BEASTwriter Preview: San Francisco 49ers vs. LA Rams

49ers defense must bottle up Rams RB Todd Gurley 

One of the keys for the San Francisco 49ers this week, will be stopping Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley. The third-year veteran from Georgia has totaled 35 carries for 128 yards (3.7 avg.) and two touchdowns this season. In addition, Gurley has been a pleasant surprise coming out of the flats– adding eight receptions for 104 yards (13.0 avg.) and one touchdown. 

But with all that being said, he does have one glaring weakness–fumbling. 

The Rams have only played two games this year and yet Gurley already has three fumbles to his credit. Nothing drives an offensive coach more mad than turnovers. Especially fumbles. Look for the 49ers front seven to bottle up Gurley early and often starting with this stout defensive line. 

Why Buckner and Carradine must set-tone vs. run

Led by second-year phenom DT DeForest Buckner and five-year veteran DE Tank Carradine, both players will be heavily counted on to create pressure up front. So far this year the D has been doing their part, holding the Carolina Panthers to 3.1 yards per carry in Week 1 and 3.5 yards per carry against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2. 

Based on my grading system, Buckner, Carradine, and third-year DE Arik Armstead all played fundamentally sound football verse the run. No missed assignments in terms of gap integrity, gap control, or setting the edge

Can they have a repeat performance in Week 3? I believe they can. 

Carradine has quietly been the team’s best defensive lineman in terms of setting the edge in run support. Playing on the strong side of the formation (tight-end) as the team’s 6-technique, Carradine has played lights out, earning a perfect run grade through two games. 

He is strong at the POA (point of attack) and has the skill set to convert speed-to-power coming off the edge–evident by recording his first sack of the season on Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.

I said all along that Carradine was better suited for a 4-3 scheme while being the team’s best edge rusher. (see tweets below)

Then there’s Buckner. At 6-7, 291, Buckner has the rare physique that NFL scouts covet. His elongated arm length (34 3/8) combined with an explosive first step, Buckner can create havoc by himself. I said before the season, Buckner will be a Pro Bowl player this season, I still hold that to be true. 

Look for Buckner to rack up his first sack of the season while also being disruptive in the run game. His conversion of speed-to-power along with non-stop motor will overwhelm the Rams offensive line. 

Jimmie Ward provides safety-net 

I’ve said all along that FS Jimmie Ward was best suited for free-safety.

Why? He has a high-football IQ, deep range, and fundamentally sound ball skills. Aside from those attributes, Ward can also be a vicious tackler. 

Defense must make Rams one-dimensional

If the 49ers can make the Rams offense one-dimensional, that should allow Ward more opportunities on the backend for interceptions and PBUs. He will need to keep a close eye on speedy WR Tavon Austin and savvy route-runner WR Cooper Kupp, but other than that, no other Rams wide receiver poses a threat in my opinion. 

If Ward can bait second-year QB Jared Goff pre-snap, he should have one or two plays tonight to make an interception. 

Carlos Hyde should be focal point of offense

While the defense does their part, look for four-year veteran RB Carlos Hyde to do his. The Ohio State product currently leads the NFL possessing the highest percentage of his team’s yards from scrimmage. In addition, the Rams allowed a whopping 229 rushing yards last week to the Washington Redskins.

Don’t think 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan didn’t notice that. He will use the combo of Hyde and undrafted rookie free-agent RB Matt Breida over and over again. 

The Rams have the NFL’s best 3-technique defensive tackle in DT Aaron Donald. They will run away from him with outside zone wiping him out completely from plays. In turn, that will kill clock time while winning the time of possession, if they can sustain drives–which I think they will. 

If the 49ers can protect an early lead, this should turn out to be a low scoring affair. In what may end up being a defensive struggle, look for the 49ers to come out on top, as they get their first win of the season, winning 20-10. 

42-24 (Over/Under) 

Analysis: Vegas line currently sits at 40. I think this game will definitely go under. I anticipate a defensive struggle.

37-29 (ATS)

Analysis: The Rams are three point favorites, however I think Vegas is banking on the 49ers lack of offense being a primary factor in this spread. I think the 49ers will finally reach the end zone while protecting an early lead. I would stay away from this bet but if you had to choose, I would take the 49ers and eat the points. 

Fantasy Football (67/191)

As you know, I select three players who I believe will score on Sunday. Here’s this week’s picks:

RB Carlos Hyde (TWICE) 

WR Cooper Kupp

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at ryan@NinerFans.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.

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