This puts a reliable option back into the offense, which will help out in the long run as the Rams figure out their situation behind him and Kupp. I expect someone like Robinson to perform better, as Jefferson’s presence allows for McVay to have more flexibility with his receivers. Jefferson isn’t a star on this team, and that’s okay. He can fly under the radar and still get the job done.
Van’s return comes at the best possible time in the season for LA, as they are facing a crucial stretch that will determine whether they will be able to defend their crown or not.
This Sunday against the Niners, I expect he’ll be brought along slowly as a way of easing him back into his old role. Giving him reps in the slot would be perfect as, again, the Rams have plenty of flexibility, so they can move other guys around to find out where they fit as the season progresses.
4. Seems like the Rams' defense has managed to play respectably this season except for one area: Edge. Apparently, the task of replacing Von Miller is not an easy one, and those tasked with doing it have had little success. Do you see the Rams making a trade to try to replenish the position? Is there anywhere else on this side of the ball Niners fans should be looking Sunday for possible weaknesses?
I’ve seen the Rams linked to a reunion with Robert Quinn, but who knows? I definitely see the team trading for someone, but not at this position. LA needs to figure out the O-line (I know, I’m sounding like a broken record at this point) and running back before addressing anything else. Seeing how the Rams are always in the mix for every big-name player, another blockbuster wouldn’t surprise me, but for an edge would to some degree.
Any possible weaknesses could be in the secondary, primarily at corner. Luckily for the Rams, Troy Hill has been designated to return from IR so he’ll add needed experience alongside Jalen Ramsey. The rest of the unit is relatively inexperienced and littered with first or second-year guys, so if the Niners are looking for anywhere on this side of the ball to attack, that would be it.
5. Sean McVay has gone 5-2 when coming off a bye week, playoffs included, and the Rams might be getting healthy at the right time. However, the Niners will be playing in their home away from home, and Shanahan’s regular-season streak against his buddy looms large. Who do you see winning this one, and what do you think the score will be?
This is a very tough game to predict. On one hand, I believe the Rams will come out of their bye re-energized as they are getting healthy at the right time. On the other hand, I see the Niners bouncing back from a painful defensive outing and sticking it (SIGH ... again) to a team they’ve dominated the last few years. So, it’s a tough call all around.
As much as I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 49ers win, given the Rams’ (painful) recent history with them, I’m going to pick LA. The reason is that the Rams have fared well coming off a bye under McVay, and they’re ready to turn a corner after a sluggish start.
Rams 20, 49ers 17 (Kinda similar to that last score at SoFi does anyone remember that?)