The Nor-Cal verse So-Cal rivalry is finally back– and so is the NFC West! In one of the best moves the NFL could make — was approving the Rams to go back to Los Angeles. Before the San Francisco 49ers-Seattle Seahawks rivalry, it was the 49ers-Rams.
However, the question remains, can the 49ers win back-to-back Monday Night home-openers? A game that will be played under the lights at Levi’s Stadium, it will be up to new 49ers HC Chip Kelly and company to set the tone, as they fend off a stingy Rams defense.
Led by All-Pro DT Aaron Donald and DE Robert Quinn, it will be interesting to see how the 49ers plan to attack this Rams front seven, who only allowed 101 rushing yards on 26 carries to RB DuJuan Harris and RB Mike Davis in their last meeting.
The answer. Third-year sensation RB Carlos Hyde.
A player who describes his game to me as “violent,” Hyde will be out for blood in 2016. No question, the Rams will be stacking the box with 8 and 9 man-fronts, essentially daring QB Blaine Gabbert to beat them with his arm, BUT Coach Kelly is smart enough to counter that scheme.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) September 9, 2016
By using 11 and 22 personnel, Kelly can dictate the flow of the offense, while keeping Rams defensive players on their toes. Not to mention, his up-tempo offense will have an affect on defensive substitutions despite saying otherwise due to Rams having tweener OLB Mark Barron, the 49ers should have a clear advantage especially down in the trenches, as long as they don’t turn the ball over.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) September 7, 2016
If the 49ers can maintain a balanced attack on offense while moving the chains, that should bode well for them winning the game. And I expect just that, as I predict Hyde to have a stat line around 24 carries for 104 rushing yards and one touchdown.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) June 9, 2016
An offensive line that has transitioned to a ZBS (zone-blocking scheme) while upgrading the unit as a whole with the additions of LG Zane Beadles, G Joshua Garnett and RG Anthony Davis, will only benefit Hyde and the team’s rushing attack in 2016.
With the 49ers offense looking to do their part, look for the 49ers defense to do theirs. A new defensive coordinator is in town, and the players absolutely love him.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) August 1, 2016
In speaking with second-year OLB Eli Harold to third-year DB Jimmie Ward— the players seem excited about DC Jim O’Neil’s scheme. A drastic change from former DC Eric Mangini, the players tell me it’s more simplistic yet still aggressive enough for them to thrive–think DC Vic Fangio.
Key to stopping Rams offense is simple. Stop RB Todd Gurley. Force Keenum to beat you with his arm. #49ers run fits will be POE vs. Rams.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) September 9, 2016
There have been questions and concerns on whether this team can endure success due to Kelly’s up-tempo style, and while I do admit that can be a problem- the players are up for the challenge. A bigger challenge in my opinion, is how they plan on attacking future All-Pro RB Todd Gurley.
The 49ers have plenty of depth along the front seven, but more reinforcements will be needed to bring down the powerful and punishing Georgia running back. Look for O’Neil to try and create pressure up front from the CB slot (DB Jimmie Ward) and OLB (OLB Eli Harold) positions to flush running plays back inside. Simply put, outside containment will be a point of emphasis in this game and O’Neil knows it.
If the 49ers can somehow make the Rams offense one-dimensional, essentially forcing Keenum to move the chains with his arm, that should allow the 49ers defense to do their part in holding the Rams to under 20 points in the season-opener.
With the 49ers looking to win back-to-back season openers on Monday Night, it will be an expected defensive struggle. Two teams who will be fighting for NFC West bragging rights, look for the 49ers to come out on top despited being -2.5 point underdogs, as I see them winning 23-17.
Sakamoto: 33-15 (Over/Under)
With the total points set at 43, I would slightly take the under. In a game where the Rams score at least 17 points, expect the 49ers offense to keep it close as both teams will be hard pressed to top 20 points.
Sakamoto: 29-19 (ATS)
With the 49ers being -2.5 point underdogs, I would take the 49ers. A game in which I can see the 49ers easily covering the spread, I don’t think that will happen as the Rams will prove to be too much for the talented yet inexperienced 49ers secondary.
Fantasy Football (50/149)
As you know we select three players each game who we think will score touchdowns (quarterbacks omitted). Here are this week’s picks.
TE Vance McDonald
RB Carlos Hyde
RB Todd Gurley
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