The San Francisco 49ers were destined for a top-three draft pick before handing the reins to Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, and now the franchise is looking up. Garoppolo will try to finish the season on a five-game winning streak when he leads the 49ers into the finale against the host Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
San Francisco was 1-10 before installing Garopollo as the starting quarterback on Dec. 3, and the winning streak is not altering the team’s plans for the future. “I’m definitely enjoying things more right now,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters. “It’s always more nice to win, but the plans for us and the way we see the future and everything like that, nothing’s changed. This is part of the process. We’ve got one more game left, then we’ll relax for just a little bit, and really looking forward to the offseason also.” The Rams had their own turnaround while going from 4-12 last season to 11-4 and NFC West champions under first-year coach Sean McVay, and Sunday’s finale will not have an impact on the team’s postseason position. McVay is expected to sit most of his key players to ensure their health for the playoffs.
TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: 49ers -3.5. O/U: 43.5
ABOUT THE 49ERS (5-10): Garoppolo and the San Francisco offense had no trouble scoring points against the top defense in the league in last week’s 44-33 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. “Jimmy is playing great football for us at the quarterback position,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley told reporters. “It is probably the most important position in team sports. He is doing a terrific job out there. He raises all ships up there, and everybody is playing really good football right now. We have a close locker room. I am really proud to be a part of it. It is pretty special here.” Garoppolo is averaging 312.5 yards with four touchdowns in the last four games.
ABOUT THE RAMS (11-4): Quarterback Jared Goff, star defensive lineman Aaron Donald and even MVP candidate running back Todd Gurley are expected to sit on Sunday. “Everything that we do is intentional and designed to be the best for our team and for our players,” McVay told reporters. “I think they understand that. I know sometimes people may not always agree, but when situations like this come up, we talk about it. It’s a nice luxury to be able to have, but you want to make sure you handle it the right way for our team.” Gurley leads the league in rushing (1,305) but could be passed by Kansas City rookie Kareem Hunt (1,292) and Pittsburgh’s LeVeon Bell (1,291).
1. 49ers LB Reuben Foster (neck) is expected to play Sunday.
2. The Rams will start Sean Mannion at QB.
3. Los Angeles earned a 41-39 win at San Francisco on Nov. 21 behind three TDs from Gurley.
PREDICTION: 49ers 35, Rams 28