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5 Players to Watch in the 49ers' Must-Win Regular Season Finale at the Rams

The San Francisco 49ers (9-7) can win and get into the playoffs on Sunday, heading south to take on the division-leading Los Angeles Rams (12-4) at 1:25 p.m. (PT).

Do you know who is starting at quarterback in the most important game of the 49ers’ season? I sure as heck don’t. 

The San Francisco 49ers (9-7) can win and get into the playoffs on Sunday, heading south to take on the division-leading Los Angeles Rams (12-4) at 1:25 p.m. (PT). 

Here are Five Players to Watch: 

Cam Akers, Running Back, #23 — Los Angeles Rams 

The most fascinating player to watch in the NFL this week might be Los Angeles running back Cam Akers. 

The second-year back tore his Achilles, possibly the most devastating non-head or spinal injury in sports, just six months ago and is set to return to the field on Sunday. 

How can you not root for the guy? His story is cool no matter what team you cheer for. 

Akers is one of the better young backs in the NFL. It’s extremely unlikely he gets 12-plus carries on Sunday, but it will be interesting to see how he looks and if he can eventually reclaim his leadback role from Sony Michel for the Rams’ Super Bowl run. 

Troy Reeder, Linebacker, #51 — Los Angeles Rams 

The Rams have the best defensive lineman and best defensive back in the NFL. They also have one of the worst linebacking corps in the league with Troy Reeder partnering with either Ernest Jones or Travin Howard. 

Reeder, who has a 44.6 grade on PFF, has allowed 43 catches on 54 targets for 369 yards and three touchdowns in coverage, and also missed 14.4 percent of his tackle attempts this season per Pro Football Reference. 

“There is nothing Kyle Shanahan loves doing more than finding a linebacker who struggles in coverage, and making his life a living hell, and unfortunately that is the one area I think this Rams defense is the weakest,” ESPN NFL analyst Mina Kimes said on NFL Live. 

Expect a lot of Deebo Samuel runs, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk middle-of-the-field targets, and RPOs to force Reeder into quick make-or-break decisions. 

Ambry Thomas, Cornerback, #20 — San Francisco 49ers 

Safety Jimmie Ward, nickel K’Waun Williams and corners Dontae Johnson and Ambry Thomas all were activated from the Covid-19 list. 

Despite the Ravens’ deficiencies on the outside, Baltimore took the Rams down to the wire last week, with Los Angeles quarterback Matthew Stafford taking only two shots downfield (one being intercepted). 

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Matthew Stafford's passer rating vs. league average (Per NFL's NextGen Stats) 

Matthew Stafford's passer rating vs. league average (Per NFL's NextGen Stats) 

He mostly kept things in the intermediate areas toward his right. That’s where Thomas excelled last week against Houston. He allowed only two receptions for eight yards and almost had an interception. 

The rookie will likely start opposite Emmanuel Moseley (ankle), who is returning from Injured Reserve. 

Moseley’s return stabilizes the pass interference side, putting pressure on Thomas to control Stafford’s right, where he is well-above the league average no matter the distance, according to NextGen Stats. 

K’Waun Williams, Nickel, #24 — San Francisco 49ers 

Williams is in for the impossible test of stopping Rams’ slot receiver Cooper Kupp. He has 138 receptions, 1,829 yards, and 15 touchdowns this season. 

In the Week 10 matchup between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Kupp had 11 catches on 13 targets for 122 yards, while Williams allowed 10 completions on 12 targets for 91 yards and a touchdown. 

Kupp is 136 yards shy of breaking Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yards record. The Rams will try to break that. There’s no doubt about it. 

Williams will be targeted at least 10 times. Will there be any fatigue from the Covid-list? 

Elijah Mitchell, Running Back, #25 — San Francisco 49ers 

Baltimore running back Devonta Freeman averaged 5.43 yards per carry against the Rams last week, with his most successful runs coming off-tackle per NextGen Stats

The Ravens’ other back, Latavius Murray, who has been utilized between the tackles, averaged 2.82 yards per carry last week. 

The Rams are great inside, not only with Aaron Donald, but the underrated defensive tackle Greg Gaines. They do, however, have a problem at inside linebacker. 

Shanahan should be salivating at the thought of running power and tosses with Elijah Mitchell on Sunday. 

One issue is that left tackle Trent Williams (elbow) did not participate in any practices this week and is questionable. That would push Jaylon Moore into the starting lineup and give the Rams two mismatches on the edge: Von Miller and Leonard Floyd vs. Moore and right tackle Tom Compton. 

Fortunately for the 49ers, they still have Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk to help open things up and get Mitchell to the advantageous second level of the Rams’ defense. 

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