Thursday Matchup Edge

San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Rams

Open: 42 O/U, LAR -2.5
Press Time: 40 O/U, LAR -3

Carlos Hyde has looked great in both of his first two games despite facing perhaps the two toughest draws in the league, the Panthers and Seahawks. Now he faces a Rams defense that surrendered 304 yards (4.8 YPC) and three touchdowns on the ground through two games. It sure seems like he ought to be able to get something going in this one.

Brian Hoyer has been a mess through two weeks, completing 39-of-62 passes for 292 yards (4.7 YPA) and two interceptions with no touchdowns. He’s also lost a fumble while taking six sacks. The pass blocking hasn’t been good, but it’s tough to tell just how much of that should be attributed to the offensive line given that they’ve face two top defensive fronts in Carolina and Seattle. Unfortunately, such conditions might persist against a Wade Phillips defense with Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn at its disposal.

If someone gets going in the 49ers passing game, it would almost have to be Pierre Garcon, if only because none of the other options have reliably defined uses. Garcon, by contrast, is a safe bet to see ΒΌ or more of the team’s targets. The more he can avoid cornerback Trumaine Johnson the better – Johnson didn’t specifically trail Washington WR1 Terrelle Pryor last week, though the two figure to match up a fair amount anyway.

Todd Gurley’s usage as a pass catcher makes him a strong play either way, but I think he might find the running tougher against the 49ers than he did against Washington. Even if the Seattle offensive line made the 49ers pass rush look better last week than it actually is, the San Francisco front seven has enough talent to project as a solid run defense. DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Tank Carradine are all standout raw talents, though Reuben Foster’s absence with an ankle injury leaves the second level more vulnerable than the first. Plus, there’s a decent chance the Rams defense gets Gurley some short fields, making the touchdown probability quite good.

Jared Goff wasn’t great against Washington on Sunday – it took a busted coverage on rookie tight end Gerald Everett for Goff to get 69 of his 219 yards – but the pass-rushing duo of Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan deserve a lot of the credit for that. The 49ers have no obvious means of rushing the passer, so Goff should have a decent amount of time to get the ball to Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp. While the 49ers pass defense has done well so far, I’m not ready to fear them after they’ve only faced a still-recovering Cam Newton and an OL-free Seattle offense.

Unless Watkins gets loose, it’s hard to see many big plays in this game. Hyde is good enough to keep the 49ers in it for a while, but I’d worry about the Phillips pass rush getting to Hoyer eventually, allowing Gurley to tire a 49ers defense already dealing with problematic field position.

(line data from covers.com)

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