The San Francisco 49ers started the season on an 8-0 undefeated run before an overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. But heading into the next-to-last week of the season, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and company find themselves as the NFC's fifth seed after a humiliating 29-22 loss to the 5-9 Atlanta Falcons. To take the top spot back from their division rival, the Seahawks, the Niners must first beat another west coast rival, the Los Angeles Rams, on Saturday. The Rams are coming off a demoralizing loss of their own to the Dallas Cowboys.
As a result of that defeat, the Rams find themselves in a position where — just one season removed from representing the NFC in Super Bowl 53 — they must not only beat the 49ers on Saturday, but must also defeat the Arizona Cardinals on the season's final day, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
Even with those two wins, the Rams still fail to qualify for the postseason unless the Minnesota Vikings also lose their final two games to the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. If that scenario fails to come to pass, the Rams will miss the playoffs for the first time since Sean McVay took over as head coach in 2017.
NBC Sports previews the Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers game, in the video below.If the oddsmakers' picks are any indication, the 49ers should win the game at home, and move on to a final week showdown against Seattle with the top seed on the line. According to Sports Illustrated, the 49ers enter the matchup as solid 6.5 point favorites over the Rams at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Garoppolo's 26 touchdown passes tie him for fourth in the NFL. He has led the five-time Super Bowl-winning franchise to its first playoff berth since 2013. The 28-year-old quarterback, making it through his first full NFL season as a starter, has thrown for 3,445 yards, which is 12th-most in the league. But interceptions have been Garoppolo's weak point. He's thrown 11, which is tied for seventh-most in the NFL.
When the two California rivals squared off in Week 6, the 49ers defense limited Rams quarterback Jared Goff to just 78 yards in the air, the lowest total of the 2016 top overall draft pick's brief career, according to Athlon Sports. The 49ers came away with a comfortable 20-7 win in that game.
Saturday's meeting, which will be televised nationally by the NFL Network, starting at 5:15 p.m. PST, will be the 141st between the two franchises dating back to 1950. The 49ers hold a razor-thin 70-67 lead in the series, with three games ending in ties.