(CBS San Francisco) — The San Francisco 49ers, undefeated at 4-0, still don’t get the respect they deserve. Look no further than their Week 6 matchup with the 3-2 Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers are currently three-point underdogs (previously 3.5-point underdogs) against the Rams.
How is that even possible?
The 49ers have three wins by at least two touchdowns. They’re averaging almost 32 points and 427.2 yards per game, both in the NFL’s top five. The 49ers just beat up on the preseason darling Cleveland Browns, who were predicted to do what the 49ers are doing. Holding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to just 17 points in the opener is looking more and more impressive as the season progresses.
“It’s kind of shocking (that the 49ers are 3.5-point underdogs),” agrees Larry Hartstein, senior analyst at SportsLine, “when the three games they’ve covered, they’ve covered by more than 20 points. The only game they didn’t cover, they had five turnovers, and they still won and almost covered.”
The Rams, on the other hand, find themselves third in the NFC West, coming off a Super Bowl season. The offense seems unbalanced. While Jared Goff remains productive, throwing for 329.8 yards per game, Todd Gurley’s production has fallen off dramatically. Barely cracking the top 20 in rushing yards, he’s only averaging 54 yards per game. Aaron Donald remains a force along the defensive line, attracting double and triple teams. But the Rams’ secondary can’t seem to stop anyone. Jameis Winston threw for 385 yards a couple weeks back, when the Buccaneers hung 55 points on them.
So why do NFL odds have the 49ers as underdogs?
“On the surface, you might think a lack of respect,” acknowledges Hartstein. “But really it’s all about the situation. The Rams with extra rest. The 49ers on a short week, having to travel. Sean McVay [is] very familiar with this 49ers team and how to attack them. So it’s really all about the situation.”
Other factors play in as well. The Rams tend to be a noticeably better team at home than on the road. Goff is certainly a better quarterback at home over his career.
“This is going to be such a fascinating matchup,” according to Hartstein. “How Jared Goff plays will probably determine the outcome. He’s been pressured on 43% of his drop-backs, second most in the NFL. They’re not getting a lot of help from the running game. Last 12 games, Jared Goff [has] 14 TDs, 15 picks, 12 lost fumbles, and it’s put the Rams in kind of a must-win spot.”
The 49ers defense will have a lot to say about Goff’s success on Sunday. The unit has emerged as one of the NFL’s best, giving up just 257.5 yards per game. And the line is one of their strengths, with DeForest Buckner, not to mention Dee Ford and rookie Nick Bosa.
The 49ers play the Rams on Sunday @ 1:05 pm PT.