Contrary to what ESPN would lead you to believe, the San Francisco 49ers do have an opponent tonight. That team just so happens to be undefeated against the previously-crowned, NFC West kings during the Colin Kaepernick-era. Even at full strength, this bout would have been competitive. However, with the rash of injuries and “illnesses” running through the San Francisco defense, some are looking at the ’12 Super Bowl attendees as vulnerable against a St. Louis Rams squad fresh off a blowout loss to Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys. For some sports media members, picking against the 49ers is considered blasphemous. Will anyone be bold enough to take the “underdog” on Thursday Night Football?
What has become of the 49ers’ once-impenetrable run defense? Back in 2011, Jim Harbaugh’s first year on the job in San Francisco, the 49ers run defense didn’t surrender its first rushing touchdown until the 15th game of the season. Last season, San Francisco was a top-five run defense. This year through three games? The 49ers have been dented for six rushing touchdowns, the most in the league, with both the Seahawks and Colts carving up San Francisco on the ground. The Rams don’t even have a 100-yard rusher on the season yet (Daryl Richardson leads the team with 98 yards in three games), but they did run the ball pretty effectively last season in getting a win and tie against San Francisco. The 49ers know they have to stop the bleeding right now, and they will, gutting out the win that will keep things from spiraling out of control as September comes to a close. 49ers 23, Rams 13
Yes, we are aware the Rams beat and tied the 49ers last season. Too bad St. Louis sucked against the Dallas Cowboys last week, when the line failed to protect Sam Bradford. The Rams’ running game, meanwhile, has yet to really get going. Through three contests, the ground attack has been more like a grounded teenager, averaging 57 yards per game and a scrumptious 3.17 yards per carry. The 49ers haven’t been much better. Frank Gore, who had just 11 carries in Sunday’s loss, didn’t hide his frustration; perhaps San Francisco’s coaching staff should get him more involved. Colin Kaepernick has little outside help, yet the team abandoned the run in spots against the Colts. Given what DeMarco Murray did against the Rams in Week 3, Gore should get 20 carries in St. Louis. Why such a paltry final? That’s a reflection of the low scoring we tend to see on Thursdays ( Denver Broncos excepted). 49ers 10, Rams 6.
The 49ers should remember they went 0-1-1 against the Rams last season, and at 1-2 after two bad losses, they should already be pressed to bring out their familiar best. The best way to take Colin Kaepernick out of his first-ever slump is to feed Frank Gore a lot more and hope Vernon Davis can be a healthy mismatch in St. Louis. With Craig Dahl now playing for the Niners, don’t expect Jeff Fisher’s team to steal this one. 49ers 23, Rams 19.
The Rams will play host to their biggest rival under the bright lights of primetime football. Unfortunately some of the luster has worn off this game as each team has struggled mightily over the last two weeks. The Rams can at least claim an advantage over the 49ers in terms of health, as the 49ers may be missing Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis due to injury. Unless you have been living under a rock you know the 49ers will certainly be without their best receiver, Michael Crabtree, and All-Pro pass rusher Aldon Smith. With both of these teams struggling so much right now, and coming off a short week it is hard to imagine either offense will find much success against two talented yet underperforming defenses. For the first time this season the Rams defense wont have a top-level wide receiver to worry about, which may give them an opportunity to be a tad more aggressive. Since this is a Rams fan website we are naturally going with the home team in what should be a very close and hard-fought game. Perhaps a penalty free special teams play finally occurs, providing the spark the Rams need to secure the W. Rams win 16 – 10.
Some sites prefer to merely throw out their picks, instead of outlining boldly predicted scores. Surprisingly, in USA Today, only three out of seven analysts picked the San Francisco 49ers over the St. Louis Rams. In the Week 4 “expert picks” for ESPN, 9 out of 14 picked the San Francisco 49ers to win, although notable names, like Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, did choose against the presumed favorites. In CBS Sports’ “Against the Spread” predictions, five out of eight went with the “underdog,” with the 49ers set as a +3.5 point favorite tonight. Their “Straight Up” picks mirrored the “spread picks” with the Rams being favored by over 60% of the voters.
The Rams are considered underdogs for the third consecutive week, even with half of the 49ers’ defensive roster missing practice on this short week. For once, that might be a good thing, with the NFL sports media being unable to ignore the outcome, should St. Louis actually pull off the “upset.” In all honesty, if the Rams win, it wouldn’t be surprising if all major sports news stations miraculously “lost power” until Saturday morning… wouldn’t want to bore the national NFL audience.