It is week 10 in the NFL and the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers will face off at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The 49ers have won four out of their past five games and are looking to run through the Rams. The 49ers are first in rushing yards per game with 168.6 and the Rams are 13th in rushing yards allowed per game with just over 105. However, RB Frank Gore did not have a great game against the Arizona Cardinals and the 49ers will be looking to get him going early.
The Rams have lost three games in a row to some pretty tough teams. RB Steven Jackson has slowed this year and it won’t get any better with the NFL‘s 5th best rushing defense. The Rams will be looking to beat the 49ers through the air with WR Danny Amendola, who is questionable, and Brandon Gibson. QB Sam Bradford has not played as well as expected in his third year, but the fans need to cut him some slack because he, like QB Alex Smith, got a bunch of different offenses in a short period of time. You have to remember it takes veterans some time to get the hang of a new system. Bradford has basically been a rookie for three years.
The 49ers are playing at home, so the advantage goes to them, it also helps that they are obviously a better football team. There will be no upset in Sunday’s game. So, lets take a look at the probable starting lineups and highlight three key players for each team.
Quarterback: Alex Smith
Running back: Frank Gore (probable)
Fullback: Bruce Miller
Wide Receiver: Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss
Tight end: Vernon Davis
Offensive line (from the left): Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis
Quarterback: Sam Bradford
Running back: Steven Jackson
Fullback: Brit Miller
Wide Receiver: Brandon Gibson (Go Cougs), Danny Amendola (questionable)
Tight end: Lance Kendricks
Offensive Line (From the left): Rodger Saffold, Shelley Smith, Robert Turner, Harvey Dahl, Barry Richardson
49ers’ Defense (Base 3-4)
Defensive line: DE Ray McDonald, NT Issac Sopoaga, DE Justin Smith
Linebackers: OLB Ahmad Brooks, MLB NaVorro Bowman, MLB Patrick Willis, OLB Aldon Smith
Secondary: CB Carlos Rogers, CB Tarell Brown, SS Donte Whitner, FS Dashon Goldson
Ram’s Defense (Base 4-3)
Defensive Line: DE Chris Long, DT Kendall Langford, DT Michael Brockers, DE Robert Quinn
Linebackers: WLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, MLB James Laurinaitis, SLB Rocky McIntosh
Secondary: CB Cortland Finnegan, CB Janoris Jenkins, SS Darian Stewart, FS Quintin Mikell
San Francisco Key Players
First off, like I said before, the 49ers will be looking to get their run game going early. So, RB Frank Gore will be the number 1 key player. He will be running hard on every single play; the Rams will look for answers, but they won’t find any. Gore will go over 100 yards and have two rushing touchdowns.
Next, Vernon Davis has only 71 yards in his past three games. His strength and speed are too valuable for the 49ers not to use him more. This week I’m sure he will be a point of emphasis when they are not handing the ball to their Pro Bowl running back. Alex Smith will need to make the effort to target the tight end when necessary. He can be huge on third downs and in the red zone.
Finally, as much as I hate the Washington Huskies I will have to give the nod to safety Dashon Goldson. LB Patrick Willis and the rest of the front 7 will have the run on lock down, so the Rams will be looking to beat the 49ers through the air. QB Sam Bradford can look really good at times, but he still makes those mistakes that makes you question why he was a number 1 draft pick. The 49ers’ defense is so good Goldson won’t actually need to take the ball away, but he probably still will.
St. Louis Key Players
The number 1 key player for the Rams will be the middle linebacker, James Laurinaitis. He leads the team in tackles by over 20 and averages about 10 a game. If the Rams are able to stop the 49ers’ rushing attack he will play a big part. He will need to hit Gore hard in the backfield before the tank gets going. Easier said than done.
Next, the Rams will need to play a little offense. QB Sam Bradford will lead that effort. He has to be patient. The 49ers have not needed to rush the quarterback with more than a handful of people all season long. That could change this week, but for the Rams to win Bradford will need to make the 49ers secondary look foolish. He can do it, but he will need Amendola back. Right now, he is listed as questionable.
The 49ers red zone defense is a little ridiculous. The Rams will need to kick some field goals. Who better than the man with the golden foot? Kicker Greg Zuerlein has kicked 17 field goals this season, five of the 50 plus variety. I never miss a chance to get a kicker in as a key player and I felt this week was the “golden opportunity”. However, I am afraid field goals alone won’t win this game.
This is a match-up between the first and last place teams in the NFC West. The way the Cardinals are playing the Rams have a chance to get out of the cellar. The 49ers have all the makings of a championship team. They have an efficient offense and if the Rams don’t stop them on a couple drives early, this one could get out of hand in a hurry. However, I think this game will be dominated by the 49ers on the field, but not on the score board.
Prediction: The Rams can’t handle the heat at Candlestick. 49ers 20, Rams 13