3 Reasons Why the Rams Will Beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game

The stakes couldn’t be any higher. The winner of this game goes on to play in the Super Bowl, and for the Los Angeles Rams, that would mean getting to play it on their home turf. Super Bowl 56 will be played at SoFi Stadium, but so will the NFC Championship Game, a contest that will see the Rams take on the red-hot San Francisco 49ers.

It’s a matchup between two NFC West rivals and two teams that know each other well. The 49ers beat the Rams twice during the regular season and are hoping to secure one more victory. In the meantime, their fans are hoping to take over the stadium again.

It would seem as if the Rams have an uphill battle in front of them in order to make it to the Super Bowl, but here are three reasons to be confident that they will beat the 49ers in the title game.

Matthew Stafford is playing the best football of his career

For a quarterback who hadn’t won a playoff game in his 12 previous seasons in Detroit, Matthew Stafford has sure hit his stride with LA.

One of the biggest moments of the postseason so far, and arguably the biggest moment of his career, was the 44-yard dime he threw to Cooper Kupp to set up the game-winning field goal that sent Tom Brady and the defending champion Buccaneers packing. It was an iconic play from Stafford. It was the magnum opus of a career that has featured otherwise meaningless throws in Detroit.

It was also one of many big plays he’s made this postseason.

Stafford has completed 41-of-55 passes this postseason (good for a completion percentage of 74.5%) for 568 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He’s averaged a passer rating of 131.5. Not necessarily known for his ground game, he’s also found the endzone twice as a runner.

In big games with a ton on the line, an elite quarterback can often be the difference between winning and losing. The Rams have theirs in Stafford.

If it comes down to quarterback play, the safe bet is Stafford over Jimmy Garoppolo. Every time.

The Rams have a strong rushing defense

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
Aaron Donald #99 of the Los Angeles Rams looks on prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium | Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The key to beating Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers is always going to be stopping the run. At the very least, that gives you the best chance.

Case in point, the Green Packers were frankly the better team in the Divisional Round, and a huge reason for that was their defense. Green Bay held the 49ers to just 106 yards rushing on the ground, including only 39 from Deebo Samuel. If Green Bay’s special teams didn’t implode and Aaron Rodgers had found a way to put up more than 10 points on the board, they’d be playing the Rams this weekend instead of the Niners.

Stop the run. Stop San Francisco.

Aaron Donald will be essential. The 49ers are going to test the Rams defensive front early and often, and Donald is the best interior run-stuffer in the game. He finished with two tackles for loss against the Buccaneers, and though Leonard Fournette did find the end zone two times, the Bucs were held to just 51 rushing yards as a whole. That was arguably one of the reasons they couldn’t beat LA, and the Rams will be hoping for a repeat performance.

As a unit, the Rams have a defense that appears poised to play strength vs. strength with the 49ers. LA finished the regular season with the sixth-best run defense in the league, giving up just 102.4 yards per game. If they can keep Samuel in check while forcing Elijah Mitchell into tough but ultimately empty yards, Stafford and the offense should be able to score more than the 10 points Rodgers and the Pack were able to muster up.

Even if the 49ers can double the Buccaneers’ rushing yards, that’s a good day at the office for LA.

Sean McVay and the Rams are due for a win over the 49ers

Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford, LA Rams
Head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams reacts during the second quarter of the game against the Arizona Cardinals | Harry How/Getty Images

The beauty of divisional football is that it’s tough to beat the same opponent twice. Between the familiarity, the film, and the coaching adjustments, going 2-0 against a divisional opponent is impressive.

With that in mind, good for San Francisco for beating the Rams twice in the regular season. The Niners’ dominance against Sean McVay and the Rams actually goes back even further than this season, though. Shanahan is 6-0 against the Rams over the last few seasons. The last time the Rams beat the 49ers was in Week 17 of the 2018 season.

The bad news for San Francisco is that conventional wisdom would suggest that, ironically, the winning streak makes beating LA in the title game that much harder. The actual odds say that a team beating the same opponent three times in one season isn’t actually all that uncommon, but seven-straight times in three years? McVay is a great coach. It seems almost impossible that he’ll go winless against the 49ers three seasons in a row. Eventually, the other side of the coin is going to land facing up.

Put it this way; McVay now has two complete games of tape to dissect to see how Shanahan attacks his team and schemes, from this season specifically. That’s not even taking into account the vault of knowledge he undoubtedly has on this one particular opponent.

Shanahan, of course, has that same advantage, but how many more wrinkles can he throw at the Rams this season?

The familiarity just makes it that much more challenging.

There’s also the bounce-back effect to consider. Stafford was, frankly, underwhelming in the two regular-season games against San Francisco. He threw four touchdowns and four interceptions. Considering the way he’s playing now, you’d have to expect the 49ers will get his best game. At the very least, he should do better than a 1-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He hasn’t thrown a pick this postseason, mind you.

There are a few other oddities to consider.

Samuel threw a touchdown pass to Jauan Jennings in San Francisco’s second win over LA. Do you think the Rams will fall for that this time around? Speaking of Jennings, he caught two touchdown passes in that game. He caught only one target for six yards in the win against the Packers. Should he really be expected to count for 12 points against LA’s defense in this contest as well?

Everything has gone right for the 49ers so far. It’s been an incredible, if not improbable, run for the No. 6 seed. The odds would suggest that their perfect run can’t continue, though, especially against a squad that knows them so well and seems destined for a come-up.

Stats courtesy of ESPN and Pro Football Reference. 

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