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49ers in a must-win situation to keep playoff hopes alive

Nov 15, 2021 at 3:00 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers find themselves backed up against the wall in a Monday night showdown with their divisional rival Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers are currently third in the NFC West with a 3-5 record. On the season, they are 0-4 at home and have been outscored 185-202 in their eight games.

According to the 49ers currently have an 18% chance of making the playoffs. That percentage jumps to 32% with a win, but plummets to 8% with a loss. Regardless of which playoff predictor you look at, it's safe to say this is the most important game of the 2021 season and has a huge impact on the 49ers' playoff hopes.

The 49ers will have their hands full on both sides of the ball. The Rams have the third ranked passing offense and the eighth toughest run defense in the NFL. They average 29 points per game (4th in the NFL) while allowing only 21.8 points (11th). They will also be showing off their newest additions, as wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and outside linebacker Von Miller are set to make their L.A. debuts.

San Francisco 49ers (3-5) Los Angeles Rams (7-2)
Total Offense 365.6 YPG (11th) 399.3 YPG (6th)
Offense- Passing 252.5 YPG (12th) 296.3 YPD (3rd)
Offense- Rushing 113.1 YPD (16th) 103.0 YPG (21st)
Total Defense 338.1 YPG (10th) 348.2 YPG (11th)
Defense- Passing 206.5 YPG (6th) 248.7 YPG (17th)
Defense- Rushing 131.6 YPG (28th) 99.6 YPG (8th)
Turnovers -9 (30th) +5 (7th)

Offensively, the 49ers will need to protect the ball and take what the Rams defense gives them. Turnovers have plagued the 49ers' offense this season, but tonight there will be very little room for error. The Rams have one of the best defensive lines in the league and the trio of Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and Leonard Floyd will be pursuing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo all game. Garoppolo will need to get the ball out of his hands quick, while moving the chains in order to establish drives and keep the Rams potent offense sidelined.

This could be a game where tight end George Kittle is able to exploit a coverage mismatch against the Rams linebackers in the middle of the field, and the 49ers will also need to be patient and persistent with their rushing attack. Running backs Elijah Mitchell and Jeff Wilson Jr will need to carry the ball early and often. The last thing Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers want to do is get into a shootout, where they will be overmatched.

On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers will need to find a way to put pressure on Matthew Stafford, force him into making bad decisions, and limit explosive plays downfield. With a depleted secondary, the emphasis will be on the defensive line to generate a strong pass rush to alleviate the responsibilities of the coverage unit. Direct pressure up the middle from Arik Armstead and Kentavius Street will be a critical part of the 49ers defensive success.

The Rams have relied heavily on their passing game this season, but the 49ers' poor run defense will likely motivate them to feature their backs more in the game. The key for the 49ers defense will be to keep everything in front of them, and not allow the big plays.

The 2021 season has not gone the way the 49ers had planned, but it's a little early to throw in the towel. The 49ers have put themselves into a must-win situation and now it's their time to fight back into contention. Regardless of the result, we will find out what kind of team this is and how well they are able to bounce back from adversity.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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