Sunday Night NFL Pick — Niners Licking Wounds…But Can They Be Ram-Tough?

There can’t be much more embarrassment than to be an eight-point favorite over a team at home and then get chased out of your own building by halftime. Oh, and have your Super Bowl quarterback yanked to boot.

So you know how the San Francisco 49ers feel.

Now they have to fasten the chin straps for a date with a hated rival, as the Los Angeles Rams visit in the Sunday Night NFL game on NBC.

LOS ANGELES RAMS at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS, 8:20 PM ET

BetAnySports Sunday Night NFL Odds: Rams -2.5 (-120), Total 51.5

Kyle Shanahan said he didn’t pull Jimmy Garoppolo out of last week’s 43-17 loss to Miami because of poor performance (although that action would have been justified). He just wanted him to rest his ankle. And now he says it feels better than any time since he suffered the injury.

And of course, Raheem Mostert, who leads all running backs in yards per carry, is playing for the 49ers too. He better be good, because if he isn’t, Aaron Donald, who racked up four sacks against the Washingtons last week, will be testing Jimmy G’s ankle – early and often. San Francisco has surrendered ten sacks in the last two games.

It could be good fortune that the Rams have yielded 4.7 yards a carry (23rd in the league). This is about the same, however, as their Super Bowl season two years ago.

Teams run the football not because they have nothing else that can work, but because they really want to develop some quality balance in the offense, occupy some clock, get play action going, and make down-and-distance situations easier.

The Rams are a team that has emphasized play action a great deal since Sean McVay became the head coach. For that to happen, you have to execute a run game with enough efficiency to have opponents worried about it.

Well, L.A. is running the football 51.5% of the time this season, compared to 38% a year ago. That tells you it’s working. Josh Allen is the only quarterback in the NFL who has thrown for more yards off play action than Goff’s 690.

And conversely, San Francisco, which was a run-first team last year (51.3%) is running it only 38.8% in 2020.

McVay makes no bones about the fact that having an offensive line that’s healthy is a real difference-maker. That’s not something they had last year. And it has helped them be productive with the “committee” approach at running back, which did not work last year.

If you could pressure Goff (a 71% passer) consistently you might be able to muck some of this up. But seriously, how are the Niners going to do that? This is where the injuries to guys like Solomon Thomas and Dee Ford and Nick Bosa and now Ziggy Ansha really kill them. You need to challenge what the Rams do, and they can’t do it right now.

Depth is obviously a problem. The Niners’ replacements at cornerback have allowed a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. Really?

No one would be surprised if the Niners came out with a nasty attitude following that Miami loss. They could exploit the Rams’ defensive front (aside from Donald, that is). And don’t forget that coming back from injury a couple of weeks ago, tight end George Kittle caught 15 passes for 183 yards.

But even a good effort could get them beat here. The number is agreeable, if you believe that the Niners are too short on personnel right now to compete against the better clubs (although good enough to roll by the Giants and Jets). Lay the points with a Ram squad that is doing what it needs to do.

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