The National Football League completed their Thursday night schedule last week, but now begin their Saturday games. This week, three games will be played on Saturday, beginning with a 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time contest in Tampa Bay between the Houston Texans and home standing Buccaneers.
The afternoon game features the second meeting of the season between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, while the nightcap has an NFC West battle between last year’s NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams versus the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
In 1947, Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go gently into the night.” That may apply this week to the Rams, who were beaten by the 49ers in Los Angeles in October and now come visiting in hopes of messing up the 49ers postseason plans. The Rams are still alive to earn a Wild Card postseason berth, but that mathematical possibility could be eliminated this weekend if Los Angeles falls to the 49ers and the teams ahead of them in the hunt win on Sunday.
In other words, this week the 49ers are looking to improve their chances of overtaking the Seattle Seahawks in their division race which could also likely earn them the top seed in the NFC. The 49ers close out their regular season next week in Seattle, which means they could still win the West with a loss to the Rams coupled with a victory next Sunday at CenturyLink Field if the Arizona Cardinals upset Seattle on the road this Sunday.
All season, it looked like the winner of the NFC West would have the top seed and the second place team, no matter what their won/loss record, would land in the playoffs with the 5th seed. But, today, four teams in the NFC have 11-3 records, including the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints along with Seattle and San Francisco.
The 49ers have the tie-breaker edge over New Orleans based on their dramatic 48-46 win at the Superdome two weeks ago, and a tie-breaker edge over the Packers, who they beat at home four weeks ago, 37-8.
The Seahawks lost their head-to-head contest against New Orleans, defeated by the Saints in Seattle in third week action, 33-27. The Packers did not play Seattle or New Orleans in the regular season. The 49ers, Packers and Seahawks all have 8-2 conference records, while the Saints are one back in that tie-breaker category with an 8-3 record against NFC competition.
In other words, there is a lot to be decided in the final two weeks of regular season NFL action, and a slide rule alone is not capable of adequately chronicling all the scenarios possible.
Which brings us down to this, teams looking for a playoff berth and the higher seeds just need to win. That is a lot easier said than done. Often, in the final weeks of a season, the team with nothing left to play for except interrupt their opponents postseason plans have an advantage. They have something to play for without a loss changing their fate for the season.
But, before we get confused in the world of if this happens or that happens, it is best to get back to tomorrow night’s game at Levi’s Stadium.
The 49ers still control their own destiny this year, beat the Rams and Seahawks to close out their regular season, and last week’s loss to the Falcons means nothing. But slip up against the Rams here, and Los Angeles keeps their playoff hopes alive and the 49ers chances to capture the top seed in the conference might fade to black if the Seahawks down the Cardinals on Sunday.
The Rams have been as reliable as Charlie Brown choosing Lucy to hold the ball for a field goal attempt. Three weeks ago, the public figured they had the Rams figured out after Sean McVay’s team had lost to the Baltimore Ravens by 39 points at home, 45-6. They gave the Cardinals the edge over the visitors following that loss, and the Rams rebounded from their one-sided defeat with a convincing road win in Arizona, 34-7.
Still, the public figured that was just them beating the Cardinals, and when the Seahawks came to Los Angeles for a Sunday night affair, the public moved the Seahawks from a three point underdog to a one point favorite with heavy action on the visitor at the LA Coliseum. The Rams crushed Seattle, 28-12, while looking like last year’s champs. Runningback Todd Gurley, who has had a down year following his spectacular season in 2018, showed flashes of brilliance in the win over Seattle.
That victory, prompted the bettors to figure the Rams were back, and that they would handle a Dallas Cowboys team that had lost three straight games.
The Cowboys sliced, diced and mutilated the Rams by a 44-21 final in a game that was not as close as the score.
So now what?
The public figures this week the Rams are little more than roadkill for the 49ers, and that the opening line favoring San Francisco by 4½ points was not enough. They have wagered on the home team and drove the 49ers favorite role up to 6½ points.
Which leaves us with this, the Rams fighting for survival, the 49ers looking to improve their playoff prospects, and the public wrong again.
Qoxhi Picks: Los Angeles Rams (+6½) over San Francisco 49ers