SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (5-10) AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-4)
SERIES HISTORY: 136th regular-season meeting. 49ers lead series, 67-75-3. The Rams beat the 49ers earlier this year in a 41-39 shootout in which both Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods eclipsed the 100-yard mark in receiving yards.
KEYS TO THE GAME: With little else but final playoff seeding in play, the Rams will rest some key starters. The Rams sit in the third spot in the NFC field and will open the first round at home. A win Sunday locks that position down. A loss could see them slide to the fourth seed.
While that ultimately might mean facing a more highly regarded opponent in the first and second rounds, the Rams have decided that's still not worth the risk of key starters getting injured or squandering the chance to rest some veterans in advance of the postseason.
McVay, though, said he will be cognizant of players who have incentive clauses tied to statistics and playing time.
The 49ers, meanwhile, are looking to finish 5-0 and send a message that they will be a team to be reckoned with next season. That starts with Jimmy Garoppolo, who is 4-0 as a starter and has brought a renewed confidence to the 49ers.
"I think there's huge upside there and a lot of things we can do," coach Kyle Shanahan said.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Rams WR Cooper Kupp vs. 49ers CB Dontae Johnson. Kupp leads the team in receiving yards (869) and ranks second in receptions (62) and will be a handful for Johnson, who has 72 tackles and one interception.
--Rams LG Roger Saffold vs. 49ers DL DeForest Buckner. Saffold has been a Pro Bowl-caliber player on a revamped offensive line and will be needed to protect young QB Sean Mannion.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORTS
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
--No Players Listed
LOS ANGELES RAMS
--Doubtful: LB Mark Barron (achilles)
--Questionable: WR Cooper Kupp (knee)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Rams WR Sammy Watkins. Watkins was acquired, along with a sixth-round draft pick, via a trade that sent CB E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick to the Buffalo Bills. In a Week 3 win over San Francisco, he tallied 106 yards and two touchdowns, marking his 11th career game with more than 100 yards. He is fourth on the team with 39 catches and 593 yards. He leads the team with eight TD catches, one short of his career-best.
FAST FACTS: Jimmy Garoppolo is the first 49ers QB since 1970 to win his first four starts, and he's the eighth QB in NFL history to win his first six starts. ... RB Carlos Hyde had a rushing touchdown last week and has three rushing touchdowns in his past four road games. ... Rookie RB Matt Breida had a career-high 82 yards from scrimmage with a rushing touchdown in Week 16. ... DE DeForest Buckner had a forced fumble in his last game vs. the Rams. ... LB Reuben Foster leads all NFL rookies with 7.4 tackles per game. ... The Rams clinched the NFC West for the first time since 2003. ... RB Todd Gurley leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2,093) and touchdowns (19). ... LB Robert Quinn has three sacks and a forced fumble in his past four games at home.
PREDICTION: The 49ers are coming off a win over a playoff team (the Jaguars) and are looking for another. The emergence of Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback seems to have energized the entire organization.
OUR PICK: 49ers, 30-27.