The San Francisco 49ers are 4-0 for the first time since 1990. The team is looking to continue their hot start against the Los Angeles Rams in a pivotal NFC West matchup in Week 6. Here are five key matchups that can decide this divisional clash.
1. LB Kwon Alexander vs. RB Todd Gurley II
Kwon Alexander has been an incredible addition to the 49ers defensive front. Alexander has totaled 18 tackles so far in 2019 tied with safety Jaquiski Tartt with the second most on defense. Alexander has the fifth-highest coverage grade among linebackers per Pro Football Focus. Alexander is one of three players (New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins and Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Thomas Davis) to have 350 tackles, 7.0 sacks and seven interceptions since enterting the league in 2015. The 49ers defense has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season, but that will be put to the test again on Sunday. All-Pro running back Todd Gurley has found the end zone four times in the Rams last two games. The fifth-year pro has been a thorn in San Francisco's side. In five games against the 49ers, Gurley has rushed for 423 yards, caught 16 passes for 87 yards and scored eight total touchdowns.
The 49ers captain was up to the task on "Monday Night Football" against the Cleveland Browns. In primetime, Sherman notched four tackles and hauled in his second interception of the season. The veteran leader on the defense has had three interceptions in his 14-career games against the Rams. On Sunday, a new task stands in the way for the 49ers secondary. Jared Goff has thrown for 350-plus yards in three straight contests. The third-year pro currently has the third-most passing yards in the NFL through five weeks with 1,649 yards. Slowing down Goff and the Rams aerial attack will be a test for the 49ers.
For the Rams perspective on this key matchup click here.
3. DL DeForest Buckner vs. OL Joe Noteboom
DeForest Buckner has turned it on in the last three games for the 49ers. On the season, the defensive lineman has 17 tackles, 3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one pass defensed. Chicago Bears defensive lineman Khalil Mack is the only other player in the league to get anywhere near those numbers (15 tackles, 3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery). Buckner has posted a sack in three consecutive games and has forced a fumble in the team's last two. Trying to slow down the 49ers third-year pro will be second-year guard Joe Noteboom. A third-round pick a year ago, Noteboom spent the majority of last season getting acclimated to life in the NFL primarily seeing snaps on special teams. This year Noteboom has started all five games for the Rams. Noteboom currently holds a 37.4 overall grade per PFF.
George Kittle leads the 49ers in receptions (23), receiving yards (215) and he secured his first touchdown of the season in the team's 31-3 victory over the Browns. The veteran tight end currently holds the highest overall PFF grade in the entire NFL at 92.5. Kittle has been a dominant force in the pass game and in the run game. He has a the sixth-highest run blocking grade among tight ends. Looking to slow Kittle down will be Rams safety Eric Weddle. The 13-year veteran continues to be a solid force in the backend of the defense. Weddle is ranked as the 13th safety per PFF.
Rookie defensive lineman Nick Bosa had his coming out party on primetime. Bosa recorded two sacks, three quarterback hits, four quarterback hurries, four total tackles and his first-career forced fumble and fumble recovery on Monday night, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. The rookie is currently tied with Jacksonville Jaguars rookie defensive end Josh Allen with 3.0 sacks on the season, which ranks third among rookies. Sunday will be one of his tougher tests when he faces 14-year veteran Andrew Whitworth. The bookend tackle has started 200 games in his career. Whitworth has yet to allow a sack on the year.