San Francisco 49ers vs LA Rams: Conference Championship

San Francisco vs L A Rams

Here we go, round three between two of the biggest rivals in the NFC. The 49ers have taken both games this season, including the stunning come from behind victory in Week 18 to clinch the playoff spot. Does anyone want to play the 49ers right now? Especially a Rams team that hasn’t been able to figure this team out on both sides of the ball. It’s a credit to head coach Kyle Shanahan to be able to gameplan a different script every time the team takes the field. The 49ers do have some key injuries though which is likely why we get the 3.5 instead of just a flat 3.0. First, Trent Williams had an MRI on his ankle that came back clean, but the team is unsure if the All-Pro tackle will be able to suit up. Then, Deebo Samuel was hobbled coming off the field at the end of the game in Green Bay. The wide receiver/running back is San Francisco’s most important offensive weapon, and his incredible season is likely being overshadowed by Cooper Kupp on the other side of the field.

Finally, Jimmy Garopollo just is not healthy right now, so we can likely expect another conservative gameplan full of running the ball and quick short passes. His indecision cost him as he was sacked four times by Green Bay and intercepted once. It wasn’t his best game, but he is clearly still bothered by the mild shoulder sprain he picked up in Dallas. On the other side of the ball, the Rams impressed by marching into Tampa Bay and eliminating Tom Brady. But, what is overlooked is the near collapse they had if it wasn’t for some Cooper Kupp heroics in the last minute of the game. These two coaches know each other well, and McVay will need to exercise his demons if the Rams want to host the Super Bowl in February. This game is a complete coinflip. I’d take the under but there’s a good chance this goes to overtime so the risk/reward isn’t great there. In cases like this, I’ll take the best possible 49ers moneyline odds I can get and see if I can hedge back on the Rams during the game.

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NFC Conference Championship Head Coaches

Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams

McVay exploded onto the scene back in 2017 as the youngest head coach in NFL history at the age of 30. He brought a revolutionary style of offense that made the lowest-scoring team in the NFL to the highest scoring team in just one season. The Rams also took the division title in his first year as coach, and the first playoff game since way back in 2004. Since then the Rams have been a dominant force in the NFC West, never finishing below .500 or third in the division. McVay’s success brought on a change in league coaching philosophies, bringing on a new generation of coaches that use things like analytics and probability rather than traditional football fundamentals.

McVay started his coaching career as an assistant wide receivers coach under Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay, then worked under Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden in Washington after that. His connections were enough to land him the job with the Rams, where he has enjoyed a healthy rivalry against Mike Shanahan’s son, Kyle, who he will be facing in the NFC Championship game. For the first few years of McVay’s reign in Los Angeles his offense worked well under fairweather quarterback Jared Goff, who McVay traded to Detroit last offseason for Matthew Stafford. With Stafford under center, and newly signed Odell Beckham Jr as a replacement for Robert Woods, the Rams offense has been once again putting up big numbers. Stafford threw for 4,886 yards with 41 touchdowns and 17 interceptions this year. McVay will have to slay the 49ers dragon this weekend if he hopes to return to his second Super Bowl appearance, having lost the first one to the Patriots in 2019.

Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers

Kyle Shanahan is the son of former coaching great, Mike Shanahan, and is the current head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He was hired in 2017, the same season as his opponent this weekend, and long-time family friend Sean McVay. Shanahan has been haunted by two Super Bowl losses in his career: the infamous loss for the Atlanta Falcons to the Patriots in 2016, and the 49ers loss to the Chiefs in the 2019 season. Like McVay, Shanahan has turned around a legendary franchise that was in a rut, and along with GM John Lynch, have made the 49ers into an NFC powerhouse once again.

Shanahan began his coaching career as McVay did, under Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay. He then went to Houston to work under Gary Kubiak as a wide receivers coach, then finally ended up in Washington under his father, alongside McVay again. The two coaching families have had a long and successful working career, so it is only fitting that the two coaches meet twice a year in the NFC West. Shanahan resurrected the Atlanta offense under quarterback Matt Ryan, and turned an 8-8 team into the highest scoring offense in the NFL, making their way to the infamous Super Bowl clash against New England. Following the collapse, the 49ers hired Shanahan as their head coach, and a new culture was born in the bay. Shanahan is known around the league as one of, if not, the best offensive minds in the game and it is evident in how efficient the 49ers offense is. Shanahan will be looking to get back to his third Super Bowl appearance in six seasons this Sunday against the Rams.

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