Paging the San Francisco 49ers, where have you been the last two weeks? After two disastrous performances against the Seahawks on the road, and then getting romped by the Colts at home, the 49ers find themselves in an unlikely position in the Harbaugh era. The Seahawks game wasn’t too much of a surprise, as they have been in that position before in Seattle. However, getting blown out against the Colts at home, a place that is usually money for the 49ers, is quite surprising. The 49ers will now need to go back on the road against a team that has unexpectedly given them fits.
The Rams, less noticeably, got blown out themselves last week against the Cowboys in Dallas. It was a lifeless effort from the Rams, who have plenty of promise, but field a young, inexperienced team that may need a couple of years to put it all together. Sam Bradford has more options to work with in the offense, so it’ll be interesting to see this offense develop with the amount of speed in the receiving core now. The Rams will try and show the world that they don’t need the two years, and are ready to compete with the big boys of the NFL.
49ers vs. Rams Betting Odds:
San Francisco 49ers -3.5(-115)
@St. Louis Rams +3.5(-105)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
49ers vs. Rams Pick:
I said that the Rams are ready to compete with the big boys, but at this point, what are the 49ers? They’ve only scored 10 points in their last two games, and the defense is looking like a shell of its former self. The 49ers used to be a team that pounds the ball with Frank Gore which would typically open up the play fake down the field. This was essentially what their offense was with quarterback Alex Smith, and to an extent, it was still that way when Kaepernick took over during last season. Harbaugh didn’t give Kaepernick all of the reigns off the bat, and it actually was a successful formula. Fast forward to 2013 and Harbaugh has provided him with the reigns, horses, and the carriage. After a quarter of positive running from Gore last week, the 49ers seemingly abandoned that plan and let Kaepernick throw the ball around over and over again. Ultimately, teams have figured out the option, so that has been less successful. And when Kaepernick is asked to throw out of the pocket, he is finding life a little more miserable. The problem stems down to a couple things here.
While all the blame was on the quarterback last week, it wasn’t completely his fault. Receivers had lots of trouble getting open, not giving Kaepernick many open looks to deliver the ball in. The injury to Vernon Davis that sidelined him last week was a apparently a big one, as all the Colts needed to do was focus in on Anquan Boldin, which for the second consecutive week, Boldin was shut down. Davis is listed as questionable heading into tonight and it’s looking pretty dire that he’s going to have the opportunity to play tonight. While there have been questions of him and Kaepernick not being on the same page, Davis in the lineup opens the playbook up a heck of a lot more. After the 49ers were one of the most dangerous offenses in the league last year, following three games they are ranked 27th, averaging only 318.3 yards a game. On top of that, they are only scoring 14.7 points per game. I think the offense will begin to pick up again when Vernon Davis re-enters the picture, but until then, I expect them to struggle.
It isn’t just the offense though, because the defense hasn’t been very good either. With the offense not sustaining many drives, they’re leaving the defense hung out to dry, getting gassed rather easily. I stated many times last year that the 49ers have a good defense, but you can easily gain yardage by throwing on them. This year is much of the same but even worse. On the Colts first drive of last week, they did whatever they wanted, which ended up resulting in a 1-yard touchdown run by Trent Richardson. To throw gasoline on the problem, now linebacker Patrick Willis is listed as questionable tonight as well. And of course, if you have been following NFL news, defensive end Aldon Smith is entering a rehab facility, so he isn’t even a consideration to play against the Rams tonight. With Willis and Smith not suiting up, it takes away their top two players on the defensive side of the ball. Even when the team was healthy, the ‘Niners were getting gashed, which is evident from the 28 points per game they have allowed in their first three games.
The defense will have to contend against a Rams’ offense that is fairly unpredictable. With a young team, like the Rams are, that is to be expected. I do know that young teams like this always seem to get up for primetime matchups, though. Quarterback, Sam Bradford, has done fairly well in the offense, opening up the season with 299 yards and 2 touchdowns against a good Cardinals’ defense, and then torching the Falcons for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns the following week. He had trouble getting into a rhythm last week against the Cowboys, hitting only 29-48 of his passes for 240 yards. I mentioned in my Cowboys pick last week that he was going to struggle against tough, physical corners and that was certainly the case. Rookie receiver, Tavon Austin, has given the Rams a new element to their offense they haven’t had before, which is speed on the outside and in the return game. Austin has been serviceable this season so far, catching around 50-yards in all of his games this season, including a 2 touchdown effort against the Falcons in week 2. Jared Cook, the Rams tight end, is one of the more underrated tight ends in the NFL, and I expect him to have a pretty good game against a banged up 49ers’ linebacker core.
I have talked about how bad the 49ers’ defense has been this season, but how about the Rams. They are allowing 28.7 points per game, .7 more than the 49ers are giving up. The Cardinals scored 24, Falcons 31, and then 31 against the Cowboys. The 49ers probably will be without Vernon Davis tonight, but I expect them to be able to score against this defense, which is much worse than the Colts. I usually wouldn’t be inclined to bet an over in this series between these two teams in the past, but I think we’ll see enough points to push it over 42 in this game. Kaepernick has been hearing all the rumblings all week about how poor he was last week, and I think he responds Thursday night with a positive performance. With the spread a tricky bet to make, I’m going to stick with the over for TNF.
PICK : OVER 42 (-110)