The Los Angeles Rams will try to preserve their undefeated record this week as they take on NFC West rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. Game time is at 4:25 EST on Sunday, October 21, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Fans in the western part of the country can watch the game on CBS.
This week’s NFL betting odds list the Rams as 10-point favorites on the road, a slight increase after the Rams opened the week favored by 9.5 points. The over/under for the game is set at 53 points.
As mentioned, the Rams are undefeated and appear to be running away with the NFC West. To be fair, they’ve played some close games in recent weeks. Their last two wins have come by a total of just five points. Prior to that, the Rams only managed to beat the Vikings by a mere seven points. Nevertheless, Los Angeles is 6-0 on the season with the third-best offense in the NFL and a top-10 defense, so it could take something special to give them their first loss of the season.
The 49ers, on the other hand, are looking for their second win of the season. San Francisco has lost all three games since Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a season-ending injury, dropping them to 1-5 on the season. In their defense, the 49ers have managed to keep most of their games close. In fact, they nearly beat Green Bay last week before Aaron Rodgers orchestrated another improbable comeback. San Francisco’s schedule appears to have some winnable games in the weeks to come. However, this doesn’t appear to be one of them.
Oddly enough, the 49ers have won three of the four meetings between these teams since the Rams moved back to Los Angeles. That includes a Week 17 win last season when the Rams were resting their starters ahead of the playoffs. Of course, this time around, San Francisco will be facing a Rams team that’s playing at full strength.
It’s never easy to swallow 10 points in an NFL game, especially a game between two division rivals. However, this matchup is definitely one of the exceptions. The 49ers are simply too flawed to stay competitive with an unforgiving Rams team. Even on the road, I’ll lean toward Los Angeles to win easily and cover the 10-point spread.
Admittedly, this pick is not a slam dunk. As mentioned, the Rams have only won the last two weeks by a combined five points. Meanwhile, the 49ers haven’t lost a game this season by more than 11 points and their five losses have come by an average of seven points, so they haven’t been easy to blow out. However, the Rams are exactly the kind of team that will be able to pull away from San Francisco.
The most impressive thing about the Los Angeles offense is their ability to adjust on the fly depending on the weakness of the opposing defense. The Rams are so balanced that they can beat teams in a number of ways. Last week, Denver’s pass rush was causing problems, so the Rams simply gave the ball to Todd Gurley, who proceeded to run for over 200 yards.
No matter how the 49ers try to slow down the Los Angeles offense, the Rams will surely have an answer. The San Francisco defense has played well against the run this year, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to stop Gurley. If the 49ers dedicate extra resources to stopping Gurley, the Rams can counter with one of the most explosive passing attacks in the NFL. Jared Goff was a little off last week against the Broncos, but that’s been a rarity for him over the past couple of seasons, so he’s likely to have a bounce-back effort this week.
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers have proven that they can move the ball with C.J. Beathard at the controls in place of Garoppolo. However, San Francisco’s biggest strength is running the ball, and a banged-up Matt Breida wasn’t as productive as usual last week against the Packers. Breida will probably play again this week, but he may not be 100%. Beathard also remains a liability when it comes to turnovers. He’s thrown five interceptions in the three games he’s started, which is too much for a team like the 49ers to overcome.
To be fair, the Los Angeles defense has lost some of their prowess after some subpar performances the past few weeks. After a fast start, they’re giving up over 26 points per game over their last four contests. However, those games have come against teams with far more dynamic playmakers than the ones they’ll face this week against San Francisco. After all, San Francisco’s top receivers on the season are a tight end and a fullback. Most importantly, the Rams are good enough to take advantage of a San Francisco team that struggles with turnovers.
In the end, I don’t see the 49ers being able to keep up with a balanced and high-scoring Los Angeles offense. Trying to do so will only lead to turnovers that will enable the Rams to pull away in the 2nd half. After a couple of close games, I think the Rams will get back to taking care of business against lesser teams and comfortably cover the 10-point spread.