The St. Louis Rams (4-6-1) will host the San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1) at the Edward Jones in a rematch of their wild week 10 showdown that ended in a 24-24 tie. The biggest story surrounding either team since that game has been the emergence of Colin Kaepernick as the starting QB for the 49ers. Even though Alex Smith is healthy again this weekend, Kaepernick will get the start following back to back wins against the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints. The division leading 49ers are heavy favorites in this game, as would be expected when an 8-2-1 team meets a 4-6-1 team. So how do the Rams and 49ers matchup in the three phases of the game?
Rams offense vs. 49ers defense. The St. Louis Rams had a great day offensively down at Candlestick Park in week 10. The Rams managed to rush for 159 yards at 4.3 yards per carry with Steven Jackson picking up his first 100+ yard rushing game of the season. Chris Givens was suspended for that game and didn’t get an opportunity to stretch the 49ers defense with his game breaking speed, which could open up even better running lanes for SJ39. The 49ers have one of the best defenses in the NFL while the Rams are more towards the bottom third of the league in offensive production but throw the stats out when it comes to rivalry games. With the return of Scott Wells from injury and Chris Givens on the outside the Rams offense should have a chance to pound the ball with Jackson and Richardson, and take an occasional shot downfield on play action.
Rams defense vs. 49ers offense. While the Rams offense may have a few opportunities to make some plays and generate points against a very stingy 49ers defense, the 49ers offense has shown some big play ability of their own since Kaepernick took over as the QB. Kaepernick has a very strong arm and the ability to pick up yards with his legs. The Rams should be better prepared for the type of offense the 49ers will play with Kaepernick behind center, now that there is 2 1/2 games worth of film on him to study. The Rams will need the dome to be rocking so the defensive line can feed off the energy and disrupt the timing of plays, hopefully forcing Kaepernick into poor decision making that the Rams secondary can take advantage of. The Rams had suspended Janoris Jenkins for the previous game against the 49ers, Jenkins had been struggling a little prior to the suspension but has bounced back in a huge way over the last two weeks, last week becoming the first rookie since 1960 to return two INTs for TDs. Jenkins is a fantastic cover corner with big play ability, but he is also excellent in run support and is more than willing to come up and lay a big hit on a ball carrier. The Rams biggest challenge will be to stop the 49ers dynamic duo at tight end, an area the Rams have struggled to defend all year. The 49ers will run the ball behind the strength of possibly the best offensive line in the NFL, but if the Rams can limit the big play, and actually have the ball bounce their way once or twice this time they should have a good day.
Special Teams. Neither team had a great special teams game the last time they met, although the Rams fumbled kick off return definitely provided a big spark for the 49ers. Both teams have excellent punters and kickers, and each have also played well on coverage this season. The Rams did manage to take advantage of the 49ers aggressive nature on special teams last time by converting two fake punts on the arm of Johnny Hekker. Don’t expect the 49ers to attempt another punt block this weekend. The Rams special teams units have actually improved over the last couple weeks, with Janoris Jenkins blocking a field goal against the Jets and Chris Givens having a huge kickoff return TD (although called back by a questionable call). I would call the special teams area a draw with each team having the ability to break off a big play at any time.
Overall this should be another tough divisional matchup between two physical football teams. This game probably wont go into overtime this time, but it will be very close as we here at Ramblin’ Fan predicted a 20-17 49ers victory earlier in the week. Here is one game where I hope that our prediction is wrong, and if I were to guess I would call it almost a coin toss. The Rams have a huge opportunity to send a message to the rest of the NFL, but they will need a full house of crazy Rams fans to get the dome rocking all four quarters. Go Rams!!!