Monday Night Football Preview
By Conor Perrett
All eyes will be on the west coast tonight when the two NFC West rivals meet once again in a rematch to last year’s NFC Championship game.
San Francisco 49ers
All though exceeding expectations by making the NFC Championship game last season as the sixth overall seed, the 49ers decided to change quarterbacks this off-season when they named Trey Lance as starter.
Being the third overall pick comes with a lot of expectation, especially when a team trades three first-round picks to take you. Yet a year down the track and we still don’t know how good Trey Lance really is. Playing college ball in Division Two and then sitting out the majority of his time as a rookie, meant for a lot of unknowns coming into the year.
Having a offensive genius as a head coach in Kyle Shanahan with the traits that Lance possesses meant for an potential exciting offence that could cause havoc. Well, unfortunately in Week 2 that dream was put on hold when Lance went down with a broken ankle that now keeps him out for the season.
That means the man that led this side last year gets another chance. Jimmy Garoppolo is a trusty veteran, but in his game and a half since returning as starter, things don’t feel the same as they used to be. He is coming off a sloppy performance against the Broncos last week. Whether he has to scrub off the rust, we’ll find out on Monday Night Football.
One thing that has been solid and consistent for this team is their defence. Losing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to the Jets a few years ago felt like a big loss, but DeMeco Ryan has made that transition smoother than anyone would have thought as they remain one of the best units in the league. They face a tough challenge in Sean McVay and a Rams offence that prides themselves on that side of the ball, but San Fran will be confident to shut them down.
Los Angeles Rams
People talk about Super Bowl hangovers. Though it can be pushed to the side as a myth, we’re still waiting to see this Rams side perform to those levels of last year.
With the trade of Matthew Stafford last season, they were made the instant favourites for the Super Bowl. They hit the ground running and finished strong. This season has been different, with both sides of the ball looking off the pace to what we expect. Losing some key pieces in Andrew Whitworth, Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr at the time didn’t seem too bad, but three weeks in, it’s looking more severe than expected.
Now early reports in pre-season lead us to believe that Matt Stafford had an elbow injury on his throwing arm. This has been played down and the Rams insist the situation has been blown out of proportion. But hearing problems on a quarterback’s throwing arm is never good news, no matter how serious it is.
Seeing Stafford’s disappointing start to the season makes the situation even more credible. Is the quarterback just going through a rough patch trying to get used to some new weapons? Or are the Rams hiding something about this injury? Only time will tell.
Week 10 – Rams @ 49ers – 10-31 49ers Win
Week 18 – 49ers @ Rams – 27 – 24 (OT) 49ers Win
NFC Championship Game – 49ers @ Rams – 20-17 Rams Win
In the regular season the 49ers were able to get a double over the Rams, with a big win in week 18 that allowed them to make the playoffs. However, these two teams met again in the playoffs, with the LA team going on to win the Super Bowl.
In a weird run of events both sides have had disappointing starts to the season. The Rams look like a ghost of themselves from last season on both sides of the ball, as we are still waiting for them to put a consistent four quarters together. Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey are all performing to their superstars levels, but in a team game, it has not been enough.
While over in San Francisco, the dilemma of the quarterback situation has made for awkward tension around the team. Dropping a quarterback for a younger project is always going to be difficult for the player and team, but it’s never a great look when you then have to fall back on him two weeks into the season.
Although on paper this Rams side is more impressive and had the better start to the season, this 49ers defence is the best unit on the field. In what I think is going to be a fairly defensive game, where the 49ers really try to establish the run and dominate the time of possession, there are still going to be times Kupp and this Rams offence hits home runs. Though there’s no hiding this offence and Stafford has been sloppy and I expect the 49ers defence to take advantage of that and get themselves the home win.
Rams 16-17 49ers