Rams @ 49ers (-14)
The Niners’ last shutout was against the Rams. It was 2009, and a 35-0 win at Candlestick made everyone feel great until the Falcons came to town a week later and squashed the 49ers’ hopes at above-averageness with a 45-13 shellacking that started a 4-game losing streak.
The quarterback during that 35-0 loss for the Rams? Kyle Boller. On Sunday, St. Louis looks like they’ll be handing the keys to A.J. Feeley instead of the oft-injured Sam Bradford. As usual these days, the Rams’ only consistent performer on offense will be poor Steven Jackson.
The 49ers can stop Jackson. They can surely stop Feeley. It’s time for the first shutout of the season. That’s the challenge.
Clearly the Niners have other things on their minds besides mere scoreboard goals. They have a shot to clinch the NFC West with a win, and for some reason it feels like every game lately is a chance for Michael Crabtree to prove he’s going to be the team’s best receiver for the next few years. So with Braylon Edwards resting up for the playoffs, maybe Crabtree will break out. Nahhhhh….
— Whether or not the 49ers earn a clean sheet, they should be able to help Frank Gore to the 22 yards he needs to become the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. That should be easy to handle by the end of the 49ers’ first series, and the sooner the better. Gore deserves it.
— This might end up being the game where Jim Harbaugh tries to get Gore 200 yards.
— The Rams have the worst run defense in the league, in case you didn’t know why I sounded so confident in the last two paragraphs. Okay, maybe the Raiders actually give up the most yards per carry (5.3), but we’re going to ignore that right now. The Rams, with their 5.1 ypc and a league-worst 159 rushing yards allowed per game, are the worst against the run.
— This week’s Niner with the best chance at catching a touchdown pass: JUSTIN PEELE.
— Brandon Lloyd’s going to get popped something fierce. Look for Donte Whitner to get him.
— St. Louis isn’t exactly in a good situation here. Ten days will have past since the 49ers lost to the Ravens, and that loss pretty much ruined the slight chance the Rams had to take advantage of an opponent that’s overly impressed with themselves, like how they upset New Orleans in Week 8 after the Saints beat the Colts by 55 points the week before.
— Sam Bradford probably won’t be playing. Nor should Chris Long, whose talents make him much more dangerous to a team like the 49ers, who haven’t yet shown the ability to shut down the league’s elite pass rushers.
— The Niners could easily screw around on offense and still win by several touchdowns. The weather should be great and the Niners’ special teams will do their thing. Their defense has given up the fewest points (14.6 per game) and the Rams have scored the second-fewest in the NFL (12.7). The first shutout of the season. That’s the challenge.
Pick: 49ers 30, Rams 7