Rams Vs. 49ers Week 18 Preview: Key Players Resting For Both Teams In Regular Season Finale
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams proved most of the media and even some of the fanbase wrong as they caught fire in the second half of the 2023 season and cliched a playoff berth.

The Rams were widely expected to miss the postseason after overhauling their roster in the offseason, but Sean McVay, the coaching staff and the players all banded together throughout the year to pick up enough wins. Heading into their Week 18 regular season finale against the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles has a chance to lock up the No. 6 seed with a win.

The 49ers have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC and are resting some starters with others likely only to play a half. However, even though the Rams could slip to No. 7 with a loss and a Green Bay Packers win, Sean McVay has already announced several key players will sit.

Even with the backups on the field, this is still an important game for Los Angeles, who could use a win to get themselves ready for the playoffs.

Rams Offense vs. 49ers Defense

Matthew Stafford, Kyren Williams and Cooper Kupp have already have been told they will be sitting out Week 18, which means Carson Wentz will get his first start this season. Wentz has previously relieved Stafford at the end of games, but now gets a chance to audition either for Los Angeles or another team.

Meanwhile, Puka Nacua is slated to still start as he chases a few rookie wide receiver records. For now, it seems the key defensive players for the 49ers will suit up though it’s hard to imagine Kyle Shanahan will risk anything with his roster. Christian McCaffrey was already ruled out after suffering a calf strain last week, and players like Trent Williams and George Kittle could also be sidelined for precautionary reasons.

Rams Defense vs. 49ers Offense

Aaron Donald is getting a veteran rest day on Sunday, but that won’t stop Los Angeles from trotting out their pair of rookie standouts in Byron Young and Kobie Turner. Brock Purdy is not expected to play, so getting pressure on Sam Darnold will be important.

Even though McCaffrey won’t play, Elijah Mitchell is a capable backup and someone the Rams will need to hone in on.

Keys to Victory

1. Limit turnovers

Wentz has been known to turn the football over, and giving extra possessions to the 49ers normally doesn’t end well. If Wentz can take care of the football, then the Rams should have a solid chance.

2. Target Puka Nacua

Nacua is only four receptions and 29 yards away from breaking the rookie receiving record for both stats, but he’s also a reliable target in the passing game. Nacua already exploded earlier in the season against San Francisco, so Wentz should pepper him with targets. The main reason he should be targeted early though is so he can break his records and then head to the bench, which is McVay’s plan.