Okay, so the chess match that involves sitting starters for the 2023 NFL season finale has begun, and the LA Rams (9-7) have already fired the first shot. The LA Rams, winners of six of their last seven games, have reportedly already determined the best course of action is to sit seven starters for Week 18. The San Francisco 49ers (12-4), have reportedly only reportedly decided that two starters, QB Brock Purdy and RB Christian McCaffrey, will sit against the Rams.
But I would be shocked if that number does not triple by game day.
While we can mull over the value and importance of the game between the LA Rams and the San Francisco 49ers in Week 18, let's pause a moment and make an effort to understand how a Week 18 matchup impacts both the 49ers and the Rams going forward.
For the 49ers, this is simply one more game. It's the last hour on the clock before the team can punch its timecard and flip over to the fun stuff - the NFL Playoffs as the number one-seeded team in the NFC. The 49ers had one bad stretch in 2023, a three-game losing streak. Their last loss was a convincing one to the Baltimore Ravens, at home
For the LA Rams, it's about momentum. The Rams entered their Week 10 BYE at 3-6, and by all accounts, appeared to be a team with more at stake in the 2024 NFL Draft than the NFL Playoffs. Since that time, the Rams have gotten hot, red hot. Not only have the Rams gone 6-1 over the past seven games, but have gone 3-1 against teams with a legitimate chance at appearing in post-season competition.
Of all NFC Playoff teams, the Rams schedule pitted them against the highest strength of schedule (.520). In terms of battle tested, the Rams have gotten a great deal of experience in 2023 against the best teams in the league. Will it make a difference in Week 18? Well, I think that it can, and here are some reasons why I believe in the LA Rams this week: