It’s déjà vu all over again with the L.A. Rams entering Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers as 3.5-point favorites. The Rams were 3.5-point choices in their two regular-season matchups with San Francisco – and both of them ended in defeat. Oddsmakers at FanDuel, PointsBet, and BetMGM were all dealing the Rams -3.5 with the total set at 54.5 as of Thursday afternoon.
No. 6 seed San Francisco 49ers (12-7, 11-8 ATS) at No. 4 seed L.A. Rams (14-5, 10-9 ATS)
Time: Sunday, 6:30 p.m. EST
Line: Rams -3.5 (45.5)
The skinny: These NFC West rivals are meeting for only the second time in playoff history, which was a 30-3 San Francisco victory 32 years ago in the conference title game at Candlestick. This one is at SoFi Stadium.
Facts: Both squads overcame high hurdles in the divisional round by not only beating higher-seeded teams on the road but on short rest. San Fran ousted top seed Green Bay 13-10 as a 6-point dog and L.A. downed second-seeded Tampa Bay 30-27 as a 2.5-point underdog. No other playoff team was stuck with an abbreviated week during this tournament.
The long road: The 49ers are aiming to become the fifth team in history to reach the Super Bowl by winning three straight playoff games away from home, matching Tampa Bay’s accomplishment last season. But none of those other teams were on the road in the regular-season finale, when San Francisco played a win-or-else Week 18 game vs. the Rams, winning 27-24 in OT. The only time in 49ers history they won four straight road games, though, occurred in 1948 as a member of the old All-America Football Conference.
Fast-forwarding, the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan have beaten Sean McVay’s Rams six times in a row dating to 2019, five coming as an underdog. This season, the Rams totaled only 278 yards in their 31-10 loss at SF in Week 10 and 265 in the finale, the only times this campaign they were below 330.
Fun fact: In league history, there were 32 instances of a playoff matchup with one of the teams having swept the two regular-season meetings. The team that won the first two games also won the third on 20 occasions. But the last time a squad won three straight as an underdog was in 2004 when the Rams took care of Seattle.
Analysis: San Francisco QB Jimmy Garoppolo has been catching a lot of flak and likely will be traded this winter/spring, but this season he was second on the passer chart by averaging 8.6 yards a throw, half a yard better than L.A.’s Matthew Stafford. In their first meeting, Jimmy G had a passer rating of 141.7 (his best of the year) and two TD throws.
A shoulder problem that popped up recently is apparently no longer an issue since he’s not listed on the injury report.
Also not listed are a pair of 49ers standouts who hobbled off the field late last week in Green Bay, all-purpose WR/RB Deebo Samuel and TE George Kittle.
But top RB Elijah Mitchell is mentioned as questionable (knee). That’s worth keeping an eye on. Ditto for star OLT Trent Williams (ankle), who vows to play.
On the Rams’ side, what was with those four lost fumbles last week, which matched a league high this season?
Also, with them, no lead seems safe. In that recent loss to SF, they squandered a 17-point edge, the biggest blown advantage in a home game in the league this season. Then last week, those fumbles contributed mightily to them giving up a 24-point edge before recovering. That’s the biggest road lead blown this season.
The 49ers pass rush got to Stafford five times in their last meeting and forced two INTs. Rams WR Cooper Kupp, who’s had two 100-yard games against the 49ers, can’t do everthing.
One more thing: Among the remaining playoff contenders, no team has caused more QB fumbles than San Francisco’s third-rated defense with 14.
49ers at Rams Pick
49ers 28, Rams 14
Last week: 1-3 ATS, 1-3 SU
Season total: 129-137-3 (.485) ATS; 164-104-1 (.612) SU