Los Angeles Rams: Three Matchups That Could Decide Rams Vs 49ers

Welp, after a week of celebrating an absolute smackdown of the Seahawks on the road, the Rams are faced with what everyone but Ethan Hunt would consider an impossible mission. They must stop a Niners team that’s already moving Snowpiercer style with its first victim being a Pittsburgh team many were touting as a team on the grow. The city of Pittsburgh hadn’t seen that kind of grim destruction since Bane interrupted the National Anthem.

Anyway, their next stop is to go to what they annoyingly call “LEVI SOUTH” which is true if we’re only counting regular season wins, and if Levi Stadium proper were nearly as nice as SoFi. If the Rams are to once again prove everyone wrong they have three matchups they absolutely have to win in order to not get run over if not actually end the game in victory formation.

Los Angeles Rams: Three Matchups That Could Decide Rams Vs 49ers

The Rams O Line vs. The Niners Front Seven

This is the most important matchup of the day for LA. Last week, the Rams showed they meant it when they were preaching physicality upfront over their usual finesse. New O line coach Ryan Wendell is tasked with stopping a Niners front that is led by the greatest defensive player in the world (fiscally speaking) Nick Bosa, along with Fred Warner, Javon Hargrave, Javon Kinlaw, and Dre Greenlaw (the leagues “cleanest” player). That’s streets ahead of the pass rush unit Seattle trotted out last week.

The Rams line allowed zero sacks and none of them gave up more than three pressures, with rookie Steve Avila giving up zero. They allowed the offense to go 11-17 on third down. They need to do that again and then some.

In order to stop the Niners they need to have long drives and keep the Niners offense off the field as long as possible. Stafford looked like his old self last week but given that now he’s legally the oldest starting QB in the league they can’t allow him to get hit if the not-tanking Rams are to even have a shot at the postseason or a winning record. It all starts upfront.

The Rams Front Seven vs. The Open Field

Unfortunately, the Niners offense will have the ball at some point and Shanahan will test the bejesus out of the largely young and inexperienced Rams D. Last week, the Rams were able to rally in the second half and hold Geno Smith and the Seahawks to 12 yards with zero points scored. That’s incredible for a unit many believed to be constructed with the sole purpose of getting Caleb Williams.

Again, the Niners aren’t Seattle. Christian McCaffrey had 152 yards and a TD on the ground against a defense that has the second-best defensive player in the world (fiscally speaking) in T.J. Watt. Running back, who happens to play receiver, Deebo Samuel is not afraid to cry or to carve up the Rams like he’s Jason Voorhies on a bender, and all of a sudden Brandon Aiyuk is a legit deep threat. This coupled with George Kittle still being available is a scary proposition.

Shanahan loves to use all of these weapons in the open field. They YAC like crazy and it’s up to a front seven led by Aaron Donald (the actual best defensive player in the world) and Ernest Jones to contain SF’s vaunted offense.

The knock on Raheem Morris’s bend-don’t break defense is that they can be gashed in the middle and drives go on way too long. The tackling needs to be better, they need to actually get to Brock Purdy, and everyone needs to play mistake-free. If they bottle up the running game and force Purdy to chuck it there’s a chance the Rams don’t get blown out. Purdy was great last week but that’s in large part because McCaffrey was a juggernaut. Let’s see what happens when the offense that gets the analytics community hot and bothered, can’t zone block their way to a kajillion points.

The Rams Receivers vs. The Niners Secondary

Another in a long line of genius analysis against this Rams’ team is that beyond Cooper Kupp (still on IR) no one knows who the hell their receivers are. While it’s absolute science that name recognition automatically equals skill (that’s why De’Andre Hopkins went so high in fantasy), the Rams weathered the storm.

Rookie Puka Nacua turned heads with his 119-yard debut and did so while doing a hybrid Kupp-Robert Woods impersonation. He made catches most rookies have no business in making. Tutu Atwell looks like he’s big enough to catch passes from Nelson Muntz yet he too was able to get over 100 yards last week. That luxury won’t necessarily be available.

The Niners secondary isn’t the best part of their team but that doesn’t mean they suck. Van Jefferson didn’t register much on the box score nor did he make any fantasy owners happy. He’s the default number one receiver and he needs to play like it. Tyler Higbee looked decent but he needs to channel his inner George Kittle. The Rams running game was OK last week but there’s no way Kyren Williams scores twice against the Niners. Stafford doesn’t look like the guy who was just chucking it and praying for the best (AKA the Josh Allen) but he could easily relapse into that guy again if the blocking isn’t there and the receivers can’t get open.

Sean McVay had an efficient game plan last week and will try again this week. Puka is dealing with an oblique injury (possibly sustained being plucked off the waiver wire so quickly) so he might be diminished. Someone needs to get open for LA and maybe it’s Puka and Tutu again, maybe it’s Van, or maybe even DeMarcus Robinson. Stafford played well in week one but might need to lead the way this week. If he can find a reliable target the Rams have a prayer.

If the Rams are able to keep it close or god help them, actually win the game, the ugly clouds of negativity will dissipate a little. Next week presents their first big primetime game against the Bengals on Monday Night. If they come in at 2-0 or 1-1 but with the Niners not claiming flawless victory maybe JUST MAYBE they can start earning some respect. Last week, they got everyone’s curiosity, tomorrow they can get everyone’s attention.