San Francisco 49ers (9-7, 8-8 ATS) at Los Angeles Rams (12-4, 8-8), 4:25 p.m.
Brolley’s 49ers Stats and Trends
The 49ers beat the Rams 31-10 as 3.5-point home underdogs in a game totaled at 50 points back in mid-November.
San Francisco is 6-2 ATS in its last eight games.
The 49ers have played under the total in four straight games.
Elijah Mitchell stepped right back into his workhorse role in his first game after a month-long absence for a knee injury and a concussion. He finished with 21/119 rushing and 2/11/1 receiving on a 58% snap share in San Francisco’s two-score victory over the Texans in Week 17. The rookie has now seen 21+ carries in his last four contests and he’s registered 16+ FP in six of his 10 appearances this season. Mitchell is locked into a massive role heading into San Francisco’s pivotal matchup with the Rams, whom he posted 27/91 rushing against back in Week 10. He also needs 122 rushing yards to reach 1000 yards as a rookie.
Jimmy Garoppolo was unable to play in Week 17 because of a torn UCL in his throwing thumb. Jimmy G gives the 49ers their best chance at winning at this stage of his career, but Trey Lance is by far the better fantasy option. Lance showed his fantasy potential for the second time this season, posting 8/31 rushing while completing 16/23 passes for 249 yards (10.8 YPA), two TDs, and one INT for 20.1 FP against the Texans. Jimmy G posted 322/1 passing with two INTs in his last start in Week 16 against the Texans, and he attempted a season-low 19 passes for 182/2 passing (9.6 YPA) in San Fran’s lopsided victory over the Rams in Week 10.
Deebo Samuel has topped six targets just once in his last seven games but he’s seen 5+ carries in each of those contests to make up for his dwindling role in the passing game. He’s scored double-digit FP in each of his 15 games this season including 30.3 FP against the Rams in Week 10 when he finished with 5/97/1 receiving and 5/36/1 rushing.
George Kittle needs 100 receiving yards to reach 1000 yards for the season. He’s stalled out in his mission for the milestone over the last two weeks with just 3/50 receiving on five targets. He previously had 28/425/3 receiving in three games in Weeks 13-15. Kittle finished with 5/50/1 receiving on seven targets when these teams met in mid-November.
Brandin Aiyuk has reached 12+ FP and 6+ targets in five of his last seven games after hanging 4/94 receiving on six targets against the Texans last week. Aiyuk disappointed with just 3/26 receiving on four targets when these teams collided back in Week 10.
Brolley’s Rams Stats and Trends
The Rams have won five straight games outright and they’re 4-1 ATS in that stretch.
Cooper Kupp needs 136 yards to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yards record of 1964 yards set in 2012, and he needs 171 yards to become the first player to reach 2K yards. Kupp also needs 12 receptions to break Michael Thomas’ single-season receptions record of 149 set in 2002. He posted 11/122 receiving on 13 targets when these teams met back in mid-November.
Matthew Stafford helped Johnson to the NFL receiving yards record back in 2012, and he’ll look to help Kupp break that record this week. Stafford also needs 352 passing yards to reach 5000 yards for the second time in his career, and he needs two TD passes to reach 40. Stafford completed 26/41 passes for 243 yards (5.9 YPA), one TD, and two INTs in a 21-point loss to the 49ers in Week 10.
Van Jefferson hasn’t scored in three straight games after running off TDs in three consecutive games in Weeks 12-14. He’s reached 4+ catches just twice in his last nine contests. Jefferson posted 3/54 receiving on seven targets in this matchup in mid-November.
Odell Beckham has been kept afloat with two touchdowns in his last three games, but he has just 10/83/2 receiving on 18 targets in that span. He’s broken 40+ yards just twice in his first seven games with the Rams. OBJ managed 2/18 receiving on three targets against the 49ers in Week 10 in what was his first game with the Rams.
Tyler Higbee posted season-highs in catches (6) and receiving yards (69) last week, and he’s strung together 11/110 receiving on 15 targets in the last two weeks. Higbee managed 3/20/1 receiving on five targets against the 49ers in mid-November, but he also had a drop that resulted in a pick-six in that contest.
Sony Michel has 20+ touches in each of his last five games and he’s posted 13+ FP and 95+ scrimmage yards in four of those contests. He’s been a near every-down player with Darrell Henderson (knee, IR) and Cam Akers (Achilles) out of the mix as he logged a 98% snap share against the Ravens. Michel and Henderson combined for 9/51 rushing and 6/21 receiving in this matchup back in mid-November.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 31.2 (31st)
Plays per game: 62.1 (18th)
Pass: 49.0% (30th) | Run: 51.0% (3rd)
Pace: 29.1 (16th)
Plays per game: 60.4 (25th)
Pass: 64.0% (4th) | Run: 36.0% (29th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
As expected, the 49ers went extremely run-heavy last week with Trey Lance calling 37 runs compared to just 24 passes. They didn’t exactly run away with the game, either, as it was a one-score affair deep into the third-quarter vs. the Texans. If they are going to make the playoffs, you better bet HC Kyle Shanahan is going down swinging with the run game and Elijah Mitchell. Meanwhile, the Rams are continuing to a throw a ton even with Matthew Stafford sliding. Over the last eight weeks, L.A. is 10th in pass rate in close games and fourth when leading.
While there is an interesting dichotomy between these two offenses philosophy-wise and obviously all of the playoff implications you could ask for, this game doesn’t set up well from a pace / play perspective. The 49ers have continued to play slow (31st in pace) while the Rams offensive struggles have weighed down their play volume (25th in plays per game). It’s still hard to get away from this game for Week 18 decisions, though, because it’s one of the few spots where we can guarantee playing time for the starters all game long.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Kyle Shanahan is the NFC version of Bill Belichick in injury report manipulation. He lists his QB/s and RB/s as questionable after every single game. And he always tosses out the same I expect him to be ready and/or I’m not particularly concerned-type updates on the regular. I’ve already come to grips with the fact that I simply cannot feature Elijah Mitchell in this series since his status is always determined long after this weekly article is published. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow Shanahan to bully me from promoting his QB. And the obvious reaction would be in the ballpark of wondering why I would even want to have any Jimmy Garoppolo exposure against the Aaron Donald- and Ramsey-led LAR defense.
In two matchups across from the Rams the last two seasons, Jimmy G has completed 73% of his attempts, posted a 131.1 passer rating, five TDs vs. zero INTs, and 19.5 FPG. He simply performs well against the Rams’ typical coverage shells. I will abandon all investment in the 49ers this week if Trey Lance draws the start. That’s far from a shot at Lance, as my only intention is avoiding a matchup he is absolutely unprepared to face at this stage of his career.
Perhaps it’s just my interpretation, but it certainly seems as though San Francisco is entirely confident that they will not only succeed in having K’Waun Williams, Ambry Thomas, Dontae Johnson, and Jimmie Ward test off of the COVID list in time to face the Rams, it also sounds as though they will get Emmanuel Moseley and Tavon Wilson back from IR. One of the most decimated secondaries in the NFL could instantly become one of the healthiest in a mere matter of hours. It’s a perfect example of Shanahan’s complete mastery/manipulation of the injury report.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Rams have the NFC West division title to play for, and they could be doing so against an extremely shorthanded San Francisco secondary, depending on the new COVID protocols.
Ambry Thomas goes on the reserve/COVID-19 list, joining other players in the #49ers secondary Jimmie Ward, K’Waun Williams and Dontae Johnson. Each is still in play to be cleared in time for Sunday’s game vs. the #Rams.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) January 5, 2022
Obviously, that’s good news for QB Matthew Stafford, but especially for a certain WR with the record books on his mind.
Cooper Kupp is 136 yards shy of breaking Calvin Johnson’s all-time single-season receiving yardage record. Kupp is already fifth on the all-time list (with 1,829 yards) and needs 171 yards to reach 2,000 — no receiver has ever reached that mark. Kupp also needs 12 receptions to break Michael Thomas’ single-season receptions record of 149 set in 2019. Meanwhile, Stafford needs 352 passing yards to reach 5,000 yards for the second time in his career, and he needs two TD passes to reach 40.
Here’s some advice… start ‘em!
Also… Cam Akers (Achilles) seems ready to play. Incredible!
Rams RB Cam Akers was a full participant in practice for the 2nd straight day. S Nick Scott, who has a broken thumb, was the only player who was limited.— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) January 7, 2022
It’s looking like the 49ers will have a late-week decision at QB between Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) and rookie Trey Lance. While Lance had an impressive second half last week after a quiet first half, it’s likely Garoppolo — if he’s able to, y’know, throw the ball — would be the better option for the 49ers in a must-win game. They need to win or the Saints need to lose for the Niners to go to the playoffs.
As for Lance, our Greg Cosell noted this week that coach Kyle Shanahan called a much different game for him than in his first start earlier this year, indicating much greater confidence in Lance’s ability to execute the passing game. While the likes of George Kittle and Deebo Samuel would likely be better with Jimmy G under center this week, Lance’s talent did jump off the page multiple times. Facing the Rams defense is just a totally different beast than the Texans, though.