NFL fans love to play “that’s a win” and “that’s a loss” with schedules before the season. They even do it on sports-talk radio shows, as if stereotyping opponents before a season begins is some kind of top-rate analysis.
I have always advised against that stuff, because especially with The Shield you just never know when an expected-powerhouse will turn into a patsy and vice-versa.
Oh, if you’ve got, say, 2 games against division-rival New England plus match-ups with both L.A. teams on the road somehow, that might be a problem – but the L.A. Rams are actually a case in point.
If you’d have known before the 2019-20 season that either Sean McVay’s defending NFC champions or the San Francisco 49ers would be 4-0 through 5 weeks, but not which team, would you have picked the 49ers? Maybe a few Bay Area partisans would…but not many others.
Surprise, not surprised – a preseason “that’s a win” in SoCal has turned into “Godzilla comes to town” as it is the Rams who are struggling for survival and the 49ers who are unbeaten. Gamblers have dragged an opening (-5) point spread on the Mountain Goats down to a field goal.
Who: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
When: Sunday, October 13th, 4:05 PM EST
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
Lines: 49ers (+3) at Rams (-3) / O/U Total: (50.5)
San Francisco followed a Week 4 bye by destroying the Cleveland Browns in every facet of the football game last Monday night. Meanwhile, the 3-2 Rams had their first NFC West battle of the season, losing in 30-29 in Seattle.
L.A.’s defense has not been stopping the run late in games, which could become a major issue this week with the power-running 49ers paying a visit. San Francisco boasts the #1 rushing attack in the league, and the addition of a healthy Tevin Coleman to the speedy Matt Breida could give skipper Kyle Shanahan the best 1-2 punch of the NFL out of the backfield.
What’s keeping San Francisco from enjoying a favorite’s moneyline could be an injury to fullback Kyle Juszczyk with a sprained knee late in the win over the Browns last week:
The 49ers rushed for a season-high 275 yards against the Cleveland Browns in their 31-3 victory on Monday night. But they could be without one of their most important players for the running game due to injury.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk left the game in the third quarter with a left knee injury that was called a “possible knee sprain” by coach Kyle Shanahan afterwards. The severity of the injury is unknown and Juszczyk will go through definitive testing Tuesday. Juszczyk told The Bee the knee felt “wobbly” as he was helped the sideline after leaving the game. Losing Juszczyk, the league’s highest-paid fullback who was named to the last three Pro Bowls, would mark a significant blow for the NFL’s top rushing team. “He’s the best fullback in the NFL. Not only that but he’s one of the best players in the NFL,” Matt Breida said after running for 114 yards and scoring two touchdowns in the victory. “Hopefully we hear good news about it. So we’re going to be praying for him. Right now it’s tough that he’s injured and he’s hurt.”
The 49ers have dealt with an injury to a starter in all four of their games this season. They lost running back Tevin Coleman Week 1 (though he returned Monday), left tackle Joe Staley fractured his fibula Week 2 and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon sprained his foot Week 3. Staley and Witherspoon are both expected to be out until late October to mid-November.
Juszczyk was paving holes for both Coleman and Breida, and his loss will without a doubt change the vaunted 49er rushing game. But as badly bruised as Sunday’s visitors might be, the Rams have injury issues of their own.
Todd Gurley’s continued health woes could make things difficult for QB Jared Goff and company against a stingy Niners defense, which ranks 2nd in the NFL in yards allowed. Even if Gurley suits up and plays, there’s never a guarantee he’ll be at 100%, any more than when he faded with injuries in the 2018-19 playoffs.
Gurley found the end zone twice last week in the loss to the Seahawks, bringing his season total to a prodigious 5 scores. He has been listed as questionable and considered day-to-day.
Also battling injury but hoping to play is WR Brandin Cooks. Cooks was limited participant in practice on Wednesday, but is still in concussion protocol and yet to be cleared.
Rivalry games are always a tough call, but the Seattle Seahawks are not playing in this game and neither are the Arizona Cardinals. It’s unlikely to be a truly-ugly result on the scoreboard.
The 49ers will probably try to pass and open-up looks for the RBs against 7-man fronts. That will create a long 1st half and a likely “Over” final score.
However. I’m also interested in the hosts to cover (-3) as L.A. has faced a more-arduous schedule (judging by results of other games and not preseason “that’s a win” branding) than has San Francisco, and even though that’s factored into the point spread the advantage of the Coliseum crowd may not fully be handicapped by Las Vegas.