Why Van Jefferson Is the Rams’ Secret Weapon Against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game

The Los Angeles Rams are oozing with confidence after knocking the defending Super Bowl champions out of the NFL playoffs. Sean McVay’s squad held off a late rally by Tom Brady and the Tampa Buccaneers to win the Divisional Round game 30-27.

Looking ahead to the NFC Championship Game, LA will need certain players to step up to beat the San Francisco 49ers. Van Jefferson is sometimes a forgotten man in the Rams offense, but he could come up big to propel the team to victory.

Van Jefferson has taken a massive leap in Year 2

Van Jefferson has been a pleasant surprise for the LA Rams in 2021. He had a quiet rookie season, catching just 19 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown. However, he’s turned things up a notch in his second season.

Jefferson recorded 50 receptions for 802 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season. He finished third on the team in receptions and second in targets (89) behind only Cooper Kupp.

The Florida product’s role has grown tremendously since the 2020 season. Matthew Stafford and the Rams offense have relied more heavily on Jefferson since Robert Woods suffered a torn ACL after Week 9.

Kupp has been far and away Stafford’s favorite target. Still, Sean McVay has found ways to get Jefferson involved in the offense. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, he excels when lining up as an outside receiver. The 25-year-old has also shown an ability to stretch the field.

LA should continue to take advantage of Van Jefferson’s big-play potential to get to the Super Bowl.

Why the Rams need to involve the emerging wideout against the 49ers

Rams WR Van Jefferson warms up before game against the 49ers
Van Jefferson of the Los Angeles Rams on the field before game against the San Francisco 49ers | Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Van Jefferson has played well in the postseason up to this point despite the surprisingly small sample size. He’s caught three passes for 70 yards in the Wild Card Round and Divisional Round combined.

Matthew Stafford has only targeted the second-year wideout four times in the postseason. The Rams must get Jefferson more regularly involved to keep defenses honest. He has the potential to make a significant impact on the NFC Championship Game.

The former Florida Gators standout caught five passes for 85 yards between the two regular-season meetings against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Niners have defended the pass well in 2021, allowing just 206.4 yards per game to opposing offenses. Meanwhile, the Rams are a top-five passing team. Stafford and company averaged just over 273 passing yards per game. Even though San Francisco is strong in that department, LA has the weapons to make the defense pay.

Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. are the premier receiving options. Kupp’s having a historic season while OBJ has come into his own since the team signed him midseason. With both wideouts commanding so much attention, Sean McVay could use Van Jefferson to exploit mismatches.

How LA can knock off San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game

The LA Rams have had their hands full with the San Francisco 49ers in 2021. Kyle Shanahan’s squad has owned Sean McVay and company, sweeping the season series.

The Niners stunned the Rams on Monday Night Football with a 31-10 victory in Week 10. They followed it up by escaping LA with a 27-24 overtime win in the regular-season finale. The 49ers have now reeled off six straight victories over the Rams. LA will look to get off the snide against their NFC West rivals in the NFC Championship Game.

Even though LA has lost to San Francisco twice, the Rams could use that to their advantage. The familiarity is there, especially with the teams playing twice a year. The Rams haven’t been able to crack the code, but Sean McVay has to turn the tide at some point.

The Rams will need to play a complete game to knock off the Niners. Matthew Stafford must continue his stellar postseason play. Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., and Van Jefferson should all play integral roles on offense, along with running back Cam Akers.

The Rams’ defense will have the unenviable task of trying to slow down the 49ers’ potent rushing attack. Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell set the tone with their physical playing style. Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and Jalen Ramsey must do the same for LA.

The more physical team will likely win this game. If it’s the Rams, they’ll secure a Super Bowl berth at SoFi Stadium.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

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