Stuckey’s Sunday Night Football Guide: Odds & Picks for Rams vs. 49ers (Sunday, Oct. 18)
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Rams vs. 49ers Odds
If the San Francisco 49ers want to become only the second Super Bowl loser since 1995 to return to the big game, they might need this game after getting off to a slow 2-3 start. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Rams are looking to once again join the discussion as a real NFC contender after a subpar 2019 season.
Let’s take a closer look at this NFC West showdown on Sunday night.
Los Angeles Rams
Let’s slow our roll on the Rams.
Admittedly, they’ve been better than I projected coming into the season and I’ve adjusted their power rating accordingly. However, we’re still talking about a 4-1 team with all four wins coming against the sad NFC East.
Sean McVay has done an incredible job of reconfiguring the offense after a disappointing 2019 season. He’s putting quarterback Jared Goff in better positions to succeed, catering to Goff’s strengths and weaknesses. McVay is doing that through a revamped rushing attack and a heavy dose of play-action that’s the primary driver of a very short passing attack. So far this season, L.A. has used play-action at a 50% frequency, which would be an NFL single-season record.
The offensive line has also played a bit better after a disastrous 2019 but the play-calling has really helped. The Rams aren’t really attacking deep at all, so the offensive line isn’t being asked to protect for long. And again, the schedule of defenses has really helped.
On the other side of the ball, the defense relies on two stars in shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey and the NFL’s best defensive linemen in Aaron Donald. They’re two great foundational pieces, but the rest of the defense leaves a lot to be desired. Some of the recent questionable L.A. signings have really restricted the team’s flexibility, leaving it very top-heavy on defense.
The Rams lack an elite edge rush and are very vulnerable at linebacker.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers come into this Sunday night matchup reeling, losers of two straight at home — both by greater than touchdown favorites.
In fairness, they’ve been hit hard by the injury bug, more so than any team in the NFL this season. Both sides of the ball have had a number of cluster injuries. However, the offense is now finally fully healthy at least, especially with Jimmy Garoppolo finally getting in a full week of full practice. I assume he has to be better than last week against Miami.
The secondary and the ability to generate pressure were the two strengths of this defense last season. Both have been severely hit by injuries in 2020 as San Francisco has had to make do without its best edge rushers and even had to start the game last week without its top three corners.
It does look like the 49ers will at least have Ahkello Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley back this week, which means they won’t have to rely on guys called up from the practice squad like last week. That should help. Still, this edge rush and secondary are nowhere close to full strength without the likes of Richard Sherman and Joey Bosa.
I personally think this line is a gross overreaction to what we’ve seen over the past few weeks. For what it’s worth, the lookahead line prior to last week was 49ers -3 — that means we’ve seen a very rare 6-point swing in the market over a seven-day span.
Yes, the Rams deserved a bump in everyone’s power ratings — just as the 49ers deserved a downgrade, even with the 49ers getting healthier this week and the Rams beating up on the third-string Washington quarterback. Even so, I still make this game around a pick’em, so I gladly grabbed the +3,5 with the home pup — and love anything +3 or better … .even a juiced +3 at -120.
The 49ers also match up fairly well with the Rams.
As I previously alluded to, this Rams offense just isn’t attacking downfield. That’s how you exploit this beat up 49ers secondary that will still be without Sherman and an elite slot corner in K’Waun Williams. Per Football Outsiders, the 49ers rank 30th in the NFL in defending the deep ball but have still graded out very well when defending the short pass at second overall.
In 2020, linebackers are the running backs of the defense — they just don’t really matter that much in today’s game where most teams are rarely ever playing with three backers (and sometimes two) on the field, but in this particular matchup, linebackers should play a significant role in the outcome. And in that case, the 49ers have a massive advantage.
Their linebackers are excellent in coverage, which is critical against a Rams team that loves to throw to short and features their tight ends. The 49ers also rank sixth in the NFL in covering tight ends.
And even without their full arsenal of edge rushers, the 49ers are still getting pressure at a respectable clip. That’s how you force the mechanical Goff, who continues to struggle immensely under pressure, into key mistakes.
With a clean pocket, Goff leads the NFL with an impressive 91.7% Adjusted Completion Percentage with six touchdowns and one interception. However, under pressure, Goff ranks 27th of 30 quarterbacks (min. 100 pass attempts) with two TDs and two INTs.
In contrast, the Rams are very vulnerable at the linebacker position, which Kyle Shanahan can fully exploit on the ground with Raheem Mostert, and especially over the middle with George Kittle. I also expect the San Francisco offensive line to get a solid push at the line of scrimmage all night against a Los Angeles front that ranks 28th in Adjusted Line Yards (per Football Outsiders).
This is a great buy-low, sell-high spot to jump on board the 49ers in a plus-matchup on both sides to the ball. Linebackers will matter on Sunday night. L.A.’s early schedule might work to our benefit as it’s reasonable to expect its travel will catch soon. The Rams have gone from L.A. to Philly back to L.A., to Buffalo then back to L.A., to DC back to L.A. before now heading to the Bay Area for this game — all since Sep. 13.
PICK: 49ers +3 or better