If you had taken a look at the eventual matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams at the beginning of the year, you'd have seen it as a big test for the Niners' young and unproven quarterback, Trey Lance. But the dynamic will be a bit different on this particular Monday night. That's because the Niners are now back to using their veteran quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, after Lance suffered a season-ending injury.
The Rams and Niners will tangle in an NFC West confrontation that begins qt 8:15 PM ET at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
In the Monday Night Football odds posted on the game at BetOnline, the Niners are favored:
San Francisco 49ers -1.5
Los Angeles Rams +1.5
Over 42.5 Points -110
Under 42.5 Points -110
The Niners' vision when it came to Lance was that he would give them the kind of two-way (running-passing) boost that would make them harder to deal with. Indeed, he shows potential. But he was handed the job without an audition, so to speak, and there are going to be some veterans who aren't too happy with that.
After all, Garoppolo had led them to a Super Bowl, where they were one quarter away from beating the Kansas City Chiefs, and then to last year's NFC championship, when, if Jaquiski Tartt had just been able to hold on to a sure interception, it might have been them hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
But maybe it's these "almosts" that swayed them away from Garoppolo, even though it was the defense that failed them.
Garoppolo gets the chance to play the hero once more, as he was when he became the starting quarterback and led the Niners to five straight victories after utterly flunking. And the feeling here is that even though he hasn't done anything spectacular thus far (365 yards on 50 attempts), he'll start to come around. Last season he was in the NFL's top five in terms of yards per attempt.
With Elijah Mitchell not available (MCL injury), the 49ers will continue to use Jeff Wilson as the #1 running back, with Deebo Samuel taking turns going out wide and in the backfield. He is capable of some big plays as a running back, but it's as a wide receiver that he generally does the most damage (leading the NFL in yards per catch last year, and it should be noted that this was done while connecting with Jimmy G).
While one has to acknowledge the presence of at least two awesome contributors on defense (Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey), it can be argued that the Niners have done the better job on the stop end, ranking second in the league in both yards and points allowed per drive. Of course, it must be considered that they have played against Justin Fields and Geno Smith in these first three games (along with Russell Wilson).
Other factors come into play. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay are from the same coaching tree. They know each other so well, and in this particular case that familiarity has worked out better for Shanahan, who would have been on a seven-game winning streak against his friend if Tartt (now departed) had been able to make that interception.
The Rams have looked far from invincible in their Super Bowl title defense. They were routed by Buffalo, had a close shave against Atlanta, and did not overwhelm anybody in a 20-12 win over Arizona. In this near-pick'em situation, we are expecting that San Francisco comes out with more punch. Lay the point.
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