$FML - San Francisco 49ers vs. LA Rams Betting Preview - 1/30

Last week, @FastMoneyLabs ($FML) stumbled to an 0-1 start before smashing 3 straight picks (including a +440 SGP!) to cap an incredible debut for @FlashPicks, finishing 3-1 on Best Bets highlighted in his Divisional Round previews. He’s heating up, but in comments to @FlashPicks staff, it’s clear he’s not satisfied yet. Can $FML keep the good juju rolling going into Championship Weekend?

Two familiar foes. One game from glory. Zero mercy. Buckle up! This one should be good. Here’s how I expect it to play out.

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Before I break it down, here’s a snapshot of interesting stats and trends uncovered during my research process:

Now the key question: What do those trends mean in the context of this matchup?

While it’s tricky to draw conclusions off a 10-game sample, it’s enough to support the narrative you’ll hear plenty this week: Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers OWN Sean McVay’s Rams. At least historically.

That said, if any coach is capable of a rebound with a Super Bowl spot on the line, it’s Sean McVay. Dude is an absolute beast. Makes me sweat just looking at him – even in pictures. If anyone’s tired of hearing the McVay vs. Shanahan narrative, it’s the LA Rams coach. For that reason, I’m not putting too much weight in the trends I laid out – but I won’t ignore them either.

LA’s Keys to Victory

I’d type them out, but it’s fairly straight-forward and best-explained by the Rams’ head coach himself in recent media comments:

“… it's not necessarily rocket science, it's being able to execute, stay efficient on early downs, take care of the football, take it away defensively and get it back for the offense, being able to convert on third downs and in the red area."

Struggles vs. San Francisco aside, the 2021 Rams are elite across almost every category. That’s why I backed them vs. the reigning champs last week, and it’s why they’re 3.5-point favorites against a team they’ve historically stunk against.

To win, they simply need to execute and play their game for a full 60-minutes. Last week, they almost blew a 27-3 lead with 18 minutes left. Sure, they squeaked by, but it wasn’t pretty, and they can’t bank on it happening again vs. a familiar foe.

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San Francisco’s Keys to Victory

They survived, but it was ugly. Yes, they stole a playoff win by upsetting Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field – a huge feat – but no, the way they played is not sustainable. At least not on offense.

As a whole, the 49ers only managed to score a measly 13-points. Excluding a blocked punt their special teams returned for a game-changing touchdown, the offense only scored 6 points – all via Field Goals, one of which came as time expired.

Looking at advanced stats, the picture gets even uglier. On an Expected Points-basis, which is an advanced stat measuring how many points, on average, a team is expected to score given a particular game context, the 49ers offense produced NEGATIVE 11.56 expected points. That is not a typo. Their offense produced negative expected points, which means their drives performed so badly that their opponent, the Packers, were considered more likely to score next even when San Francisco had the ball.

The Packers defense they faced that day was good – but not LA Rams good. To beat the Rams, San Francisco MUST find a way to spark their offense, and it can’t just be through the run game. Yes, the 49ers have a formidable rushing attack, but everyone knows that – especially LA (SF averaged 145.5 rush yards/game in their 2 matchups this year). If the Rams defense stacks the box and tries to suffocate the run, the 49ers must be prepared to counterattack through the air, and I’m not convinced they’re capable of doing that given their QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, is dealing with lingering shoulder and hand injuries.

To be fair, the 49ers defense and special teams are elite enough to steal the game even when the offense flounders, as they did in Green Bay. San Francisco just can’t bank on it. It’s just not a sustainable strategy.

Conclusion & $FML Best Bet

In summary, the head-to-head matchup trends clearly favor San Francisco (7-3 SU & ATS vs. LA since 2017). I’m not putting too much weight into that, though, because I respect Rams coach Sean McVay and suspect he’s motivated to buck the trend.

For this weekend’s clash, I see a moderate offensive edge for LA and feel the defensive edge is a wash given both squads rank as elite. The result, in my opinion (and Coach McVay’s), will come down to execution.
Given their status as divisional foes (NFC West), these clubs know each other well, which tends to support the idea of a close game. Call it recency bias after last weekend, but I really do see this coming down to a last second field goal, which would suggest backing the 49ers on the spread (+3.5 at time of writing).

However, for my best bet, I see more value on the Game Total, currently sitting at o/u 46 points on Caesars Sportsbook. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I prefer betting Overs, but everything about this game I just previewed screams UNDER. It happens to be is 3-1 in the last 4 Rams/49ers games, and given the relative strength of both defenses and how tightly I expect this game to play, I’m ready to back the UNDER with confidence as my best bet!

If you live in New Jersey you can get a $1,001 bet match and if you live in New York you can get a free bet up to $1,500 if you sign up to Caesars for this weekend's action!

Best Bet

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GAME TOTAL UNDER 46 @ -110

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