The 49ers and Rams meet for the third time this season after a pair of wild finishes in the NFC Divisional round. The Niners pulled off the upset over the top-seeded Packers thanks to a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a pair of Robbie Gould field goals. The Rams built a 27-3 lead over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers but hung on for the victory thanks to Cooper Kupp and Matt Gay’s heroics. The 49ers won the first two matchups between the teams and a third will give them their second Super Bowl trip in three years.
Cooper Kupp has been unguardable all season, and that was on full display Sunday. He had 183 yards and a touchdown, highlighted by a 70-yard touchdown and 64 total yards on the Rams’ game-winning drive. Kupp has 258 total yards and a touchdown against the Niners this season, so expect another huge game from the wide receiver. Despite his big games, the Rams’ have failed to beat the Niners this season. They will need someone else to step up for them in order to do so. Odell Beckham Jr. is a prime candidate. He has six touchdowns in 10 games for the team. Expect the Rams’ to have more success through the air than on the ground. In the playoffs, the 49ers have only allowed 72 rush yards per game. While their pass defense has held up well in the playoffs it has been the weakness of their defense all season.
It will be important for the 49ers to build an early lead so quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t forced to throw the ball. In five career playoff starts, Garoppolo averages 121.7 yards per game and has a 2-5 touchdown to interception ratio. (0-2 this postseason) The Niners have had lots of success running the ball with Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel, and that will be key against a star-studded Rams defense. When Deebo Samuel gets five or more carries the Niners are 9-1 with an average margin of victory of 10.9 points. Establishing an effective ground game will be key in order to keep the ball away from Matt Stafford and the Rams’ high-profile passing attack.
Limiting turnovers will be key for the Rams. In the previous two meetings between the teams, LA has four turnovers. They had four turnovers in their victory over Tampa Bay, which allowed the Bucs to come back and tie the game. The Niners only forced two turnovers in the playoffs so far but both have directly led to touchdowns. Stafford has had turnover problems all year, but if he is able to hold onto the ball the Rams will be able to book their second trip to the Super Bowl in five years.
Beating a team three times in a season is very difficult. The Niners are up to the task, but it won’t happen Sunday. I don’t trust Jimmy G to get it done. Gimme two Cooper Kupp touchdowns and the Rams by 7.
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