It's Week 6 and the San Francisco 49ers remain undefeated with a 4-0 record. While it's great, like Coach Shanahan said earlier this year, "I've been 5-0 and missed the playoffs." It doesn't mean a lot yet. This week will be the most important game they have played thus far as it is a divisional game against their rivals, the Los Angeles Rams.

Both teams have injuries as they head into this matchup. The 49ers will be without cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (foot), tackle Joe Staley (fibula), tackle Mike McGlinchey (knee) and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (knee). Tight End George Kittle (groin) is also listed as questionable, but is likely to play.

The Rams will be without cornerback Aqib Talib (rib) and linebacker Clay Matthews (jaw). Running back Todd Gurley is a game time decision with a quad injury.

Here are five keys to winning this game:

Where and When: Sunday, October 13 at 1:05 PST at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Where to Watch: How to watch or listen to 49ers at Rams

1) Protect Jimmy Garoppolo


In other games, the number one focus has been getting to the opposing quarterback. In this game, while that is still important, it is vital that the 49ers' passing game be effective. With the injuries the 49ers have, points could be difficult to come by if the Rams are slowing the run game down and hitting Garoppolo.

This may be Garoppolo's most important game of his young career. He has not had to carry the 49ers on his back, but may need to this week. If Daniel Brunskill and Justin Skule can anchor this line and keep the pocket reasonably clean for Jimmy G, not only does this bode well for beating the Rams, but also for demonstrating tremendous depth.

If Garoppolo has the time, he will have lots of opportunities to make big plays against a potentially struggling Rams team.

2) The Pass Rush


It's no secret that the 49ers' pass rush has been dominant. This deep line has been terrific at creating pressure and making life an absolute hell for opposing quarterbacks. This week must be no different. It must make Jared Goff extremely uncomfortable, hit him often, and force him into a couple of turnovers.

We have seen some great football from this unit, but it must continue to carry the day for this defense. Another positive is Dee Ford practiced all week and should see an increase in his snap count.

3) Ignore the Injuries and Run the Ball Effectively


Kyle Shanahan's offense depends on play action passes as the defense becomes over-aggressive in trying to stop his running game. The 49ers must continue to run the ball with Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert.

They don't have to run for 275 yards like they did against Cleveland, but they must make the Rams respect the ground game. Expect Shanahan to run the ball as much as possible and take advantage of the Rams, who have not been as stout on the defensive side of the ball thus far in the season.

If the ground game is effective, the passing game should work very well. Another long run, like Breida's 83 yard scamper, wouldn't hurt either.

4) Don't Beat Yourself


The penalties have gone down, but this is not the game for them to rear their ugly head. The Rams are going to be a difficult opponent and they cannot afford long pass interference penalties, nor offensive ones that take away big plays.

The 49ers struggled against Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh largely due to beating themselves: not taking care of the football and penalties.

If San Francisco can take care of the football and sustain drives, it can win this game and remain atop the NFC West.

5) Splash Plays


If the 49ers are going to be a contender, they must continue to make those "splash plays". They did it last week with a long touchdown run by Matt Breida and followed that play with a huge interception. If we can get a couple of these type of plays early and jump out to a lead, we could be looking at a changing of the guard in this division.

It's time for the 49ers to make life difficult for the Rams, something they haven't been able to do in awhile. Splash plays take the air out of the crowd and bring momentum to their side. It would be especially good to see one from the two struggling groups on this team: the receivers and the safeties.

Prediction


Both teams are hobbled so injuries cannot be an excuse. The Rams are a wounded animal and are up against the wall, which is usually a formula for disaster.

Not this time. The defense will play well again and Shanahan will show his genius as he out-schemes John McVay and Wade Phillips, enabling his offense to continue to roll. The 49ers will remain undefeated and will garner some respect, but most importantly, build their confidence as a contender in this league.

49ers 23, Rams 17