After a rollercoaster start to the 2022 campaign, the Los Angeles Rams headed into a much needed bye week following a Week 6 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Sitting at .500, things could have taken a turn for the worst for the defending champions.
However, even with their early struggles, they still are very much in the race for another NFC West title. Arizona is sitting at 3-4, and the division leading Seahawks (who could’ve guessed that one!?) are at 4-3. The 49ers, the Rams opponent this week, have a record of 3-4 as well, as they have dropped their last two ball games to the Falcons and the Chiefs.
With all of that being said, L.A. has a chance to make a huge move in the division, despite the injury-laden start to the season. There is no better game to get everything up and going again than against a team that has owned them, defeating the Rams seven consecutive times in the regular season. Here are 3 reasons as to why the Rams WILL break the streak and defeat the 49ers, as well as 3 ways they could get swept by San Francisco for the fourth season in a row.
3 REASONS THE RAMS WILL WIN
1) HEALTHIER THAN LAST TIME
Back in week 4, the injuries to the Rams offensive line reared it’s ugly head, as quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked a whopping seven times in the 24-9 loss. Starting center (at the time) Coleman Shelton went down with an injury early in the game, and that forced the very inexperienced Jeremiah Kolone onto the field, and wow did it get ugly fast.
It seemed as if as soon as Kolone got into the game, all hell broke loose offensively. With an offensive line that was already missing their left guard in David Edwards, the Rams were down to back-ups at 3 of 5 positions on the o-line during the Monday night game against San Francisco.
Fast-forward a few weeks, and the Rams offensive line still looks different than at the start of the season, but it seems improved. Left tackle Joe Noteboom tore his achilles against Carolina, forcing another shuffle and putting Alaric Jackson into the left tackle spot. Jackson finished the game against the Panthers and played very well, showing a ton of promise at the spot. Brian Allen is back and returning to the lineup for the first time since week 2, and newcomer Oday Aboushi will man the right guard spot, with Bobby Evans and Rob Havenstein at the right guard and right tackle spots respectively.
Not only is the line a bit healthier, but so are some play-makers on the outside. Receiver Van Jefferson is expected to make his season debut, and cornerbacks Troy Hill and Cobie Durant will also be returning from injuries this week.
When the Rams win this week, expect for an all-around improved lineup from last time out to make a big impact on both sides of the ball.
2) BRANDON POWELL MAKES BIG IMPACT
This one may surprise some folks, but allow me to elaborate a little bit. The past few weeks, we have seen more and more of Brandon Powell as a ball carrier, this is aside from his typical return duties. Last time out against the Panthers, Powell had the most touches he has had in a Rams uniform, as the receiver hauled in 4 of 5 targets through the air, and also had 3 carries on the ground.
Powell also started the game against the Panthers, suggesting that McVay is starting to trust him as a player that is capable of contributing more than he has in the past. Brandon Powell is a flat out natural when he gets the ball in his hands, displaying the ability to make people miss and provides the potential for a splash play.
As many Rams fans know, having a player that is as much of a threat to get the ball on the ground as he is through the air (à la Deebo Samuel, the Ram killer) can be uber-effective for the offense. Powell has the playmaking ability to become a star in this offense, and I believe this game will be the start of something special for the 5th year man out of the University of Florida.
When the Rams win this Sunday, expect for Brandon Powell to have a breakout performance.
3) DEFENSE FORCES TURNOVERS
Despite having the 7th ranked defense in terms of total points given up as well as the 3rd ranked defense in total yards given up, the Rams have only forced eight turnovers to start the 2022 season. While not horrible, that total is tied for 19th in the league, something that I am sure the defenders in Los Angeles want to change in the final 11 games.
In each of the 49ers losses since Jimmy G began starting this season, he has thrown an interception. In each of their wins since he took over, Garoppolo has thrown a total of zero interceptions. Clearly, there is a recipe to defeat the 49ers, and it all starts with forcing their quarterback into mistakes throughout the game. If the Rams can put some pressure on Jimmy, knock him off of his spot, and take away his first read, they will have tons of success against the 49ers offense.
When the Rams come out on top this week, expect the defense to take the ball away en route to a streak-ending victory.
3 REASONS THE RAMS COULD LOSE
1) 49ERS D-LINE FEASTS ONCE AGAIN
I’ll say this as clearly and as simply as possible, the 49ers defensive line absolutely dominated and carried San Francisco to victory in the week 4 matchup. It seemed as if Stafford was either pressured or sacked on every single drop-back during the game, giving the offense zero shot to gain any sort of momentum throughout the contest.
There is a solid chance that this game could end up being a copy and paste of the first one, which bodes incredibly well for the 49ers and their defense. The Rams will have Brian Allen back in the middle of the o-line, which should be much better in terms of communication up front. However, whether that impacts the overall production of the offensive line remains to be seen.
If the Rams lose the game on Sunday, expect Stafford to have another rough outing in terms of being hit/sacked.
2) MCCAFFREY IS UNLEASHED
There is no secret that the 49ers seem to save their best concepts/gameplans for Rams week, and while that is almost certainly not the case, us L.A. fans seem to believe so. With that being said, offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan has a new toy at his disposal by the name of Christian McCaffrey.
This will be the second straight game that the Rams will face Christian McCaffrey, except this time he has a much better team around him in San Francisco as opposed to Carolina. Despite having possibly one of the worst supporting casts around him with the Panthers, the running back out of Stanford still managed to have 158 all-purpose yards against a stout Rams defense in week 6. The dual-threat RB did so on just 20 touches, showing just how special of a player he is with the ball in his hands.
McCaffrey will have a much bigger role in his second game with the 49ers, so the Rams should expect a heavy dosage early and often. If the Rams end up losing, expect for McCaffrey to have his first big game with his new squad.
3) ANOTHER GAME, ANOTHER COSTLY TURNOVER
Despite how out-of-hand the week 4 Monday night game seemed throughout the contest, the Rams still had an opportunity to tie the game in the 4th quarter down 17-9. Following what had been an encouraging drive where it seemed Los Angeles was finding a rhythm, a back-breaking interception that was returned for a touchdown shut the door on any chance of a come-from-behind victory.
Fast-forward to week 5 against the Cowboys and, within the opening minutes of the game, Stafford is hit as he turns around during a play-action and fumbles the ball. The ball gets scooped up and is returned for a Cowboys touchdown to instantly put the Rams into a hole. Dallas went on to only score once on offense, so that play proved to be extremely costly when it was all said and done.
Stafford threw another pick-6 against Carolina in week 6, which ended up not being as costly, but still spotted the opponent a touchdown right before halftime. So, if you’re keeping count, in weeks 4-6 the opponent has gotten a touchdown from their defense thanks to the Rams inability to take care of the ball, unacceptable for a team that has their sights set on back-to-back Super Bowl titles.
If the Rams drop an 8th consecutive game against the 49ers, expect the offense to provide San Francisco with some free points in the contest.