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SoFi Stadium Showdown: Rams & Niners ready to square off in Week 8 | Game Preview

It's not getting old – it's been that way for a while.

Not just falling to the San Francisco 49ers in the regular season, but seemingly facing them every time they're in desperation mode.

Let's review.

Week 4, 2022: 49ers were 1-2 and coming off a gruesome loss at Denver.

Week 18, 2021: 49ers were on the brink of playoff elimination.

Week 10, 2021: 49ers were 3-5 and in a tailspin, having lost five of six.

Week 12, 2020: 49ers were 4-6 and riding a three-game losing skid.

Week 6, 2020: 49ers were 2-3 and losers of consecutive contests.

You cannot be your competition's life raft. When your rival is reeling, it's incumbent on you to knock them out.

Would sending San Francisco home at 3-5 with a third consecutive loss mark the end of their season before Halloween?

Probably not.

But it's worth finding out, isn't it?

With or Without You

We should also call out that the Rams have been the better franchise even while scuffling against San Francisco. Under their current leadership, the Rams have earned more division titles, NFC crowns, and last year's Lombardi Trophy.

Kyle Shanahan's 49ers are 42-46. Sean McVay's Rams are 58-29. Put aside the head-to-head results, and the disparity is even more pronounced.

San Francisco is 34-43 against teams not named the Rams, and Los Angeles is 55-21 against every opponent other than the 49ers. (That's crediting a win to the Niners while the Rams rested starters in Week 17 of 2017, too.)

And by the way, the Rams have consistently played more difficult schedules while finishing ahead of the 49ers in the standings!

Really all that's left it to have those bigger picture trends translate to the field when the two collide.

Similar, But Different

Even though it's the second meeting of the month, San Francisco's strengths and weaknesses have been inverted.

Back in Week 4, San Francisco was coming off one of the worst offensive performances of the Shanahan era.

This week, they're coming off one of the worst defensive performances in modern 49ers history. Kansas City was averaging 10 yards per play at Levi's Stadium last Sunday while the game was in the balance. San Francisco has allowed 72 points over the last 2 weeks (both losses), after allowing a league-low 12.2 points per game through five contests.


McCaffrey Rematch

Another oddity is that the Niners really are not running the ball well, of late. And they figure to be without fullback Kyle Juszczyk (injured finger) on Sunday.

Football Outsiders has San Francisco ranked 24th in the NFL in run efficiency.

No wonder they pounced on the opportunity to add Christian McCaffrey.

According to NFL Research, the new 49ers tailback becomes just the second player since 2010 to start games for different teams against the same opponent in the same calendar month.

The other instance was also connected to Los Angeles, as cornerback Marcus Peters started for the Rams in their loss to the Seahawks in October 2019 and then again for Baltimore two weeks later.

NFC State of Mind

Again per NFL Research, the combined winning percentage of the NFC East is .741 (20-7), the highest by a single division through seven weeks since division realignment in 2002.

And those wins are no flukes, as the East is the only NFC division with multiple teams boasting a positive point differential on the season.

The South doesn't have any such teams, with four losing records. Meantime, the North and West have just one.

Only five of the 16 teams in the conference boast winning records. With Tampa Bay falling to 3-5 on Thursday night, the 3-4 Atlanta Falcons are now the four-seed in the NFC!


I know we're all optimistic about the potential for Van Jefferson to set things right with the Rams offense. Getting the third member of the Rams starting receiver trio on the field for the first time since last February is critical, as is the return of center Brian Allen.

With the circumstances around him improving, it's also time for quarterback Matthew Stafford to elevate his play and outperform his counterpart this weekend.

As a Ram, Stafford has two giveaways in each of his three regular season games against San Francisco. His passer rating has been 30 points lower than Garoppolo's in those contests, on average. The PFF grades tell the same story.

Again, this is a reflection of the other 21 players on the field. But between the individuals most responsible for this Week 8 outcome, Stafford must be the best quarterback in SoFi Stadium.

Because we all know he is.

Bow Up Against Bosa

Can the Rams neutralize Nick Bosa the way the Chiefs did with their screen game and speed to the perimeter? And really, can the Rams neutralize Bosa the way San Francisco tends to minimize the impact of Aaron Donald?

San Francisco's premier edge defender has registered five sacks, 11 quarterback hits, and seven tackles for loss in the last four games against the Rams (postseason included).

Contrast those totals with Donald, who has zero sacks and just four hits on Jimmy Garoppolo in that same span… though of course he had the walk-off pressure, forcing the clinching interception in the NFC Championship. No complaints.

Touchdown To-Dos

Last time the Rams were on the field, receiver Ben Skowronek registered his first touchdown of the season (and career).

That made me think of other Rams who are "due" for their first score of 2022.

Tight end Tyler Higbee has the second-most receptions of any NFL player this season without a touchdown, so he certainly tops the list. Higbee scored two touchdowns against the Niners in Week 18 at SoFi Stadium in 2021, only the second multi-touchdown performance of his career. Maybe he just needs to see a bit of red.

Jefferson making his debut would be a great pick, of course; Tutu Atwell and Brycen Hopkins; maybe Malcolm Brown or Ronnie Rivers backing up fellow running back Darrell Henderson Jr.?

But how about the L.A. defense? As well as they've played through two months, a non-offensive touchdown would certainly be helpful this week. And yes, we're always on the lookout for Donald's first score. On the very short list of things the future Hall of Famer hasn't done in the NFL, that stands out. Let's try typing it into existence for this Sunday.

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