It’s getting close to the end, with just 3 games remaining in the 2021 NFL season. Three of the teams in action were expected to be here coming into the final 4, the other one, not so much.
The Chiefs were favourites for a return to the Super Bowl while the Rams were a hype team to make it two home Super Bowls in a row after 54 years without that happening after the Bucs played in their own stadium last year.
The 49ers were 14/1 along with the Rams to open the season, but the shock appearance here is from the Cincinnati Bengals who were as long as 150/1 to win the whole thing when the league kicked off, only the Jets, Lions and Texans were longer odds than them at the start of the season.
Check out the AFC Game preview here – It went very long, so had to split them.
The current odds for the winner of the Superbowl are;
- Chiefs – 6/5
- Rams – 21/10
- 49ers – 5/1
- Bengals – 9/1
There lines available for the Super Bowl already at Paddypower where they have;
- Rams +2.5 @ Chiefs
- 49ers +3 @ Chiefs
- Rams -3.5 @ Bengals
- 49ers -2.5 @ Bengals.
Obviously, we’ve got Draftkings contests as usual, the full weekend slate is $5 entry, top 3 get paid, enter here – and with just a couple of games to go I’ve got Showdown slates for both games as well – $3 entry, top 3 get paid on those too – Bengals @ Chiefs and 49ers @ Rams both on the app now, check out NFL-DFS.com for some advice on how to play those this week.
San Francisco 49ers +3.5 @ Los Angeles Rams: 45.5
The obvious headline for this game has to be the record of Shanahan over McVay. They came from the same coaching tree along with Matt LeFluer, which seems incredible given that was the Washington Redskins coaching staff at one moment of time.
They’ve played 10 games against each other as head coaches with Shanny leading that 7-3, but the last 6 results have all gone in favour of the 49ers and Shanahan. The two games this season ended a comfortable 31-10 early in the year and then the week 18 clash where the Rams relinquished a 17-0 lead to lose in overtime, the game which sealed the playoffs for the 49ers.
Maybe it’s all part of the Rams master-plan, knowing how tough it is to beat the same team three times in a single season, they knew the 49ers would knock out the Cowboys and Packers and they’d be left facing them to make it two home Super Bowls in two years after 54 years without that happening.
It is expected to be at least half red-shirts in the SoFi on Sunday with the Around the NFL pod saying that one provider said it could be 65% 49ers fans at a Rams home game. It’s going to be an intense atmosphere in that remarkable stadium.
San Francisco 49ers
Ok, so, trying to write about this team without it coming across negative and dismissive of their achievements this season… Tommy, I’ll be honest, it’s not easy.
The tough thing is that Jimmy Garoppolo is quite obviously the worst QB of the 4 remaining. They say that defenses win championships, this could be the ultimate proof of that rule. The most difficult thing to realise with Jimmy is that he is obviously a fine game manager. The record for the 49ers with him starting over him sitting is stark, With Jimmy G: 35-15, All Others Qb’s: 8-28. So while he doesn’t ever really seem to put up the numbers he obviously runs the offense as Shanahan wants and that’s why he’s in there.
The fact he’s thrown 27 completions, 0 TDs and 2 INTs in the post-season doesn’t really matter. A QBR of 11.9 last week doesn’t matter. 13th in QBR for the regular season has him around average and that seems to be all they need to reach the championship round with a brilliant head coach. My worry for them is whether it’s enough to win the whole thing. It was Jimmy Garoppolo when they faced the Chiefs in the Super Bowl a few years back with a chance to win when he overthrew a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders who would have walked in for the go-ahead touchdown.
I know this is all negative on him, but the positive is that he does what he’s meant to do and they win games with him starting, so while that’s happening then keep starting him I guess.
Must say that Trey Lance definitely doesn’t look ready yet despite them paying a fortune to move up and draft him last year, so Jimmy is the only option for now.
Jimmy averages 8.6 yards per reception in the regular season, just a third of a yard behind Joe Burrow and ahead of Mahomes and Stafford of the remaining 4 QBs. It helps that he has some YAC monsters on the team and the scheming is excellent, but he still generally puts the ball where it should be.
Right, enough positivity, it’s making me feel ill. He is also going to make two or three terrible throws each game either should-be, or actual interceptions and that could be costly now things are getting tighter.
The most exciting player in the game this year is involved in this one, and he’s a large part of the reason the 49ers have made it to this point, Deebo Samuel has lit up the league on the ground and through the air this season. He’s actually been used more in the rushing game over the second half of the season with 10 carries in each of the post-season matches so far and every game he’s had at least 6 carries they have won. It is probably worth noting though that his two matches against the Rams have led to 97 and 95 receiving yards, albeit from 4 and 5 receptions, a crazy-high average per rec. He’s Kamara in his prime, when he gets the edge you know it’s going for big yardage.
They have others able to run after the catch, Brandon Aiyuk has had a fairly quiet season but just 826 yards and 5 TDs in the regular season and a goose-egg in terrible weather last week after 5 recs in the Cowboys game, which should have been 6 and another 30 yards but Jimmy wildly overthrew him. He’s got the ability to have a big impact. Jauan Jennings showed up in the week 18 match between these teams with 2 TDs and 94 yards but he’s not done much in the playoffs, and frankly not a whole lot in the rest of the season. I do wonder if they bring Mo Sanu straight back into things in the slot and Jennings falls away know that Mo is back from a knee strain that has put him out for most of the season.
The enigma which is George Kittle is probably the most interesting thing in the passing game though, as one of the best blocking TEs in the league he’s been quiet in the passing game over the last few months, but he has a great record against the Rams, if you take away the 5 recs for 10 yards… He had 50 and a TD in the home game between the two, and in his career has 700 yards and 5 TDs in 9 games against them. He’s a tough one to ignore should they have to throw the ball more.
The 49ers though are predicated on a run game and despite numerous injuries through the year meaning they had to try out new players they managed to keep the ball moving on the ground, mainly through Elijah Mitchell, the 6th round rookie who’s shown up this year and usurped Trey Sermon who was taken long before him. He’d had at least 20 carries in 6 games in a row coming into last week where he only had 17. He had scored in 4 of those 6, and averaged about 4 yards a carry as they move down the field and keep the ball away from the opposition.
The 49ers defense comes in at 7th according to DVOA, and are another who are able to get pressure without having to send extra men. Nick Bosa generally leading the charge with Arik Armstead, but they rotate and keep their DL healthy and cause issues for QBs. They have one of the better LBs in the league with Fred Warner who’s been great to finish out the season and that makes up for a little bit of a dodgy secondary.
Los Angeles Rams
As someone who doesn’t watch every minute of every game the Rams are a little easier to enthuse over. Matthew Stafford has had an up and down season but in the playoffs is showing why they paid a decent amount to bring him in and upgrade from Jared Goff, but only a Super Bowl appearance and better performance than Goff showed in the biggest spot will prove that entirely correct.
He finished the year 3rd in yards, 2nd in TDs and 4th in QBR in his first season with a winning franchise away from the Lions. He’s always had the talent but been stuck in a horrible spot and this year seems to be showing it, despite a pretty horrible month to finish the season the playoffs so far have been very good from him with 2 TDs in each and zero interceptions thrown, and a rushing TD in each of them. Nice.
The post season has seen him take it to another level with an average over 10 yards per attempt and a QBR of 76 which would have easily been the highest in the regular season. The performance against the Bucs last week saw him hanging in the pocket and taking hits to get the ball away to his receivers, it was a great performance from him.
It helps that he’s got the best wide receiver in the league this year as Cooper Kupp beat everyone else to become just the third player to take home the triple crown of most receptions, yards and TDs from the position and he’s carried on where he finished the season with 244 total yards and a TD in each of the playoff games so far. He has a knack of getting open whether it’s close to the line of scrimmage or down the field and he’s usually found by Stafford who’s formed a good connection with him. Last week did see his one fumble of the season though.
He had been used a lot as a distraction against the Cardinals in that wildcard game yet still led the team in yards, he lined up many times on the same side as the TE and they used to that help mid-season signing Odell Beckham get softer coverage. He’s had a TD in 6 of his 10 games since joining the Rams and has got involved throwing the ball as well. They’ve been using him down the field more as the season hsa gone on and it’s paid off quite well for them so far, although his 2 games against the 49ers this year ended with 18 yards in each, I’d fancy him to top that by some margin this week.
Outside of the big two in the passing game you’re looking at Van Jefferson who should be fine to play despite being on the injury report this week, he’s had some deep shot TDs this year. After him you’re looking at the TE Tyler Higbee who’s been reliable and had a couple of scores in the Week 18 loss to go along with the 1 he had in the other game he played against the 49ers this year. He’s sitting at 96 yards from 7 receptions in the post-season but it was fellow TE Kendall Blanton who got into the endzone last weekend, I doubt that will be repeated.
The running game will be interesting after they’ve been loading up Cam Akers since he returned from his Achilles injury in record time. He had 24 carries for an almighty 48 yards against one of the best running defenses in the league last week, but that’s where the 49ers are strong as well, so it might not be a week for him especially after he fumbled twice last week and nearly cost his team the game. It was surprising to me that Sony Michel wasn’t more involved after those mistakes but I have the feeling that might happen more in this one. Michel is more of a bruising runner while Akers can get the edge and get big gains and is better in the passing game.
The Rams defense is one of the better in the league, as with a lot of their roster, very top heavy with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey atop the depth charts as two of the best at their positions, Donald arguably the best player pound for pound in the league, his highest tackle games of the season both came against the 49ers this season, probably due to run-heavy schemes as he didn’t have a sack against them, but he’ll cause issues whoever he’s against and the signing of Von Miller on the edge has proven crucial two, he gave Brady all kinds of problems last week and against backup or injured tackles should do well here too.
While I would be shocked if this was a higher scoring game than the earlier match, it should be very interesting.
I do have the Rams as the better team, but not by a whole lot, so a spread around 3 points is where I thought it would be. They have been playing well in the playoffs and are all-in on this year so need to get there really.
However, it would be foolish to overlook the record of Shanahan against McVay in their careers as head coaches, so it’s a firm avoid on the spread. As a Bengals fan I’d prefer to see the 49ers again, but as a neutral I would prefer to see the Rams in the Super Bowl. Sorry 49ers fans.
I do think it will be tight, but the totals line is low, so taking the under is a bit of a worry.
Predictions; Rams win, cover and under on the total – But I wouldn’t be shocked at all if all three of those were wrong.
Bets I like in this one;
- Cam Akers u17.5 rush attempts – 10/13 (365)
- Robbie Gould o6.5 points – 10/11 (365)
- Aaron Donald o4.5 tackles and assists – 1/1 (PP) – Love this tbh
- Mo Sanu anytime – 18/1 (365/Skybet) – 1/2 stake, it’s a random punt, he might not even play.
And the request markets;
- Stafford and Garoppolo anytime TD each – 175/1 (PP) – The reason it’s in here is that I thought 80/1 on Skybet was all right, it’s not. It’s terrible. They’re 11/1 each, therefore 175/1 or so on PP.
And that is that for Conference weekend.
For the next couple of weeks I’ll have a Crazy props post up, one of the more fun ones of the year to write, and of course a full preview of the Super Bowl, and probably a separate prop bets post as there are 400-odd markets to consider and bound to be value around on some of them.
Thanks for reading through the season, I hope I’ve found you some winners, and if not I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my previews.