Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports



Los Angeles Rams (1–1) vs. San Francisco 49ers (0–2)

49ers' Kyle Shanahan and Rams' Sean McVay are two of the youngest head coaches in the NFL and now come full circle. They worked on the Washington Redskins' staff from 2010–2013. The Rams lead the NFC West with five offensive touchdowns while the 49ers are still looking for their first but boast a top-10 defense to start the season.

Key Factors

Brian Hoyer — Quite frankly, this is the last guaranteed start for 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer as he's struggled mightily the first two games with 292 passing yards and two interceptions on a 60.7 passer rating. Hoyer was only pressured three times last week but failed to surpass 100 passing yards in a winnable game against the Seattle Seahawks. Shanahan believes in his veteran quarterback but knows the 49ers can't afford to go without a touchdown three games into the season. The 49ers are averaging 4.6 yards per play while ranking 30th in total scrimmage plays because of their inability to sustain drives. Hoyer and his receivers — notably Marquise Goodwin — need to make plays in the passing game. The offense has four field goals on 21 offensive possessions.

Battle of the Backs — 49ers' Carlos Hyde and Rams' Todd Gurley are both off to excellent starts ranking fourth (245 yards) and fifth (232 yards), respectively, in total offensive yards. I would expect a more direct game plan with both teams to heavily featured their running backs on Thursday when you consider it's a short week. Hyde is averaging 7.0 yards per carry and should have some opportunity against a Rams run defense that allowed 229 rushing yards last week.

Aaron Donald — Rams defensive end Aaron Donald is by far their best player and should be better prepared after returning to the roster last week. The rust should be off, which doesn't bode well for the 49ers' interior linemen. 49ers left guard Laken Tomlinson was an improvement over Zane Beadles but the overall play from the unit is still lacking. Don't forget about Rams edge rusher Robert Quinn either when Donald commands the double team.

Pass Defense —After 49ers free safety Jimmie Ward returned to the lineup, 49ers strong safety Eric Reid is now out with a knee injury while safety Jaquiski Tartt is working through a neck injury. I'm not quite comfortable putting rookie safeties Adrian Colbert and Lorenzo Jerome into the fold.

Believe it or not but Rams quarterback Jared Goff has been very successful throwing the ball downfield — he boasts a 146.8 passer rating on deep throws (20+yards). Rams rookie tight end Gerald Everett has been his big-play receiver which includes a 69-yard reception last week. Conversely, Goff now has a reliable option underneath in Rams rookie receiver Cooper Kupp. 49ers nickelback K'Waun Williams has been a solid plug-and-play free agent signing and will likely match up with Kupp — this should be the primary matchup to watch.

Overall Thoughts

I won't say this is a must-win for the 49ers but considering the team has failed to score a touchdown through two games and will now be in the national spotlight, you can feel the pressure from the Faithful.

Another factor to consider about the short turnaround this week is the effectiveness of the defense. Matt Maiocco noted that the 49ers' defense was on the field for 79 snaps last week. Hopefully the front seven can sustain their high level of play.

The 49ers have typically had the Rams' number in recent matchups but are now 2.5-point home underdogs by the public. I think Hoyer knows the importance of this start and rebounds for the 49ers' first victory of the season.

49ers +2.5 Under 40
Rams 17 49ers 20