NFL
January 27, 2022

2022 NFC Championship Game Preview: Will The Rams End Losing Streak Against The 49ers?

The NFC Championship Game has high standards to live up to after the world enjoyed a wonderful NFL Divisional Round.

All four games were not only incredibly entertaining but they also boasted superstar performances on the enormous stage. Following the 49ers' upset of the Packers and the Rams' victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, we'll be treated to the third battle between San Francisco and Los Angeles as the NFC West rivals look to make the Super Bowl.

On paper, the Rams should be the better team thanks to their unusual star power, but the Niners have won six straight matchups. Mentally, it's hard to imagine the Rams will be able to simply overcome the dominance by coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. 

We'll break down this matchup and provide two great picks for you to profit with. The NFC Championship Game will be an excellent display of talent and high-level coaching, and that means there are some great bets to be made.

One of the distinguishing features of San Francisco's fifth-ranked defense is the 49ers' powerful pass rush. Instead of a speedy set of edge rushers who collapse the pocket from the outside in, the 49ers bear down on quarterbacks. This limits potential running lanes for quarterbacks to escape the pocket and extend plays.

Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has complemented his pass-rush with a massive improvement from the secondary. The individual talent on the back-end of this unit isn't stellar, but it is solid thanks to Emmanuel Moseley, K'Waun Williams, Jaquiski Tartt, and Jimmie Ward. Much like how the 49ers' staff has maximized their offensive talent, the defense has outperformed using terrific schematic and timing strategies.

The Niners routinely take away what the Rams do best with their affinity for zone coverages. Regardless of personnel, the Rams are inefficient on offense. San Francisco consistently dictates what happens in this matchup, and it's led to the previously mentioned six-game losing streak for the Rams. 

The shocking part of this is how the Rams were up 17 in the second quarter of their Week 18 tilt. The Rams were in control, then suddenly Deebo Samuel took over as he tallied two touchdowns. The game was tied and all momentum was in the 49ers' favor by the end of the third quarter despite the early dominance by the Rams.

Sean McVay has to overcome his predictability and the confidence San Francisco quickly builds against them. He's a masterful play-caller and designer who has great players for his offensive scheme, but McVay must make his team almost unrecognizable this week unless he's banking on his stars simply winning their matchups.

The mismatch in coaching is a significant storyline for the two former Washington assistants. Shanahan is as good as any in the NFL, and McVay isn't far behind. But the former has been willing to adjust mid-season when he needs to, whereas McVay takes the offseason to show significant changes. The margin for the Rams should be greater because of their star-heaviness. 

We called the 49ers upset over the Packers last week because of San Francisco's consistent identity. When healthy, the Niners are a clockwork-type performer. Their weakness is Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback but they atone for his inconsistencies with excellent scheming and reliance on their playmakers.

The duo of Samuel and Elijah Mitchell has proven nearly unstoppable, and the 49ers can bet on getting more than 10 yards from George Kittle this week. It's shocking Kittle was held to a season-low against a team he averaged almost 80 yards and half a touchdown against over his nine games against the Rams.

The acquisitions of Von Miller and Odell Beckham have been much more fruitful in recent games for the Rams. While the 49ers are consistent outside of Garoppolo, the Rams' volatility can swing into their favor. There's also not as much baggage on the Rams as a six-game losing streak may hint at because so much of the roster has been churned over the last two seasons.

We can expect twists on the 49ers' traditional plays and misdirections, but they're not going to fundamentally be a different beast. Los Angeles tends to get in their own way more than anything, falling apart in the second half of their last matchup is just one example. It was also the first time McVay lost a game after being up at halftime.

Los Angeles has fallen victim to the formula over and over again. They must break the cycle, and they have the means to. But they won't fully, and this will be a tight divisional game once again.

Picks: 49ers +3.5 (-115) and Over 46 (-110) at DraftKings

Photo: Getty Images