By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
I know there has been a lot of talk about a certain NFC West divisional matchup in week 17, but this week’s game between the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers has high stakes too.
The Rams are not just fighting for the (very slim) chance of making the playoffs, but also to gain back some respect after their ugly loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The 49ers are looking to rebound from last week’s loss against the Atlanta Falcons and looking to not give up ground to the Seattle Seahawks in the fight for the NFC West.
With both teams needing this win badly, this divisional battle could turn into one of the best games of the week. Or it could be a blowout. To be honest, it’s hard to predict.
In their first meeting, which ended in the 49ers beating the Rams 20-7, the 49ers stout defense kept the Rams offense in a standstill. Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff only threw for 78 yards and had 0 touchdowns. The Rams defense did their job too. 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 243 yards, but didn’t throw a TD (he did run one in) and threw 1 interception, and was sacked twice, both times by Aaron Donald.
The 49er defense seemed less dominating the last few weeks, but with as many injuries as they had, that’s not surprising. It is looking like they will get a few of those pieces, including cornerback Richard Sherman, back this week. However, there are still a lot of missing pieces, which probably helps Goff sleep a little better at night.
As for the Rams, their defense has 43 sacks on the year, fifth-highest in the league. With Garoppolo having the best season of his career, Los Angeles will need to have Aaron Donald have a stellar game, putting Garoppolo on the ground as much as possible, to slow down this San Francisco offense.
While the defenses will be key, most believe it will be the run game that decides this game. The 49ers are ranked 21st in the league when it comes to giving up yards on the ground. The Rams? They are ranked 23rd. Stopping the run isn’t either team’s strong suit.
The Rams are 3-0 when their star running back, Todd Gurley, has at least 20 touches. Expect to see a lot of Goff handing the ball off in this game. As for the 49ers, head coach Kyle Shannahan loves to run the ball and has a handful of running backs that can do the job well. Running back by committee has been needed due to injury this year, but it’s working well for San Francisco.
So when you look at it closely, both teams need the same thing. They both need their defense to play their best. They both need their run game to hit the mark. And they both need big games from their tight ends, 49ers George Kittle and the Ram’s Tyler Higbee.
So where does this leave me when it comes to picking a team to win? Honestly, I can see ways that both teams could win. The Rams are known for showing up big in divisional games, yet the 49ers have a lot at stake. However, you can’t ignore that San Francisco has been the better team all year.
Rams – 17
49ers – 24
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG