The San Francisco 49ers are facing an earlier-than-expected 'must-win' game against a Los Angeles Rams team who ended their Super Bowl dreams last season.
Niners nation cannot contemplate another defeat to go 1-3 in a season that seems to be slipping through their grasp with every injury and offensive miscue.
But the 49ers defense is still performing at a very high level and will go up against a reshuffled offensive line after injuries also hit the 2-1 Rams.
San Francisco has also won the last six regular-season meetings of these NFC West rivals and should still be smarting from last January's conference title game loss by a field goal.
Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
20:15 ET, Monday October 3rd 2022
|How to watch|
ESPN, ABC, ESPN2
LA Rams +105, SF 49ers -125
Let's start by contextualizing how important this game is for the 49ers, who could fall two wins behind the Rams with a loss at Levi's Stadium.
The next time they meet will be at SoFi Stadium just before Halloween - when Los Angeles are coming off a bye week and San Francisco could be battle-scarred from an intense Week 7 encounter with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Kyle Shanahan's men are already hurting from the losses of starting quarterback Trey Lance and the NFL's premier left tackle, Trent Williams, to injuries.
Back-up QB Jimmy Garoppolo was supposed to be the safe hand on the tiller to guide them to the playoffs.
But the veteran has been frustrated by a lack of freedom within Shanahan's offensive scheme, decrying it with an audible blast of "your plays suck, man!" after an incomplete pass to a double-covered receiver on third down in last week's loss to the Denver Broncos.
Jimmy G mustered a mere 211 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception in the 11-10 loss to the Broncos last week to finish with a below-par QB rating of 81.2.
While he sought out wide receiver Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk eight times apiece, the returning George Kittle only saw five targets and generated only 28 yards of offense.
Perhaps one of the reasons for that was the constantly collapsing pocket Garoppolo was left to work in that didn't allow plays to develop long enough for Kittle to get in the open.
The 49ers triggerman was sacked four times on 33 dropbacks and stepped out of the end zone for a safety on the play that Williams suffered his injury - those two points deciding the game in favor of the hosts.
To complete the picture of a spluttering San Francisco offense, even the rushing game failed to make any consistent inroads, although explosive RB Jeff Wilson was underused after generating 75 yards on just 12 carries.
The Rams defense, led by Aaron Donald, will be licking their chops at the prospect of going up against a banged-up Niners O-line.
But likewise, DeMeco Ryans' 49ers defense should be able to disrupt aplenty with Nick Bosa looking for his fourth successive game with a sack this year.
San Francisco's top-ranked pass defense held Russell Wilson to under 190 yards through the air last week and will feel Matthew Stafford could give them some opportunities to create turnovers on Monday night.
The former Detroit Lions star has thrown five interceptions this season did not deliver a touchdown pass in last Sunday's 20-12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Stafford spread his targets around a lot more than previous weeks, going to Cooper Kupp only a handful of times, and with the aid of workhorse back Cam Akers, the Rams generated enough offense to get the win.
Sean McVay's scheme is still open to accusations of being predictable and Los Angeles are sure to find it tougher against the fourth-best rushing defence in the NFL.
But they may not need too much of it this week if Garoppolo and co continue to come up short - particularly on third down where they converted only one of ten.
San Francisco has covered the Spread, which is -1.5 at -110 for them here, in their last five meetings with the Rams.
And, but for a Jaquiski Tartt dropped interception of an underthrown Stafford bomb in the NFC Championship game, would probably have won last January's encounter.
And if you follow the rationale that the team with the most at stake will come out running and hitting harder, then taking the 49ers to extend a three-game home win streak in this match-up is probably the way to go.