The 2-1 Los Angeles Rams will head upstate for a matchup against the 1-2 San Francisco 49ers this week, and the sportsbooks predict a close game. The Rams were 2.5-point underdogs earlier in the week, but the spread has since moved in their favor slightly, and Los Angeles is now just a 1.5-point underdog. The books still predict the 49ers will win a low-scoring home matchup.
That said, the 49ers don’t deserve to be favored. While it is a home matchup, San Francisco is dealing with a number of serious injuries to big players. Both star left tackle Trent Williams and starting linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair are out, and two starting defensive linemen are questionable after logging only one limited practice session each. The Rams have their own injury issues, but those aren’t as significant as the ones facing the 49ers.
Rams vs. 49ers Week 4 NFL Betting Picks & Predictions
Are the Rams Just an Average Team?
The Rams haven't begun the year looking like the defending Super Bowl champions. They followed a blowout loss to the Bills in Week 1 with a surprisingly narrow win over the Falcons in Week 2. Although the Rams never trailed against the Cardinals last week, the Rams didn't have a multi-score lead until late in the third quarter. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is to blame for some of the regression -- while he has completed a solid 72.5% of his passes, he has thrown only four touchdowns and has averaged just 6.32 net yards per attempt (NY/A).
The offensive line deserves more blame than Stafford. The unit ranks an awful 25th in adjusted sack rate. Stafford has only taken an additional two sacks since the Bills sacked him seven times in Week 1, but Los Angeles' subsequent opponents, the Cardinals and Falcons, own defensive fronts with below-average adjusted sack rates. That said, Stafford has faced pressure on only 18.6% of his dropbacks, which ranks ninth lowest. The unit has also struggled in the ground game, as it ranks 22nd in adjusted line yards and has generated only 2 yards before contact per attempt (YBC/A) for its rushers. Replacing star left tackle Andrew Whitworth has proven difficult -- no players along the offensive line own a PFF grade above 70, and both guards own grades below 60.
The defense has looked average. The Rams rank 16th in defensive defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) and 14th in yards allowed per play (5.3). Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald and star linebacker Bobby Wagner have combined for an unimpressive four sacks, and the Rams have just three more as a team. The pass rush ranks only 21st in adjusted sack rate but a solid 10th in adjusted line yards. Star boundary cornerback Jalen Ramsey owns an elite PFF grade of 82.3 and has given up only 58 yards on 14 targets over the last two weeks. Unfortunately, the Rams have suffered a ton of injuries in the secondary, and opposing passing offenses have been able to exploit Ramsey's teammates.
Niners Will Struggle Without Williams
The 49ers came into the year expecting to see what Trey Lance could do. After a mediocre start, Lance suffered a season-ending injury, and now Jimmy Garoppolo is back under center. Garoppolo has completed 62% of his passes for two touchdowns and 6.05 NY/A since taking over. He has tossed one pick and taken five sacks as well. Garoppolo is a solid quarterback but won't win San Francisco any games by himself.
Aside from Lance, the 49ers have lost other key players to injuries. Star left tackle Trent Williams exited last weekend's contest with a high-ankle sprain and will likely miss a few games. After Williams went down, Garoppolo took two sacks for a loss of 20 yards. Garoppolo was already facing pressure on 21.8% of his dropbacks with Williams in the lineup, so expect that number to tick up a fair amount until he returns. Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair will also miss the Week 4 contest. Defensive tackle Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw could join them on the sidelines after missing two practices and only getting in limited work on Saturday.
San Francisco's defense remains the strength of this team. It ranks third in defensive DVOA and has allowed an NFL-low 3.9 yards per play. That said, the 49ers have only faced the Bears, Seahawks and Broncos -- three teams with below-average to bad offenses. Stafford will be the best quarterback the 49ers have faced all season, and they might have to do it without multiple defenders. Still, the 49ers have no obvious weakness on defense if Kinlaw and Armstead can both play. If either sits, the Rams may find an edge on the ground -- although their guards may not be good enough for Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson to exploit it.
Rams vs. 49ers Prediction
The 49ers beat the Rams twice in the regular season last year, but they needed Elijah Mitchell and several since-departed or banged-up defensive players to get those wins. Mitchell ran for a total of 176 yards against the Rams. Pass rusher Arden Key, now a Jaguar, totaled 1.5 sacks and 4 quarterback hits against the Rams. Nose tackle D.J. Jones, now a Bronco, totaled 1 sack and 4 tackles. Arik Armstead, who is questionable, totaled 2.5 sacks 7 tackles and 2 tackles for loss.
The Rams may look worse than they did in their playoff run, but the 49ers currently lack the talent necessary to be favored over Los Angeles. Kyle Shanahan can only compensate so much for a depleted roster. Injuries in the trenches could leave rushing lanes wide open, while losses in the pass rush could give Stafford more time to throw than last year. The 49ers lost their playoff game to the Rams because of a late-game offensive charge by Los Angeles, but little suggests they'll even contain the Rams for the first half this time. The Rams win this game more than half the time, so getting them at plus-money odds is a positive ROI.
Rams vs. 49ers Prediction: Rams Moneyline (+105) at DraftKings
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