An NFL triple-header comes to an end with a crucial NFC West rivalry game between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams. Kickoff is set for 8:15 EST on Saturday, December 21 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The game will be broadcast on the NFL Network.
Current odds list the 49ers as 6.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 45 points. Click here for a full list of the Week 16 NFL odds.
For the reigning NFC champion Rams, it’s win or stay home during the postseason. Los Angeles appeared to be moving in the right direction following a massive win over the Seahawks two weeks ago. However, they were stopped in their tracks over the weekend, losing 44-21 to the Cowboys, dropping them to 8-6 on the season.
As it stands, the Rams are two games out of the last Wild Card spot in the NFC with two games left to play. They must beat the 49ers and Cardinals the last two weeks of the season while hoping that the Vikings lose both of their remaining games to the Packers and Bears, both of which are home games for Minnesota. That leaves Los Angeles with a narrow path to the playoffs. Of course, it’ll all be over if they lose to the 49ers on Saturday night.
Speaking of San Francisco, they’re also in a tough spot. After starting the year 8-0, the 49ers are just 3-3 in their last six games. That includes a stunning home loss to the Falcons last week. The loss dropped San Francisco back into a tie with the Seahawks at 11-3. With two weeks left to play, one team will win the division while the other will have to settle for a Wild Card spot and have a difficult road ahead of them in the playoffs.
The 49ers will wrap up the season next week by visiting Seattle in a game that San Francisco has to win to capture the NFC West crown. Of course, if the 49ers are able to win both of their remaining games, they will be assured of the top seed in the NFC by virtue of head-to-head wins over both the Packers and Saints. The possibility of earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs should be all the motivation the 49ers need to get back on track.
When these teams met earlier this season, the 49ers recorded a sound 20-7 win in Los Angeles. The Rams were held to just 157 total yards and 10 first downs in that game. San Francisco will now look to sweep the Rams for the fourth time in the last nine years. However, the Rams have won three of their last five trips to the Bay Area.
It was shocking to see the Rams so lifeless last week with so much on the line. Surely, it can’t happen two weeks in a row with their season hanging in the balance. At the same time, there’s something a little off with the 49ers lately, especially on defense. I’m not ready to sell my stock in San Francisco, but suddenly, 6.5 points feel like a lot. I’ll take my chances with the Rams putting up a fight and at least beating the spread.
It’s worth noting that Todd Gurley missed the first game between these teams. Granted, this year’s Gurley isn’t the same as in past seasons. However, he’s rushed for at least 79 yards in three of his last five games. If Los Angeles can avoid falling behind and abandoning the run, they should be able to give the San Francisco defense a healthy dose of Gurley. If nothing else, that should help shorten the game and prevent San Francisco’s pass rushers from pinning their ears back and putting consistent pressure on Jared Goff.
Despite having one of the best defensive records in the NFL, the 49ers have been vulnerable against the run this season. They’ve also been lit up by good quarterback play the past couple of weeks. Both Drew Brees and Matt Ryan had success against the San Francisco defense the past couple of weeks, which could give Goff confidence that he can do the same. The Rams undoubtedly have the playmakers in the passing game to do some damage. It’s just a matter of getting Gurley going and giving Goff time in the pocket.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams are surely better defensively than what they showed last week. Before getting knocked around by the Cowboys, the L.A. defense had surrendered just one touchdown over the previous two weeks, and even that was a garbage-time touchdown against the Cardinals. The Rams can be vulnerable against teams that run the ball effectively, a description that perfectly fits the 49ers. But the Los Angeles defense held their own against the 49ers earlier this year, especially considering the lack of support from the offense.
All things considered, I think the Rams can make one final stand this week. I don’t doubt that the 49ers are the better team. But I think Los Angeles will commit to running the ball, allowing them to stay within striking distance and prevent the 49ers from seizing control of the game. I think this ends up being a field goal game, meaning the Rams should be able to beat the 6.5-point spread, even in a loss.