49ers vs. Rams picks, predictions against spread: Why San Francisco will advance to Super Bowl 56

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When the Rams host the 49ers in Sunday’s NFC championship game (6:30 p.m. ET, Fox), they will be trying to advance to play in Super Bowl 56, also in their home SoFi Stadium. The 49ers won both regular-season meetings, 31-10 in Week 10 in San Francisco and 27-24 in overtime in Week 17 in Los Angeles.

The 49ers have defeated the Rams six consecutive times with three straight season sweeps. Kyle Shanahan has outcoached Sean McVay in each of the games with his team executing better in every phase through all four quarters.

But it is difficult for a team to beat another team three times in a season. This is the second time the teams have met for the NFC title, the last being 31 years ago with Joe Montana vs. Jim Everett. This time it will be Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Matthew Stafford at quarterback.

Here’s a complete breakdown of 49ers vs. Rams in the 2022 NFC championship game, including our pick to reach Super Bowl 56.

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49ers vs. Rams picks, predictions

  • 49ers’ offense vs. Rams’ defense

The 49ers are a dedicated running team with rookie Elijah Mitchell. They are always effective because of an elite offensive line powered by left tackle rock Trent Williams. They also are a diverse quick passing team who mix big pass plays from Garoppolo via deep shots and setting up receivers to run well after the catch in open field, led by hybrid wideout Deebo Samuel. Second wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle also create matchup problems with their quickness and size, respectively.

The 49ers tend to neutralize the impact of the Rams’ pass rush, either inside with Aaron Donald or now outside with Von MIller. They also don’t force passes in the direction of Jalen Ramsey, given they move around their receivers in the formation and Ramsey can only cover one player.

San Francisco has picked apart Los Angeles’ weaknesses and avoided its strengths. That will continue to great success here.

Advantage: 49ers

  • Rams’ offense vs. 49ers’ defense

Stafford’s connection with Cooper Kupp is hard to contain anywhere. The 49ers are limited at cornerback and will have their share of issues there while also worrying about new No. 2 wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and tight end Tyler Higbee.

The Rams need to be more dedicated to the run this week. The 49ers are middle of the pack in that area. Balance would help take pressure off Stafford and not subject him more of the edge pass rush from Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. Stafford also needs to be wary of red-hot cover linebacker Fred Warner when looking to the short-to-intermediate middle.

McVay makes good adjustments and will see some matchups he likes. The offensive line helps in both protection and keeping its head down well in run blocking.

Advantage: Rams

The 49ers are a team full of X-factors after their principal offensive and defensive playmakers. The Rams are surprisingly straight-laced with McVay in using their primary guys and also play old-school when it comes to fourth-down situations. The 49ers should be more aggressive and creative.

Advantage: 49ers

MORE: AFC, NFC championship game picks straight up

The 49ers just won a game this way with their field-goal blocking, punt blocking and field-goal making with Robbie Gould. The Rams have their own money kicker in Matt Gay and an awesome rock-star punter in Johnny Hekker. Richard Hightower has the hotter group for San Francisco, so side there.

Advantage: 49ers

Shanahan is adept at figuring out what McVay wants to do. He has the edge over Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris with help from offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel. The 49ers will have a better chance with first-year defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans vs. McVay and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. Give the edge to one former Washington OC over the other.

Advantage: 49ers

The Rams don’t really have a home-field advantage in California and are a meh home team. The 49ers fans will be in full force despite the Rams’ tactics. San Francisco is a great road team with Shanahan and owns this matchup with him. They will be emotionally charged to ride their upset momentum.

Advantage: 49ers

NFC championship game prediction

The 49ers have a great handle on this matchup for a reason. Their key personnel and overall philosophy is more effective than what the Rams try to do to them. Stafford is the better overall QB than Garoppolo, but the defensive scheming will affect him more than Garoppolo. The 49ers can win on special teams and make a clutch unexpected play. Samuel and Mitchell are key in the running game while Los Angeles doesn’t run enough to help Stafford.

49ers 27, Rams 24

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