The NFC West has been arguably the most physical division in the NFL this season, and this week two teams from that division will square off against one another when the San Francisco 49ers (6-2) host their rivals the St. Louis Rams (3-5) at Candlestick Park. The Niners enter the game coming off of two straight victories in which they allowed just nine total points, while the Rams are currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak in which they have given up 92 total points; talk about teams heading in opposite directions.
The 49ers offense has been solid this season and are currently ranked 13th in the league in total offensive yards gained per game (369 yards), 28th in passing yards gained per game (200.4 yards), first in rushing yards gained per game (168.6 yards) and tied for 14th in points scored per game (23.6 points), while their defense has been one of the best units in the league all season and are ranked first in points allowed per game (12.9 points), second in both total yards allowed per game (271.4 yards) as well as passing yards allowed per game (184 yards), and fifth in rushing yards allowed per game (87.4 yards).
The San Francisco offense runs mainly on the production of their star running back Frank Gore, who is having another fine season, rushing for 656 yards and four touchdowns on 119 carries along with 16 receptions for 121 yards. The Niners will also need quarterback Alex Smith (1,659 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT and completed 69.4% of his attempts this season) to play as well as he done in all six of their wins this season. Smith will need to get the football to his main targets to make plays and open up the defense when he does drop back to pass, and those players are Michael Crabtree (39 receptions for 440 yards and 3 TD), Vernon Davis (25 receptions for 374 yards and 4 TD), and Mario Manningham (28 receptions for 278 yards and a TD). The San Francisco defense relies on their set of All-Pro linebackers in the middle: NaVorro Bowman (68 tackles and 2 sacks), Patrick Willis (65 tackles), along with their main pass rusher Aldon Smith (7 sacks); if these three players have success in the game it could mean lots of trouble for the Rams offense.
The Rams offense is currently ranked 28th in both total offensive yards gained per game (316.5 yards) as well as points scored per game (17.1 points), 24th in passing yards gained per game and 19th in rushing yards gained per game (106.3 yards), while their defense is ranked 21st in points allowed per game (23.3 points), tied for 13th in total offensive yards allowed per game (343 yards), 17th in passing yards allowed per game (237.5 yards) and 13th in rushing yards allowed per game (105.5 yards).
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford seems as if he is regressing this season, passing for just 1,797 yards, eight touchdowns, seven interceptions and completing 61.4% of his attempts. If the Rams are going to be competitive in this contest they are going to need him to play his best game of the season and make all of the right decisions. Bradford will have some much-needed help with the return of his main target, wideout Danny Amendola (32 receptions for 395 yards and 2 TD) who will be returning from a dislocated clavicle which he suffered earlier in the season. The Rams will attempt to run the ball plenty with the two-headed threat in the back field of Steven Jackson (108 carries for 403 yards and a TD) and Daryl Richardson (62 carries for 335 yards), but the Niners defense will certainly look to take that aspect way from them and attempt to force Bradford to beat them with his arm. The St. Louis defense will need James Laurinaitis (74 tackles) and Chris Long to make the necessary plays to take away Gore and the Niners running game otherwise it could get ugly for them.
The Rams had momentum earlier in the season but it seems as if this team may have hit a wall, while the 49ers look as if they are just now hitting their stride. I’ll take the Niners in this one 24 – 10.