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Mark Taylor

Football data analyst

San Francisco 49ers (12-7) at Los Angeles Rams (14-5): Odds, picks, tips and predictions for NFC matchup

WHERE:SoFi Stadium
SPREAD:Rams -3.5
DAY:Sunday Jan 30
TIME:6:30pm ET

Banner_Football_NFL_San Francisco At Los Angeles

It’s the third meeting of these NFC West teams, the 6th seeded 49ers having won 31-10 in week 10 and then again on the road at 4th seeded LA 27-24 after overtime. The Niners are on a six-game winning streak in this regular rivalry and they’ve a 6-4 record against post season teams. Only blown away once, 31-17 against Arizona, SF have remained competitive in the other reversals.

Give Garoppolo credit

They’ve been a conservative play calling team, throwing on just 52% of the snaps against post season quality opposition, scoring three fewer points per game than average for such contests. But, Jimmy Garoppolo, for all his critics, his injured hand and drafted replacement in waiting, stands one game away from a second Super Bowl appearance. He’s proving that he’s a gutsy player who can move the ball downfield and give his team a winning chance.

SF’s defense has starred. They’re good against the pass and among the best at shutting down playoff caliber running teams. They’ve allowed just 23 points per game compared to an average of 24.6 ppg scored in elite matchups. And special teams made the difference in a frigid Green Bay, blocking two kicks and returning one for the decisive TD. While SF were dispatching the top seeded Packers, we saw the best and worst of the Rams in the divisional round in Tampa Bay against Brady and the defending champs. A 27-3 third quarter lead was the return expected from upgrading to Matt Stafford at quarterback, but conservative play calling reeled them back into 27-27 until they were forced to return to the air.

Squandering leads

The Rams also built a 17-0 lead over the 49ers in week 18, but that ended in defeat and they’ve a patchy 4-5 record against post season quality opposition that may not survive a lack of ruthlessness. Stafford has been the driver of success in LA’s nine games against post season opposition, passing for seven tenths of a yards further than par and scoring three more ppg than average. But his accuracy creaked when pressured in week 18 against SF and half of his picks came in the final four weeks of the regular season.

The defense has good underlying efficiency figures, but they’ve often leaked points to the best at an alarming rate, allowing over 27 points per game in elite matchups.

It is a bitter rivalry. The week 18 meeting helped to keep the animosity bubbling and a perception that the visitors are better coached than LA in these meetings merely adds spice. LA has home advantage, as they will if they make the Super Bowl, but the stands had a decisive red SF hue in week 18’s crucial game and if Stafford becomes unsettled, they can’t rely on their rushing game taking a decisive step forward and will struggle.

Scoring rates suggest LA edge this game 27-24, but three of the divisional games ended with walk off field goals that could easily have gone the way of the losers, so take the 49ers with the hook of a 3.5 start.

NFC Championship pick: San Francisco +3.5 points

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