Los Angeles Rams-San Francisco 49ers Week 18 Preview/Prediction: If OBJ has His Way, 49ers Rue the Day

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Say what you want about Odell Beckham Jr. being selfish, self-centered, or having an all about me attitude. The star receiver has garnered nothing but praise from coaches and teammates so far as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. However, in the Week 18 NFC West division finale, the Rams might do well to unleash any and all inner-primadonna lurking within their Week 17 hero. If this happens, the San Francisco 49ers postseason hopes are dashed if help fails to arrive.

It Makes Perfect Sense to Unleash Odell Beckham Jr in the NFC West Division Finale

Now, more than at any time this season, Sean McVay and the Rams should seriously consider turning ‘OBJ’  loose. Beckham had arguably his most impressionable performance of the season in Week 17 against what looked like a better-than-negatively-advertised Baltimore Ravens secondary. He finished with a modest total of 5 catches from 7 targets for only 39 yards. Still, it might very well be that those last two receptions turn out to be the spark the Rams need heading into the playoffs. By game’s end, his confidence oozed and one could almost see hope spring eternal throughout the city.

Remember ex-Rams receiver Brandin Cooks? Well, backtracking, Cooks (a week and a half off the reserve/Covid-19 list) just had one of his best days of the season. In Week 17, his stat line read as follows: 7 receptions for 66 yards and 1 touchdown. I assure you, it was a much better day for him than that. In fact, his longest completion (and without a doubt, his most amazing catch) of  50 yards was nullified by a holding call. Had Texans quarterback David Mills not resembled Matthew Stafford at his worst at times, Cooks might’ve easily threatened to break 200 yards. Despite being his team’s most dangerous weapon of late, the 49ers had no real answer for him.

A little OBJ appreciation is in order

Beckham Jr. is clearly a more spectacular catcher than Cooks — and most of the league even now. His catch radius is also broader. It’s possible he’s the closest the Rams have to a money-shot receiver since Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Of course, they would have to use him aggressively to find this out. He’s been in Los Angeles long enough and he’s been a great teammate. It’s time to reward him with star time, his coming-out party. Think of what it could do to the psyche of advancing NFC conference opposition they’ll see ahead. With the return of Cam Akers, things are already beginning to look a bit scarier for them.

Week 18: Los Angeles Rams (12-4) versus the San Francisco 49ers (9-7)

Time: 1:25PM (Pacific time – moved from 10AM) / SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA

Odds: Currently Rams by -4.5 (44.5 over/under)

Despite the Brian Baldinger (who’s much more qualified to see in Trey Lance what I can’t and don’t at the moment) praise, the Rams should hold a Lance-led 49ers team to less than 23 points. At least, they should. I say this because in watching the 49ers last game, Lance appeared no better than Stafford’s worst the majority of his time. What’s more (assuming he gets the start), he can be quite reckless running the ball, a tendency that can land him on the sidelines against a fired-up Rams defense.

Assuming he’s been coached up, the Rams have still been playing well enough on both sides of the ball to dominate. The anticipated return of Akers, along with the emergence of season-saver Sony Michel, enables the Rams to control the ball and extend drives when needed. Last week, Houston had some success on the ground until their lack of excellent tackling skills prevailed. Having watched both games, it appeared that the 49ers had a rougher go of things. They could come out this week just as flat as they looked that day.

Look for an improved showing by Stafford, which is not a big stretch to say. Also note that with Lance under center, there are just two main concerns to focus a game plan around, stopping Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. The Rams, quite frankly, should force the inexperienced backup quarterback to beat them outright. The bet here is that he doesn’t.

All that being said, Jimmy Garoppolo has not been officially ruled out as yet. That and the fact that it’s still  the Rams versus the 49ers, I find myself on the conservative side of my usual best-case scenario predictions outlook:

Week 18 prediction: Rams 27, 49ers 17

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