- The Rams have allowed the league’s lowest rate of explosive pass plays (5%).
Sunday Night Football brings us an exciting matchup of two divisional foes who have represented the NFC in the past two Super Bowls. The Rams have bounced back from a disappointing 2019 after their Super Bowl run in 2018, while San Francisco is currently in their own Super Bowl hangover season having started 2-3 here in 2020.
The biggest issue for the 49ers has been injuries, and their defense remains decimated. But their offense is getting healthier, and Jimmy Garoppolo appears good to go after being benched at halftime in his return from a multi-week injury last Sunday. Garoppolo will have his biggest playmakers all on the field, including George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Raheem Mostert.
But the injury issues have caught up to San Francisco on the defensive side of the ball in losses to the Eagles and Dolphins the past two weeks, after they were able to handle the Jets and Giants offenses in Weeks 2 and 3. Still, the 49ers defense looks solid in most metrics so far this year, and until Week 5 they’d continued to play at a reasonably high level.
In fact, while the Rams and 49ers are coached by two of the league’s most innovative offensive minds in Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, this looks like a matchup of two of the league’s better defenses. PFF grades both of their defensive units in the top three so far this year, while Football Outsiders’ DVOA has them eighth and 11th.
Digging into the specifics at Sharp Football Stats, we find the 49ers have been better as a defense in terms of success rate both against the run and the pass. The Rams have actually allowed the league’s sixth-highest success rate against the run, but their calling card as a defense has been the league’s lowest rate of explosive plays allowed in the passing game.
That sets up pretty well for the 49ers. Shanahan is well known for devising deceptive running schemes that pick up chunk plays, then creating passing concepts off of those run designs that make use of motion and play action to get playmakers in space. As I noted, the 49ers are finally healthy on the offensive side of the ball, and Shanahan and the coaching staff has to feel their season slipping away. Sitting at 2-3 and hosting a 4-1 divisional rival, this feels like as much of a must-win game as a team like San Francisco can have at this point in the season.
I expect Shanahan to be on his A game, and I expect Garoppolo to play better after a disappointing return last week. While the Rams have been great at limiting those explosive plays, that stat is a little more fluky than success rates, and a 49ers offense at full strength is better equipped than most teams to find space. This is a game where we could see that Rams defensive explosive play rate regress.
The Rams do look like the better team on paper, but not by as much as this line indicates. The 49ers are getting healthier on at least one side of the ball, and I’m expecting a competitive game. Give me the added value of the home dogs on the moneyline.
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49ers ML @ +132
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Week 6 is here after a wild week 5. Week 5 saw Covid postponements, harrowing injuries and unreal rookie performances too. We'll see an NFC West clash between the Niners and Rams on Sunday Night Football, and two of the finest young minds in the game. Monday Night Football will see the Cowboys in their first post-Dak game and it'll be fascinating to see how they bounce back after that horrific injury. Stick with OddsChecker and you'll get free picks for every NFL game this week, from Ben Gretch, Davis Mattek, Ben Rolfe and more. Plus you'll be able to compare the best odds from legal sportsbooks too.