The last two NFC teams standing both hail from out West.
The San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams will clash in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night, with the winner advancing to next month’s Super Bowl in their home state.
These two division rivals met twice already this season and, much like the past couple years, San Francisco dominated while sweeping the series.
Despite the 49ers recent mastery over their NFC West rival – more on that later – it’s the Rams that opened up as a 3.5-point favourite.
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Line: Rams -3.5
Rams vs Niners Injury Report
Early in the week, there was speculation that San Francisco could be dealing with some major injury concerns, but as the week has progressed those fears have dissipated.
All-world playmaker Deebo Samuel, who has seen limping around in the final seconds of the 49ers’ Divisional Round victory over the Green Bay Packers last Saturday night, is off the injury report completely and has been a full participant in practice.
Starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has also been practicing in full, despite nursing a nagging thumb injury for weeks.
All-pro left tackle Trent Williams is the biggest name to watch heading into Sunday’s game, as he missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with an ankle injury. Williams is a huge factor in the 49ers run game, and his presence will be instrumental for San Fran’s chances to advance. Despite not practicing, he’s told both the media and his coach that he’ll be on the field on Sunday.
On the L.A. side, the biggest questions mark is to the Rams offensive line. Starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth is back at practice after missing last week’s game with a knee injury. His availability will be a key storyline to monitor, as his backup Joe Noteboom has missed practice all week with a chest injury.
Defences on the Rise
Judging by each team’s defensive performance through the playoffs so far, both the 49ers and Rams could find difficulty moving the ball on Sunday.
San Fran held the Dallas Cowboys, the league’s seventh-best offence per DVOA, to 17 points in the wild-card round. They followed up that performance by limiting the Packers to 10 points in the Divisional Round, yielding only seven first downs during the game’s final 47 minutes.
Nick Bosa made a clutch sack chasing down Aaron Rodgers. pic.twitter.com/33NXTy9TDt— Alex Tran (@nineralex) January 23, 2022
Meanwhile, L.A. completely neutralized the Arizona Cardinals in the wild-card round, holding them to 11 points. Last week, they coughed up 27 points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but 14 of those points came in the game’s final three minutes.
Aaron Donald is just so effective all over the field. Here as an Edge Rusher AD does his best @JOEL9ONE impersonation to get to Brady for the strip sack.— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) January 21, 2022
I just had to add the 3rd down screen play that AD blew up too. #99 is relentless! pic.twitter.com/tVFDCewlOO
Prior to that, they made the defending champs look pedestrian, limiting Tom Brady to a QBR of 14.0.
Niners vs Rams Recent History
The 49ers have swept the Rams in each of the past three seasons. This year, they blew them out at home in Week 10, and then rallied in Week 18 on the road to steal a victory and clinch a playoff berth.
San Francisco has been the significantly better team from a production standpoint in both games, outgaining L.A. by a total of 241 yards, and possessing the ball for an average of 12 minutes more per contest.
Rams and 49ers have played 9 quarters of football this season (including OT). SF has dominated 7 of them— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) January 24, 2022
The Niners racked up 291 rushing yards over the two meetings, while Jimmy G completed 29-of-36 passes over the middle of the field alone, for 319 yards and three TDs.
On the other side of the ball, San Francisco forced four Matthew Stafford interceptions, and sacked him seven times. The key to their success was creating pressure without blitzing.
The Niners produced a 41-per-cent pressure rate on Stafford this season, despite blitzing him on only 14 per cent of his drop backs.
Niners vs Rams Betting Trends
San Francisco enters this game having covered in four straight and six of their past seven overall. They’re 4-1 ATS as an underdog this season, while Jimmy G has been historically proficient at not only covering, but winning outright when getting points.
Garoppolo is 15-4 against the spread in his career as an underdog, covering by an average of nine points. He’s also 14-5 straight up as an underdog, which is the highest-winning percentage as a ‘dog of any QB in the Super Bowl era.
Kyle Shanahan teams are 7-3 against the spread all-time versus Sean McVay’s Rams, including 4-0 straight up and against the spread as an underdog.
The Rams, on the other hand, have covered in back-to-back outings but haven’t exactly excelled when giving points this season. They’re 7-9 ATS as a favourite, including 4-4 as the home chalk.
Pick: San Francisco 49ers +3.5