The NFC West will likely be dominated by the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals this season, with the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers slap-fighting over who gets to be third. On Monday, the fisticuffs between the two potential basement dwellers will begin.
San Francisco will host the Rams in the second game of a Monday Night Football doubleheader on ESPN. The game will feature Case Keenum and Blaine Gabbert as the starting quarterbacks, which should be fun for the exact opposite reason that it's fun when Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers duel.
The Rams made headlines before the NFL Draft when they moved up to pick Jared Goff at No. 1 overall. Although he's the presumptive quarterback of the future, Goff did not come along as fast as the team hoped. Goff will be in street clothes for the game while Sean Mannion serves as the active gameday backup.
Gabbert, 26, is entering his third year with the 49ers. He earned the starting role last year when Colin Kaepernick struggled early, and then he held on to it this preseason by winning a battle with Kaepernick. However, Kaepernick was injured and missed the first two preseason games, so the smart money is on him getting some playing time at some point this year.
49ers running back Carlos Hyde is fully recovered from a preseason concussion and he should get a heavy workload in Monday's game. The Rams have one of the strongest defensive lines in the league, but they are weak at linebacker, so if Hyde can make it into the second level, the 49ers' offense will be in good shape.
Hyde's counterpart on Los Angeles is Todd Gurley, a second-year back who could be among the league's best this season. The Rams, like the 49ers, will give their starting running back a long look in the opener.
How to watch Rams vs. 49ers on Monday
Time: 10:20 p.m. ET
Location: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
Announcers: Chris Berman, Steve Young
Online Streaming: WatchESPN