There’s no question this version of the Los Angeles Rams is different than the Rams of 2018 and 2017.
Last year’s Rams won the NFC championship, went to the Super Bowl and were an offensive machine, averaging an NFC-leading 32.9 points per game.
This season, the Rams come into Saturday night’s matchup with the 49ers at 8-6 and are struggling to stay in the race for a wild card. Sean McVay’s team is coming off a 44-21 loss to the Cowboys, and it’s a team that seems out of rhythm from its past two seasons, when quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley were among the league’s best offensive players. The Rams rank just 12th in total offense and Goff – behind a shakier offensive line – has thrown a career-high 15 interceptions against 17 touchdown passes. Over the past two seasons, he had 60 TD throws and was picked off just 19 times.
Plus, in their previous meeting this season, the 49ers dominated the Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum, winning 20-7.
So, as the 49ers go into Saturday’s rematch, the edge would seem to be with San Francisco, which is home and motivated to win its two remaining regular-season games to earn the NFC’s top playoff seed.
And yet, the Rams have Goff, Gurley, a good set of receivers and a revamped defense from that first meeting – adding one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey. The Rams also beat the Niners in three of the four meetings in 2017-18. Last year, the Rams went 2-0 vs. San Francisco by a cumulative score of 87-42.
So, the 49ers are wary.
San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo knows the Los Angeles defense, with playmaking defensive tackle Aaron Donald, can dominate.
“Obviously up front, Aaron’s unbelievable,” Garoppolo said this week. “But that whole D-line as a group is very talented. They make it difficult on you. We’ve got to play on time, get the ball out on time and things like that.”
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan said the Rams’ loss to Dallas last week isn’t indicative of the way they’ve played recently.
“They’re very talented,” he said. “They’re very well coached. I think over this last month they’ve been playing as good of football as anyone in the league. I think until the Sunday game got a little out of hand, they had a top-10 offense, a top-10 defense before that. They have very good special teams. So, talent and coaching.”
Oddsmakers, however, believe the 49ers can sweep this season series, making the Rams 6½-point underdogs. Kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m.