NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Split Decision
by Dennis Ranahan

The Los Angeles Rams are the best team in football.

Quarterback Jared Goff is in his third professional season and has not yet suffered any serious injuries to affect his sterling play. After a rookie season that had many wondering if the Rams had made a mistake picking him with the first pick in the draft, many pointing to the higher level of success enjoyed by Carson Wentz, who the Eagles took with the second pick in the 2016 draft, Goff has erased those fears over the past two seasons.

His rookie year problems may best be attributed to a poor offensive design under former head coach Jeff Fisher. The coach that had taken the Tennessee Titans all the way to the Super Bowl in 1999, never hit a successful stride with the Rams. In five years with the Rams, Fisher never had a winning season and was fired during the 2016 campaign with a 4-9 mark and a 31-45-1 career won/loss record with the franchise.

In 2017, the Rams hired the youngest coach in modern league history, 30-year-old Sean McVay. The young coach added to his staff one of the most experienced mentors in the league, 69-year-old Wade Phillips, as defensive coordinator. The combination of McVay and Phillips has worked magic in Hollywood.

In their first season together, the Rams won the NFC West and compiled a 12-4 season record while Goff excelled while executing McVay’s offense. In fact, the Rams 12-4 record could have been better if they had not surrendered the last game of the season by playing backups with their playoff position locked in at the number two NFC seed.

That final game of the season loss was against the San Francisco 49ers, who celebrated a fifth straight win with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. Many of the late season wins for the 49ers last year were similar in nature, that is the 49ers opponents, for a variety of reasons, less interested in getting a win than San Francisco.

On Sunday, these two state rivals will meet again when San Francisco hosts Los Angeles with the Rams looking to extend their unbeaten string to seven games. This week, unlike the final week of the regular season last year, the Rams want it.

So, the question becomes, are the 49ers good enough to end the Rams unblemished season?

No.

San Francisco was 1-10 last year before Garoppolo became the starting quarterback and led them to their five wins to close out the season. This year, Garoppolo is lost for the year with an injury, and the 49ers are again struggling to find a winning combination. Their only win this year was a three point victory over the Detroit Lions the week before Garoppolo was injured, and their record shows only two point spread victories, both gained in the past three weeks as underdogs to the Los Angeles Chargers and Green Bay Packers on the road.

In other words, the 49ers have not beaten a point spread at home and now play the best team in football.

You like their chances?

I do.

Not because the 49ers can win this game, but because Los Angeles doesn’t have to cover the nine point spread.

The Rams are good enough to control this game without a call to action to blow the 49ers out. Without a sprocket to catch that drives Los Angeles to a big win, they will simply grind down the 49ers with their suffocating defense and explosive offense, while never truly fearing that the game is in doubt.

This is exactly how Los Angeles has performed the past two weeks in contests that resulted in straight-up wins but point spread losses to the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. Now, a third straight road game for Los Angeles, will produce the same result, a win on the scoreboard and a loss on the spread.

Qoxhi Picks: San Francisco 49ers (+9½) over Los Angeles Rams