The 49ers on Sunday will head down I-5 to face the Rams at SoFi Stadium in what could be a significant turning point in the 2023 NFC West race.
While it’s still just Week 2 and Sunday’s game between the 49ers and Rams won’t decide the division, the winner could wind up with a significant leg up to start the year.
San Francisco and LA are tied atop the NFC West after winning their Week 1 matchups. The Cardinals and Seahawks both lost their season openers to put them in the back of the NFC West at 0-1.
Arizona doesn’t appear to be on track for a competitive year after a dreary Week 1 loss to the Commanders in Washington. They’ll be at home hosting the Giants in Week 2 in a game that New York, a playoff team last year, will be looking as a bounce-back opportunity following their abysmal Week 1 outing. It would be a pretty big surprise if the Cardinals didn’t exit the week at 0-2.
Meanwhile, Seattle will travel to Detroit to square off against a Lions club that beat the Chiefs in Kansas City to begin the year. The Seahawks should bounce back and play better than they did in their season-opening loss to the Rams, but Detroit is favored and could very easily put the Seahawks at 0-2 with the Cardinals.
If the Cardinals and Seahawks both lose, that turns the 49ers-Rams game into a battle to try and take a two-game lead on two teams in the division. It will also give the winner an early tiebreaker on the loser.
Should San Francisco extend their regular-season winning streak over the Rams to nine, they’d be in the driver’s seat in a division they were heavily-favored to win.
If the Rams snap the 49ers’ run of regular-season dominance against them, it puts San Francisco in a precarious position to start the season. They’d be a game back in the division and needing to overcome a potential tiebreaker. With a brutal schedule toward the middle and end of the year, it’s going to be vital that the 49ers stack some wins early in the season.
The NFC West won’t be decided Sunday, but the winner of 49ers-Rams could grab a comfortable early lead and force a steep uphill climb for the other three teams behind them.