NFL Sunday Night Football: Rams/49ers Preview

by Alec McMordie

The Sunday Night Football game on NBC is a battle of two NFC West teams that have represented the NFC in the last two Super Bowls.

San Francisco has continued the trend of teams struggling from the hangover from losing in a Super Bowl. Expectations were high that Kyle Shanahan’s team would avoid a letdown from their 31-20 loss to Kansas City in the Super Bowl last February. Yet the 49ers are just 2-3 on the season after suffering two straight upset losses.

San Francisco was upset on Sunday Night Football two weeks ago at home to Philadelphia before getting stunned once again last Sunday at home to Miami by a 43-17 score. The Niners now face the prospect of going winless during a rare three-game homestand before a tough two-game road trip at New England and Seattle.

Injuries have played a significant role in the 49ers' disappointing start. San Francisco has 11 players on Injured Reserve, with five additional players have been declared out for the game tonight. The Niners’ defense has been hit particularly hard with cornerback Richard Sherman along with defensive ends Nick Bosa and Dee Ford on IR, linebacker Kwon Alexander out with an ankle injury, and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley questionable as he continues in the concussion protocol. Without these starters last week, the Dolphins’ Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to pass for 350 yards to torch the San Francisco defense.

An ankle injury to Jimmy Garoppolo has limited the quarterback to just three starts. He returned last week against the Dolphins but completed only 7 of 17 passes for 77 yards with two interceptions for  Shanahan pulled him at halftime with him struggling to plant on his injured foot. Garoppolo will start tonight.

Los Angeles has started the season 4-1 after they defeated Washington last week by a 30-10 score. The Rams missed the playoffs last year despite a 9-7 record after losing to New England in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. The perception was that Los Angeles perhaps became too much of a finesse team last season. The Rams responded by letting running back Todd Gurley depart to rely on a three-headed rushing attack of Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, and Cam Akers. Los Angeles is running the ball on over 53% of their offensive snaps, which is setting up the play-action passing game that McVay favors. Quarterback Jared Goff leads the NFL with 23 deep shots of 20 or more air yards in the passing game this season.

Los Angeles is scoring 27.2 points per game while averaging 403.6 yards per game. The Rams defense is also holding their opponents to just 18.0 points per game, along with only 304.2 yards per game. Their +99.4 net yards per game mark is the best net YPG differential in the league. Los Angeles also leads the NFL in sacks after registering seven last week against Washington. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald leads the way as he sacked the quarterback four times last week.

San Francisco hosts at Levi’s Stadium in the 142nd meeting between these rivals. BookMaker lists the 49ers as a 3-point favorite with the total set at 51.5. Kickoff is at 8:20 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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