Week 3 vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were the only team the Niners were able to beat last season, and they managed to do it twice.
Yes, Los Angeles’ defense is good. And adding defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to the mix was a smart move. But while head coach Sean McVay was an offensive genius with the Washington Redskins, the young head coach is still going to find things tough his first year calling plays.
Running back Todd Gurley may have a bounce-back year. Maybe. But the Niners haven’t had any trouble shutting him down completely.
And while the Rams loaded up on receiving talent for quarterback Jared Goff, he has still yet to prove he can effectively manage an offense at the NFL level. The growing pains will likely continue this season.
Why Los Angeles Wins
Two factors will have to come into play here — Gurley and the Rams defense.
Gurley will have had two weeks to get some momentum under his feet and put last year behind him. L.A.’s offensive line isn’t particularly great, but it wasn’t anything special during Gurley’s stellar rookie year either.
Goff has to live up to expectations as a first overall pick, which he hasn’t done. If he can early in 2017, and the Rams defense does its job, L.A. comes away with a win on the road.
Why San Francisco Wins
Gurley winds up being a non-factor. And even with those receiving additions — tight end Gerald Everett and wide receiver Cooper Kupp — Goff’s decision-making process under center still remains flawed.
The Rams’ front-seven is solid enough to wreak havoc. So San Francisco will have to take advantage of a suspect secondary — one which allowed 29 passing touchdowns last year, most in the NFL.