There are no secrets when it comes to the NFC Championship Game.
The Los Angeles Rams will host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday — the third meeting between the NFC West rivals and obviously the biggest of the season — with a trip to Super Bowl LVI on the line.
Kyle Shanahan’s Niners have had Sean McVay and the Rams’ number this season and in the recent past, having won the last six matchups between the clubs. That includes a Week 18 thriller when the Rams had a chance to end San Francisco’s season. Despite building a 17-3 halftime lead, LA coughed up the game as the 49ers stormed back to win and get into the postseason.
Now, the Rams’ meltdown might cost them a trip to the Super Bowl — which they would host — if they can’t finally solve the San Fran riddle.
NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle make their against-the-spread picks for the game below.
San Francisco 49ers at (-3.5) Los Angeles Rams, 6:30 p.m. ET
At this point, bet against the 49ers at your own risk, given their ability to not only cover but win outright as underdogs. They’ve certainly owned the Rams, too, winning six in a row against their division rivals. However, the Rams’ offense will be a very tough matchup if San Francisco can’t get pressure. Matthew Stafford has too many weapons for a middling Niners secondary to cover, a problem the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced last week versus the Rams.
LA has a habit of blowing late leads, which it did not only last week but in its late-season matchup with the 49ers. Given how well the Rams’ defensive front has looked, though, it’s hard to have too much confidence in Jimmy Garoppolo leading a late-game comeback again. That’s especially true if offensive tackle Trent Williams is still hobbled for San Fran.
The 49ers have developed a strong recipe for beating the Rams: Pressure Stafford without blitzing a ton, and limit the amount of havoc Aaron Donald wreaks. Can’t take those for granted, though, and Los Angeles has the top-level talent on both sides of the ball to compete with anybody.
The Rams struggle when their depth is tested, but they enter this matchup relatively healthy, whereas the 49ers have been banged up in recent weeks. The difference ultimately will be Los Angeles’ offensive ceiling, particularly in the passing game, where the likes of Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr., among others, will be a handful for San Francisco’s secondary. Just think: We’re one week removed from an awful performance by Garoppolo in Green Bay despite the 49ers’ upset win over the Packers. Can Jimmy G keep up if this game turns into a track meet? Don’t think so.