It’s time to take a closer look at the Rams roster ahead of Sunday’s contest. Some commenters pointed out after the Week 1 matchup preview that it would be more impactful to look at advantages based on the San Francisco offense versus their opponent defense (and vice versa), rather than head-to-head comparisons of each position group.
The Niners are still holding steady as 7.5-point favorites on DraftKings Sportsbook, with the total set at 44.5.
I like the idea, so we are changing things up for this weekly post by doing just that. But, we want to keep the focus on the talent on the roster, rather than schemes. As we know, some teams have coaching advantages in different phases of a game, but this exercise is based on Jimmy's and Joe's, not X’s and O’s.
SF O SKILL (QB/WR) VS LAR SECONDARY
Let’s give some credit to the Rams. They played an explosive Seattle offense (based on 2022) in week one and handled them well. The Seahawks threw for a total of 112 yards at only 4.3 yards per attempt.
In fact, the two highest-graded Los Angeles defenders were their starting safeties, Russ Yeast (79.0 PFF) and Jordan Fuller (73.5). However, Yeast, Fuller and the cornerback duo of Cobie Durant and Derion Kendrick started a combined nine games last season. There are still growing pains to be had.
And that will likely be the experience against a San Francisco passing attack coming off a dominant performance in Pittsburgh. It would be wise to expect Purdy and Aiyuk to continue their hot connection in this favorable matchup. Deebo Samuel historically has had great games against Los Angeles as well, so expect a better statistical output from number 19 this week.
SF O COMBO (RB/TE) vs LAR 2ND LEVEL DEFENDERS
I use 2nd Level Defenders here because we know teams will bring safeties into the box against the run and have them match up in coverage against running backs and tight ends in the passing game. This one is simple to decide.
The 49ers have a top two running back and tight end in the entire league. Despite holding the Seahawks to only 85 yards on the ground, the Rams did surrender 4.7 yards per carry. San Francisco should be able to feast against a bottom tier inside linebacker group of Ernest Jones and Christian Rozeboom.
SF O LINE vs LAR D LINE
This is the closest of the matchups, but the slight nod is given to San Francisco, despite an unexceptional week one performance by the starting five up front. Trent Williams and Aaron Donald are juggernauts and at the pinnacle of their respective positions. Each unit falls off quite a bit after their top dogs, however.
For San Francisco, the other four starters don’t deserve a heaping amount of criticism as the offense churned out 188 yards on the ground and almost six yards per play. But, the group did not grade out well from Pro Football Focus (not the gospel, but still valuable). Along with Williams, only Jake Brendel had a run blocking grade over 55.0. Williams was the only 49er offensive lineman whose pass blocking grade was above 50.0.
It wasn’t just PFF that felt like the unit was a weak link on offense, as ESPN Analytics, which uses player tracking data from NFL Next Gen Stats, drew similar conclusions. They marked San Francisco in the bottom six in the league in run block win rate (64%) and bottom half of the league in pass block win rate (52%). The Rams don’t have the defensive line of years past, but if they find a way to shock the 49ers it will likely come from winning in the trenches.
All eyes will be on Colton McKivitz who struggled in his first challenge of the season against TJ Watt. We may see the Rams line Donald up over the right tackle to take advantage in this matchup.
LAR O LINE vs SF D LINE
It’s another great matchup for San Francisco’s front four to wreak havoc. The Rams have three different starters from their final 2022 matchup with the 49ers in rookie LG Steve Avila, C Coleman Shelton, and RG Joe Noteboom.
It should be noted that Matthew Stafford was kept clean in their week one victory, but they weren’t lining up against the ‘85 Bears. The 49ers pass rush is a much more difficult task than what Seattle can deploy.
The main storyline here will be how much does Nick Bosa play? After being on the field for 55% of the team snaps in week one, can fans expect the reigning DPOY to be ratcheted up for a greater workload against a division rival? Look for a big game from Javon Hargrave too, as he will have opportunities to go one-on-one with the new-look interior players of Los Angeles’ offense.
LAR O COMBO vs SF 2ND LEVEL DEFENDERS
How fun was it watching Fred Warner cover the middle of the field again? In a game full of enjoyable moments, the tipped pass by Warner that was consequently picked off by Talanoa Hufanga (who then tried to lateral on the return) was the play that made me smile the most.
Pickett was unsuccessful most of the day trying to fit the ball past these two pro bowlers to his tight ends and running backs. The Rams really don’t possess a threat in this matchup. Tyler Higbee has performed well from time to time against San Francisco but only managed three targets in the opener.
Los Angeles scored three rushing touchdowns, two from Kyren Williams and one from Cam Akers in week one. But it wasn’t a spectacular performance in the slightest, as the duos’ combined 37 carries went for only 81 yards (2.2 yards per attempt). They should expect even tougher sledding against the 49ers staunch run defense.
LAR O SKILL vs SF SECONDARY
This would be a different story if Cooper Kupp was active, but with the former all-pro on the IR, the advantage should lie with the Niners. That doesn’t mean San Francisco’s secondary won’t have their work cut out for them.
Matthew Stafford showed that he is fully healed with a reminiscent performance against Seattle, throwing for 334 yards and posting an 88.9 QBR. His leading receivers in that contest? Rookie 5th round pick Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell, who had more than two catches in a game only one time in his first two seasons in the league.
Both players went over 100 yards against the Seahawks. We don’t expect this passing game to move the ball as easily against the highest graded coverage team from the opening week (PFF). Charvarius Ward is ranked 7th among cornerbacks with at least 10 snaps in coverage heading into Sunday.
He and Hufanga looked like all-pros once again in stymieing Pittsburgh’s aerial attack and coming up with an interception a piece. Despite a few rough plays from the opposite outside and nickel corner spots, the 49ers starting group played well enough against the Steelers. Let’s hope they keep it that way in Sofi Sunday.