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NFC Championship injury report: Should L.A. start Joe Noteboom or Andrew Whitworth?

Sean McVay may have more than injuries to consider with regards to left tackle

Rams vs Bucs in Tampa Bay, FL. Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

LA Rams head coach Sean McVay met with the media on Wednesday and gave an encouraging injury report that may only result in one key player missing Sunday’s NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers ... and he isn’t even the starter. McVay noted that backup left tackle Joseph Noteboom was officially an “OUT” on Wednesday (the team only went through walkthroughs, nothing physical), as was Greg Gaines (toe) and Van Jefferson (knee).

McVay expects Gaines and Jefferson to be okay for Sunday and he also sounded optimistic on the availability of Andrew Whitworth and Taylor Rapp. Special teamer Buddy Howell was limited.

For McVay, the decision between Whitworth and Noteboom could simply come down to availability, but what if both are available on Sunday? The simple decision would be to start the starter. However, Whitworth’s most recent outings and Noteboom’s most recent outings, including in Sunday’s thrilling 30-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which he only allowed one pressure on Matthew Stafford, may complicate what McVay should do to give the Rams the best chance of winning.

It’s hard to imagine a player of Andrew Whitworth’s career caliber not starting if available, especially if he’s healthier than Noteboom (and that could be the only factor that keeps Noteboom from starting), but protecting Stafford against the 49ers pass rush is no simple matter. Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead each had two sacks in their divisional round win over the Green Bay Packers, while former Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam also got to Aaron Rodgers in that upset.

Who do you think should be starting at left tackle, if both are equally healthy?