Monday Night Football features a Week 4 battle that might go a long way in determining who wins the NFC West this season. The Los Angeles Rams will travel up the California coast to square off with the San Francisco 49ers in a divisional battle. Los Angeles comes into this game having won two straight, including a victory against the Arizona Cardinals last week by a final score of 20-12. The 49ers are hoping that their primetime contest this week unfolds more positively than their last, when they fell to the Denver Broncos 11-10 last Sunday night.
This matchup is a rematch of the NFC championship game from last season, and we’ll unpack what to look out for in this tilt.
Does San Francisco Have An Answer For Cooper Kupp?
The past year or so has cemented the Rams wide receiver as arguably the best pass catcher in the game. San Francisco knows as well as anyone what type of damage Kupp can do, as he eviscerated them for 142 yards on 11 catches and two touchdowns in the postseason last year.
The level of Kupp’s involvement is no longer a secret, and yet teams have not been able to curtail his production. Perhaps the only subpar game the receiver has had in the last 12 or so months came last week against Arizona, when he only logged four catches for 44 yards. It is a good bet that the 49ers’ defensive staff is looking very closely to see what the Cardinals might have done to hold him in check.
The Return of George Kittle
To be clear, the 49ers’ superstar tight end made his season debut last week against Denver. He spent the first couple weeks of the season on the shelf with a groin injury, and contributed a modest receiving line with four catches and 28 yards.
While Kittle’s value is not solely determined by his numbers as a receiver, the matchup against Los Angeles is an interesting test for whether he has truly returned to 100%. The Rams figure to have Jalen Ramsey follow Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk around, which will increase the importance of Kittle’s ability to get open up the seam. It should be an exciting chess match to see how the 49ers decide to deploy him.
The Sean McVay/Kyle Shanahan Relationship
There are perhaps no two coaches who encapsulate the modern NFL than Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Of course, the two men know each other extremely well, having worked together on the same offensive staff in Washington a decade ago.
They grew up in the NFL together, talking about what types of formations and mismatches give defenses trouble, and are both not afraid to think outside the box when designing a game plan. When they aren’t facing each other, each coach usually roots for the other to do well.
However, in a prime time game where the stakes are quite high, expect both McVay and Shanahan to unveil some wrinkles the other may not expect.