When the LA Rams (7-2) faced the San Francisco 49ers (3-5) in Week 10, the expectation was that the LA Rams finally had the opportunity to win a vital NFC West Divisional game against their NFC West Division nemesis, but more importantly, drive a nail in the coffin of the 49ers and their hopes for any success in the 2021 season. A loss to the Rams would have driven the 49ers to 3-6, and 0-4 in the NFC West, practically eliminating all but the most remote chances for the 49ers to compete in the NFL Playoffs.
Instead, a victory in a dominating fashion changed the 49ers’ season. With that win, the 49ers defeated their first .500+ team, earned them their first NFC West victory, and put them back on a winning streak after a humiliating loss to the Arizona Cardinals and backup quarterback Colt McCoy.
Now, after defeating the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars and climbing to a 5-5 record, the 49ers are back in the playoff hunt. Who do they face through the rest of their season?
Week 12: Minnesota (5-5)
Week 13: @ Seattle (3-7)
Week 14: @ Cincinnatti (6-4)
Week 15: Atlanta (4-6)
Week 16: @ Tennessee (8-3)
Week 17: Houston (2-8)
Week 18: @ LA Rams (7-3)
They could face the Rams with a 9-7 or better record, and be very much in the NFC Playoffs picture. The challenge which the Rams have created for themselves is the likelihood that the last game of the season will hold significant playoff ramifications for both teams.
Let’s get physical
Of course, some will cite the LA Rams’ inability to defeat physical opponents as a reason to lose faith in the team in the 2021 NFL season despite a 7-3 start. We’ve held that the key for the LA Rams this year is to win 12 games, but right now the Rams appear to be more likely looking at an 11-6 season, and that presumes that the team defeats the 49ers in the last game of the 2021 NFL season.
Week 12: @ Green Bay (8-3)
Week 13: Jacksonville (2-8)
Week 14: @ Arizona (9-2)
Week 15: Seattle (3-7)
Week 16: @ Minnesota (5-5)
Week 17: @ Baltimore (7-3)
Week 18: San Francisco (5-5)
The Rams certainly did not do themselves any favors by losing in Week 10. The only two games that appear to be comfortable wins are the Jacksonville and Seattle games remaining on the team’s schedule. If the team only wins those two games through the rest of the season, the Rams will continue their streak of winning seasons.
Hopefully, the team can do much better. Right now, I will only concede the Arizona and Baltimore games as likely losses. If the Rams can win all but those two, they will enter the playoffs at 12-5 and be in an ideal position to compete. In any case, the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers is vital to the Rams’ success.
Did the Rams loss reignite the 49ers’ season and playoff hopes? Yes. But now, the Rams must brace for their toughest matchup of the 2021 regular season, the rematch against the same 49ers team.