San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams predictions: 49ers to sneak past Rams in tight clash

It's a regular NFC West meeting with the extra huge significance of a place in the Super Bowl on the line as the 49ers take on the Rams for the third time this season.

The Rams are making history by hosting the NFC Championship game at the same stadium being used for the Super Bowl - as they look for two more wins at SoFi Stadium to make them the second home Super Bowl winners in a row.

Standing in their way, though, is a local rival that has not only beaten them twice this season but in their last six meetings - do the 49ers simply have their number? Or can the Rams finally get the win when it matters most?

When: Sunday, Jan 30, 23:30 GMT

Where: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California

How to watch: Sky Sports

The Rams: All in to win

Matthew Stafford during his opening game of the season as an LA Ram

It's a big-time Hollywood strategy that the Rams have going on here, as while most teams try and stockpile draft picks, LA are happy to hand them out and bring in established stars. And it's a plan that could well work.

There's no real tomorrow for the Rams. No building for the future, the time to win is now, the window is ever so small when you splash out on bringing in Von Miller and Odell Beckham to add to the likes of Matthew Stafford and Jalen Ramsey.

The Rams haven't had a first-round Draft pick since 2016 and they won't have one again until 2024, yet with new QB Stafford they're just a game away from a second Super Bowl in four years so who can argue?

And their signings have shown up - Miller combines with Aaron Donald to create huge pressure on opposing QBs, while Beckham is starting to connect with Stafford and offer another receiving threat with the best in the league Cooper Kupp. Those big moves may pay off after all.

The 49ers: Road warriors on a roll

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel

From what is a record 17th Championship Game for the 49ers, it could be a second Super Bowl in three years if they can continue their tough road to glory, which has seen them win in LA just to get into the play-offs, before toughing it out for wins in Dallas and Green Bay.

Those are three of the toughest challenges around in the NFL so Kyle Shanahan's side deserve great credit already - but they'll want more than that.

They won't go into this game like underdogs given they've won here so recently, are on a play-off roll, and perhaps most importantly have dominated the Rams recently with six straight wins against Sean McVay's side.

Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo has questions to answer just like his opposite number Stafford, but despite not throwing a play-off TD as yet he's one game away from leading the team to a second Super Bowl. That will answer a lot of critics.

In truth, though, San Francisco will need huge games from defensive giants Nick Bosa and Fred Warner and a large dose of Deebo Samuel - the wide receiver who has become a devastating weapon as a running back hybrid. Do-it-all Deebo will be key.

49ers @ Rams - Key stats

  • The 49ers and Rams have met only once in the postseason: The 1989 NFC Championship, a 30-3 San Francisco win at Candlestick Park. San Francisco went on to defeat Denver in Super Bowl XXIV.
  • San Francisco, making its second appearance in the NFC Championship in three years, has reached a conference Championship Game for the 17th time, more than any franchise in the Super Bowl era. Since 2011, the 49ers are making their fifth appearance in the NFC Championship. San Francisco is 7-9 all-time in the NFC title game.
  • The Rams are making their 11th appearance in the NFC Championship Game, tied with the Packers for the third-most since the 1970 league merger. Only the 49ers (17 including this season) and Cowboys (16) have more appearances in the NFC Championship.
  • San Francisco has won three straight road games against the Rams and has been victorious in five of its last six trips to meet the Rams in Los Angeles. This season, the Rams lost five overall games and two were to San Francisco.
  • In Deebo Samuel's career, including the postseason, the 49ers are 8-1 when he has 35-or-more rushing yards.
  • Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has a 4-1 postseason record as a starting quarterback, and 3-0 on the road against the Rams. He is bidding to become the second quarterback in 49ers history to win multiple NFC Championships, joining Joe Montana who four NFC titles.
  • Since Matthew Stafford entered the league as the No. 1 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, he has now engineered 43 game-winning drives, including the post season, the most of any quarterback in that span.
  • Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp had nine catches for 183 yards and a touchdown in last week's win, including a 70-yard touchdown in the first half.

49ers v Rams - Key match-ups

There's three keys here - firstly the pass rush, with the Rams' Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and Von Miller giving Tom Brady all kinds of trouble last week, but the Niners, led by Nick Bosa, had 58 sacks this season and another 10 in two play-off games.

QBs are always key but they have differing roles somewhat in that Stafford may have to try and win it with his arm, as he did last week in Tampa, while Garoppolo is mainly focused on not losing it with costly interceptions.

Stafford's had his problems with picks too, notably in the last meeting when a Rams win would've stopped San Francisco from even getting in the play-offs. Will that late slip come back to haunt Stafford and the Rams, or can they now kill off their rivals' hopes?

Finally, both teams also have their X-Factor, their stud playmaker who can bust the game wide open, in Kupp and Samuel. The Niners have problems in the secondary and if Kupp and Stafford get rolling then they've proved they can win any game.

Samuel doesn't even need his QB to break the game open as he can blaze a trail from running back. If the 49ers can bottle Stafford up then Deebo can do the rest almost by himself - as he did in Green Bay last week with crucial big run after crucial big run.

Planet Sport Verdict

You can come at this game from 10 different angles and get 10 different results, and if you say you know for a fact how this game will go then you'd be lying, as it's a fantastic knife-edged coin toss of a game that could go either way - it looks made for overtime!

The Rams have the stars and generally a better team, and it could be a case of that extra depth telling down the stretch with Miller getting a sack or Beckham popping up with a big catch. We're sure Kupp and Samuel will have big games but whether their QBs can hold it together is another matter.

With so little between them, what I've used as the decider is just the run of form, and while, yes, it's tough to beat a team three times in a season in the NFL and seven in a row, there's just an air that the Niners have the Rams' number - that Shanahan has the cheat sheet for any questions McVay can pose.

When you add that in to the way the Rams folded against the 49ers last time out and almost did the same in Tampa then I'll give the nod to the 49ers to make it all the way on the road as sixth seeds, but this one will be very, very close!

Prediction: 49ers 27-24 Rams

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