The San Francisco 49ers look to stay undefeated as they visit the 3-2 Los Angeles Rams in Week 6. To keep their perfect record intact, the Niners will need these five X-factors to go in their favor.


Week 6 figures to be the toughest challenge the San Francisco 49ers have faced this season, as they prepare for a road contest on a short week against their NFC West rivals, the Los Angeles Rams.

The Niners enter this contest shorthanded, missing starting offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon with various injuries. Tight end George Kittle is banged up with a groin injury, too.

Yet the 3-2 Rams aren't entering this contest with a clean slate of health, either. Running back Todd Gurley (quad) isn't expected to play, while cornerback Aqib Talib (ribs) has already been ruled out. And overall, Los Angeles isn't exactly steamrolling opponents this season like it was a year ago.

That said, the 49ers' chances to stay undefeated on the year hinge on some vital X-factors for this contest.

No. 5: Daniel Brunskill, Justin Skule anchoring 49ers offensive line


San Francisco has gotten by for two games without Staley, thanks largely to some solid play from rookie tackle Justin Skule, who has held up well enough in Weeks 3 and 5. With McGlinchey out, though, the Niners will hope for similar results from reserve lineman Daniel Brunskill, who'll make his first NFL-level start after being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Falcons back in 2017.

Run blocking, which has been the 49ers' forte this season, is going to be a key aspect to maintain. Yet so is pass protection, considering the Rams field one of the better outside pass-rushers in the league, EDGE Dante Fowler, who is tied for fourth among all edge rushers with 30 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.

No. 4: 49ers pass rush vs. Rams offensive line


The Niners can be a bit concerned about the productivity of their offensive line entering this contest, but the Rams need to be concerned about theirs, too.

San Francisco's pass rush, especially EDGE Nick Bosa, was on full display in the team's Week 5 Monday Night Football showdown against the Cleveland Browns. And this aspect of coordinator Robert Saleh's defense has turned what was a lackluster unit into one of the league's top defenses, especially against the pass.

PFF's Jeff Deeney told you what you need to know about this particular matchup:


If this trend continues into Week 6, the 49ers defense could be in position to carry the day, even if the Rams are still a top-10 offense.

No. 3: Containing the Rams' Cooper Kupp


Los Angeles hasn't gotten the kind of rushing results it was once known for, largely due to the injuries and inconsistency from Gurley this season. As a result, the Rams are airing it out on the season. Their 222 pass attempts are tops in the league entering Week 6.

The primary stat beneficiary of this has been third-year wide receiver Cooper Kupp, whose 41 receptions rank second among all pass catchers, while his 505 receiving yards rank fourth amid the same group.

Kupp is a versatile weapon lining up within the slot, frequently. Yet San Francisco has a serviceable cover man to guard him, nickel cornerback K'Waun Williams, who is PFF's top-graded corner so far this season, posting an impressive 87.0 overall grade.

Look for this matchup to be vital to the game's outcome.

No. 2: How 49ers offense gets by without Kyle Juszczyk


Removing Juszczyk from the equation, as he'll be out with a knee injury for a few weeks, hurts both the 49ers passing and rushing offense in a lot of ways.

San Francisco enters the contest averaging 200 rush yards per game this season, far and away tops in the NFL. Lead blocks from Juszczyk have been a key reason why:


Juszczyk's role is too complicated to merely replace him with another running back, or drop down another depth tight end to stand in the role. So one might expect head coach Kyle Shanahan to use more 11-personnel formations -- three wide receivers, one running back and a tight end -- instead of the oft-used 21-personnel groupings.

How much this impacts San Francisco's offense could be a crucial determining factor for this game.

No. 1: Jimmy Garoppolo carrying the offensive output


While the 49ers ground game has carried the offensive load for nearly all of 2019, Juszczyk's absence and the shortage of two starting tackles means the pass game will have to be more of a factor in Week 6.

This means more from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, whose 920 pass yards rank 27th out of all qualifiers this season. Granted, there's a bye week for Garoppolo mixed in there. But considering his 230 pass-yards-per-game average ranks 20th overall, one can see why the quarterback needs to have a bit more output in Los Angeles.

On a positive note, the Rams are surrendering an average of 6.6 yards per pass play this season, which is 18th in the league. And they'll be without one of their top sack specialists, EDGE Clay Matthews, who's missing time with a broken jaw.

Still, Garoppolo and the passing game will need to play a much bigger role than they have so far this season.

The 49ers and Rams kick off on Oct. 13 at 4:05 p.m. ET from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
  • Peter Panacy
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.