49ers vs. Rams Odds, Picks, Predictions: 3 Ways One Expert Is Betting Sunday Night’s NFC Championship Game
Getty Images. Pictured: 49ers WR Deebo Samuel and Rams DT Aaron Donald (left to right)
- Kyle Shanahan's 49ers have six straight victories over Sean McVay's Rams.
- Will the Rams finally have the 49ers number in the NFC Championship? Our expert isn't betting on it.
- Find his picks and predictions for Sunday night's NFL playoff showdown based on the latest 49ers-Rams odds below.
|Time||6:40 p.m. ET|
|Latest odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
A trip to the Super Bowl is on the line on Sunday when the 49ers and Rams meet in the NFC Championship Game. It’ll be the third meeting between the two teams, and oftentimes, this would be the perfect setup for a rubber match between two divisional opponents. However, the Rams are still looking for their first victory against the 49ers this season.
Ironically, San Francisco finished 0-4 against the other two teams inside the division. While it could be nothing more than a coincidence, we’ll do a deep dive to try to understand what’s behind the 49ers’ success against the Rams and whether we can expect more of the same on Sunday.
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49ers vs. Rams Injury Report
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49ers vs. Rams Matchup
|49ers Offense||DVOA Rank||Rams Defense|
|49ers Defense||DVOA Rank||Rams Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Revisiting The Regular-Season Series
To understand this matchup, we have to start with the regular-season series. The 49ers came into the first meeting as losers of five of their past six games yet crushed the Rams 31-10 as a 3.5-point underdog. San Francisco took an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter after the Rams started the game with two interceptions on their first two possessions.
By halftime, San Francisco led 21-7, and since the Rams couldn’t create their share of turnovers against the 49ers, this game was pretty much over at halftime. The 49ers rushed for 156 yards and had the ball for 39 minutes as they converted eight of 14 third-down plays.
Later, we’ll revisit the role that turnovers could play in the conference championship on Sunday.
What was compelling about this first matchup was that it would mark a turning point in the 49ers’ season. You see, it was the game that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan unleashed his “wide back,” Deebo Samuel, in the backfield. Samuel carried the ball five times for 36 yards in the contest.
Before Week 10, the All-Pro player didn’t carry the ball more than twice in a game. Moreover, in four of his first eight games, Samuel didn’t even register one rushing attempt. Since Week 10, Samuel hasn’t had fewer than five carries in a game, and he’s averaging 7.3 carries during that span.
In the second meeting, the Rams held the early advantage after jumping out to a 17-0 lead before taking a 17-3 lead into halftime. However, the 49ers didn’t panic as they took the field in the second half and rallied to tie the game after scoring on their first two possessions.
When the Rams took a 24-17 lead with two and half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the resilient 49ers needed only one minute to march 88 yards down the field to tie the game and send it to overtime, where they won 27-24.
Despite trailing 17-0 at one point, San Francisco still ran the ball 31 times for 135 yards. In contrast, Los Angeles ran the ball 27 times for just 64 yards. The 49ers also out-gained the Rams 449 yards to 265.
49ers Run Offense vs. Rams Run Defense
There may be something innate about the 49ers scheme that troubles the Rams on both sides of the ball. According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings, the Rams have a top-five overall defense that ranks sixth against the run. Yet, this season, the 49ers ran the ball down their throats for 291 yards in both games.
The game plan is clear for the 49ers in that they want to run the ball. Per TeamRankings, they have the third-highest run play rate at 48.75%. And while the Rams’ opponents have the fifth-lowest run play rate (38.21%) against them, the 49ers don’t appear to be too bothered.
I handled the Week 18 preview of the 49ers-Rams game, and I briefly touched on the subtleties of the outside zone running scheme that the 49ers deploy. Though Shanahan isn’t regarded as the originator of this scheme, he is widely credited with re-introducing it in this modern era of football.
Shanahan Gives Niners The Coaching Edge
While the personnel on the field is essential to understanding this matchup, one also has to consider the dynamic between the two head coaches on the sidelines. Shanahan and Rams head coach Sean McVay spent four years together with what is now called the Washington Football Team. McVay first worked under Shanahan as an offensive quality control coach before being promoted to a tight ends coach in his second year.
Whether you prefer Bill Belichick or Nick Saban, we’ve seen plenty of narratives before about their assistants struggling to outwit their former bosses. I can even recall hearing a story about Belichick being so secretive that he didn’t like his assistants being involved in other positional meetings. The thought was that the more they interacted with the other groups, the more knowledge they’d have of his overall scheme, thus making them a direct threat if they went to another organization.
I wonder if we have a similar scenario on our hands here with Shanahan and McVay? It certainly does seem like Shanahan held back some secrets during his mentorship of McVay. After all, Shanahan is 7-3 in his career against McVay.
However, there is something to be said about the X’s and O’s of both coaches as Shanahan seems more readily able to make adjustments, whereas, at times, McVay can struggle when things aren’t going his way. To better understand this, let’s look at the Rams defense, which arguably can be considered the strongest area of the team with players like Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, Jalen Ramsey and the addition of Von Miller. Los Angeles is notorious for showing a lot of pre-snap motions on defense to confuse opposing teams.
However, the numbers show that the 49ers are the highest pre-snap motion team on offense. This effectively negates the Rams’ advantage as they either have to reveal their defensive shape or their players get caught out of position by over-shifting against the 49ers offense.
Shanahan is playing a very multi-layered metagame against McVay. And until this point, McVay has struggled to counteract the moves of his mentor.
49ers vs. Rams Predictions
I’ve spent the entire week trying to find a way to make a case for the Rams, and I don’t think I can get there. When you have a trend so heavily skewed to one side, it makes sense to try to rule out if what you’re witnessing is just a coincidence. Hopefully, this preview has given you some insight into the 49ers’ success against the Rams.
There are also intangibles at work, given the 49ers head coach and his overall scheme. San Francisco creates matchup problems for the Rams, and the 49ers defense can get the quarterback without using the blitz. Per Pro-Football-Reference.com, the 49ers finished the season 29th with a 19.8% blitz rate, yet the team was tied for fifth in sacks (48).
The Rams are great when things are going well for them, but there is a sense of vulnerability when things break down. In the first meeting of these two teams, we saw some of that vulnerability when the Rams started the game with back-to-back turnovers. In the second meeting, the Rams had two more turnovers. And who can forget their four turnovers in the Divisional Round that allowed the Buccaneers back into the game after trailing 27-3?
In contrast, the 49ers don’t seem rattled when they make mistakes, and they’ve shown an uncanny ability to work around them. San Francisco has overcome injuries and a somewhat maligned quarterback to reach the NFC Championship Game against a team it has already defeated twice this season. While the 49ers may have been a bit fortunate on the blocked punt in Green Bay, special teams still count for something in the game. Thus, when you’re well prepared in all three phases of the game, it’s possible to look a bit lucky on the surface.
Based on how I project this game to unfold, it’s hard to find too many situational spots that would support the Rams winning this contest by more than a field goal. If anything, San Francisco’s six-game winning streak against Los Angeles is enough to almost blindly take the points.
I’ll also be adding two more plays to my card as I’m backing the 49ers to go over their team total of 20.5 points. According to GimmeTheDog.com, dating back to the 2002 season, teams that won a playoff game by scoring 13 or fewer points scored at least 21 points in seven of the nine subsequent games in this spot. And if you exclude the Ravens — who were involved in three of the games — all six teams scored over 21 points the following week.
Lastly, I like Elijah Mitchell to go over 17.5 carries on Sunday. He’s eclipsed this mark in six of his past seven games as he fell just short with 17 carries in the Divisional Round against the Packers.
I’ll be risking a half-unit of my bankroll on each play, which you can find at PointsBet.
- First Pick: 49ers +3.5 (-110) | Bet to: +3
- Second Pick: 49ers Team Total Over 20.5 (-110) | Bet to: 21
- Third Pick: Elijah Mitchell Over 17.5 Rush Attempts (-115) | Bet to: 17.5
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