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With the NFC Championship Game just days away, let’s take a look at the matchup between the San Fransisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams.
In a matchup of two NFC West opponents, these teams are awfully familiar. In fact, the 49ers – who are slight underdogs at +3.5 – beat the Rams in both meetings during the regular season.
If someone had told you the Rams would be playing for a chance in the Super Bowl, no one would necessarily be all that surprised. However, would you be surprised if someone told you that the 49ers would be?
It’s a common misconception that the Rams are led by their offense, as they netted the ninth-most yards this season. It’s interesting to note that the 49ers netted the seventh-most yards and they are not considered nearly as explosive. With the likes of Matt Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr, and Cam Akers led by one of the brightest offensive-minded coaches in the NFL, you would think they would be finding more success on the offensive side of the ball.
If the Rams are not led by their offense, they must be led by their defense, right? Not necessarily. The Rams have perhaps the two best defensive players in the entire league, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, but their defense was statistically middle of the pack this season. They were 11th in the league against the pass but 27th against the rush, and those struggles against the run would explain why they have had such a hard time against the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
The 49ers are a run-first team and have shown that time and time again. With wide-receiver/running-back hybrid Deebo Samuel and rookie Elijah Mitchell coming out of the backfield, the Rams could be in for a long day. The Niners are a matchup nightmare for the Rams and have shown that not once but twice already this season.
After all of this, why are the Rams favored? Well, because they’re the Rams! Last week, they showed at the end of their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ top-ranked defense why they are so dangerous. With 35 seconds left and no timeouts, Stafford and Kupp took matters into their own hands, going 60 yards in two plays to put Matt Gay in a position to win the game.
Sean McVay is one of the best in the league, Kupp won the wide receiver triple crown this year, Stafford has looked rejuvenated in his first year with the Rams and they have Akers healthy again after an Achilles injury. For all the stats going against the Rams, there are some things that just override stats, and that could be the case this weekend with this star-studded team.
49ers @ Rams NFC Championship predictions & best bets
In the playoffs, the Rams have been targeting Odell Beckham Jr in bunches. He has a chance now to go up against Josh Norman, who is a shell of his former self. Beckham Jr at +140 to score a touchdown and over 50.5 receiving yards is a really safe bet in this one.
With Fred Warner and Nick Bosa playing last week, it looks like the Niners’ defense will nearly be back to full strength. They are a very tough team to run against, so Cam Akers under 61.5 rushing yards is very tempting.
The NFL Divisional Round was so entertaining last week that it’s going to be hard to live up to those performances, but this game has the potential. These two teams know each other so well and are a lot closer than it may seem on the surface. The 49ers should keep it close, but ultimately the Rams are the better team and should be heading to Super Bowl 56 come Sunday night. For all the fireworks last weekend, we shouldn’t expect a ton of points in this one, so the 49ers +3.5 and the under 45.5 feels like the play here.