After picking up their biggest win of the season on Monday, the Los Angeles Rams head into Week 12 looking to get a victory against a longtime rival that has recently had their number and strengthen their hold on top of the competitive NFC West. The Rams will host the San Francisco 49ers at the SoFi Stadium on Sunday and will look to get a measure of revenge against a team that has beaten them in their last three meetings.
The Rams are coming off a thrilling 27-24 win over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a victory which put them on top of a competitive NFC West at 7-3. Now, they face a San Francisco team that has dropped its last three games but is coming off a bye week and could get some key players back in time for the next chapter of their rivalry.
The 49ers have also had a recent mastery of the Rams, including their most recent meeting in Week 6, when San Francisco shut down the Los Angeles offense and took a 24-16 victory. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, meanwhile, picked apart the Rams’ defense, which failed to pressure and record a sack in a disappointing performance. But now Garoppolo is out with an ankle sprain, and the Rams’ defense enters the game as the best in the NFL in terms of yards allowed, limiting opponents to an average of just 291.9 yards per game.
Here are four predictions when the Rams face off against the 49ers.
1. Jared Goff passes for more than 250 yards and 2 TDs
Goff is coming off a strong performance against the Buccaneers, completing 39 of 51 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns. However, he also had two interceptions, and now has eight this season against 16 touchdown passes. On Sunday, he’ll be facing a Niners defense that allows an average of just 208.9 passing yards per game, which ranks fifth in the league.
The 26-year-old has struggled against the San Francisco defense in the past, and in their Week 6 game, he completed just 19 of 38 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The 50 percent completion rate and 198 passing yards are both his lowest of the season, and the signal caller should be motivated when he faces the 49ers on Sunday.
After their Week 6 loss, Goff admitted his struggles against the 49ers and said that it was an uncharacteristic game for him where he made mistakes, including missing his receivers—mistakes that he vowed not to repeat. The quarterback has passed for 300 yards in the Rams’ last three games, and should be able to play much better against San Francisco as Los Angeles looks to avoid a season sweep.
2. The running backs will score a TD
Heading into Week 12, Los Angeles averages 124.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks ninth in the NFL. In Week 6 against San Francisco, however, not only did running backs Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown fail to find the end zone, but the Niners defense also limited them to just 113 rushing yards. The Rams had a season-low 37 rushing yards against Tampa Bay in Week 11 as their wide receivers had a field day, with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods combined for 275 receiving yards and a touchdown.
But Los Angeles should have more rushing yards on Sunday against San Francisco, which has allowed an average of 107 rushing yards per game, the 10th best mark in the league. If the Rams turn to their ground game more often against their rivals than they did against the Buccaneers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Henderson, Brown, or Cam Akers to find the end zone at some point in the game after failing to do so against the Buccaneers.
3. Aaron Donald will bounce back and get a sack
It doesn’t seem like a bold prediction to say that Donald, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and one of the league’s best players, will get to an opposing team’s quarterback during a game. But Donald actually hasn’t recorded a sack or a tackle in the Rams’ last two games against the Seattle Seahawks and Buccaneers, the first time it happened in his career. But despite his struggles, he believes that he remains disruptive against opposing team’s offenses and is not playing bad football, and instead pointing to the lack of holding calls by officials.
“In my opinion, they hold every play,” Donald said after the game against Tampa Bay, via ESPN. “There was some blatant holds that we didn’t get the call for.”
But even if he hasn’t recorded a sack or tackle in two weeks, the six-time Pro Bowler still ranks third in that department in the NFL with nine sacks while also having 35 pressures. He failed to record a sack in just four of the Rams’ games this season, one of which came in their Week 6 loss against the 49ers. The 29-year-old was largely ineffective and couldn’t get to Garoppolo in the teams’ previous meeting, so he should be highly motivated against San Francisco and quarterback Nick Mullens this time around.
4. Rams get revenge against their rivals and move up to 8-3
Last season, the Rams were coming off a Super Bowl appearance but were looking to keep their faint playoff hopes alive in their anticipated Week 16 clash against the 49ers. But despite taking a 21-10 lead early in the game, San Francisco came back to take a pulsating 34-31 victory to eliminate Los Angeles from playoff contention, while their rivals went on to play in the Super Bowl. This year, Sean McVay and the Rams have a chance to return the favor and deal a serious blow to the Niners’ playoff hopes with a win, which will also strengthen their playoff hopes and keep them on top of the NFC West.
They haven’t fared well against their rivals in recent meetings, having lost three straight. But after a big win over Tampa Bay that proves that they should be considered as a contender in the conference and with one of the league’s best defenses and an offense that has played well in recent weeks, they should be able to pick up a big win against their rivals. A win gives the Rams an 8-3 record with five games to play, including three against NFC West teams, which gives the team an even stronger chance of returning to the playoffs.