The nightcap on Saturday is an NFC West showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers. Road underdogs on Saturday are hitting at 57.8% since 2003, going 26-19 against the spread. But do we really trust the Rams to continue that trend?
The Rams are still holding on to a sliver of hope that they can reach the playoffs despite losing in convincing fashion at Dallas this week. To do so, they will have to win their final two games against the 49ers and Cardinals, and the Vikings must lose their final two games against the Packers and Bears. While it’s unlikely, it’s entirely possible, and the Rams can keep their playoff hopes alive if they can pull off the upset at San Francisco.
Rams Offense vs. 49ers Defense
The Rams offense has been up and down all year, and last week was a definite downer. Jared Goff’s numbers at Dallas looked reasonable, going 33-51 for 284 yards with 2 TD to 1 INT, but his QBR graded out an abysmal 37.4. The Rams could only put 21 points on the board against a Cowboys defense that allowed 31 points to a bad Bears offense the week before.
A huge part of the problem for the Rams was a completely ineffective Todd Gurley. After looking reborn and having returned to elite status at running back in recent weeks, Gurley managed just 20 yards on 11 carries against Dallas. And as Gurley goes, so go the Rams on offense. So, can Gurley get it going on the ground against the 49ers?
Not likely. While San Francisco is elite defending the pass, they’re also very good against the run, ranking 12th in rushing DVOA on defense. The Cowboys, comparatively, rank 18th in rushing defense and were able to completely shut down the Rams running game.
When the Rams try to pass the ball, they’ll be going up against the #2 pass defense in the league. Yes, the Rams have potentially the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL in Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks. However, the 49ers have a defensive line ranked #1 in adjusted sack rate, and should have no problem getting after Jared Cook if they know he’s dropping back to pass.
49ers Offense vs. Rams Defense
Similar to the Rams, the 49ers are coming off a disappointing performance last week when they put up just 22 points in a loss to the Falcons. Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t play poorly, going 22-34 for 200 yards and a touchdown. But his 5.9 yards per attempt was a far cry from his 10 YPA and 4 TD a week prior at New Orleans.
San Francisco’s bread and butter is it’s running game. They rank second to the Ravens in rushing yards per game at 147, so their output of 120 a week ago was a little below average. It may be tough sledding again for San Francisco this week, going against a Rams rushing defense ranked #6 in DVOA.
When the Niners drop back to pass, they’ll be going against another strong defensive unit as the Rams rank #11 in passing defense. Overall, Jimmy Garoppolo has produced a solid but unspectacular season. He ranks outside the top 10 in most major stats, but inside the top 15. The last time he faced the Rams he had an OK effort, going 24-33 for 243 yards, no touchdowns, and one pick. It was enough to pick up the victory, but that was due to the defense as the Niners won the previous meeting 20-7.
There isn’t much of a difference between these two special teams units, but the advantage again goes to San Francisco. Overall, the Niners rank #16 in special teams per DVOA, while the Rams rank #21. However, when it comes to the kicking game, San Francisco is 6.6 points below an average team while the Rams are just 1 point below an average team.
49ers kicker Robbie Gould is having by far his worst season and has hit on just 70.4% of his field goals. Meanwhile, the Rams have one of the best kickers in the league in Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein and also have one of the best punters in Johnny Hecker.
The Spread and Total
The look-ahead line on this game was 49ers -6 and it did not move off that number despite the Rams disappointing outcome against the Cowboys. An overwhelming amount of money has come in on the 49ers, with 79% of the bets accounting for 88% of the dollars wagered on the spread.
The total opened right under the key number of 47 at 46.5 and has been bet down to as low as 45 at some shops, 45.5 at others. With two elite defenses lining up and prime time unders being a profitable bet this year, it’s no surprise to see early action on the under. The Rams offense has also been hit or miss this year, so the likelihood of a dud is always on the table. On defense, the Rams excel at defending the run, which stifles what the 49ers enjoy doing most.
By Kyle Johansen