Week 10: St. Louis Rams At San Francisco 49ers
- QuarterbackSam Bradford is not one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL, but there is virtually nothing else about him that is hard not to admire. He has learned his craft well, knows how to read defenses expertly and is precise about where he throws the ball. Unfortunately, he does not have the arm strength needed to make all the throws and does not always have the quickest release.Alex Smith is a quarterback who is hard to figure out. He has struggled on occasion, but he has had some stellar outings under Jim Harbaugh. He has a good but not great arm and he is a top athlete for the position. He is an accurate passer when his line gives him the time he needs.
- OffenseThe Rams are going to try to establish the run with Steven Jackson, and he still runs with power and purpose. The problem is that his offensive line is likely to get handled by the 49ers’ tough front seven. If Jackson can’t run, that will make it tough on Bradford and the St. Louis receivers. Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens have done a decent job in Danny Amendola’s absence, but that’s not good enough against the Niners.Frank Gore is a warrior and a sensational running back. In a time when most teams want to dominate with their passing game, Harbaugh came to the conclusion that giving the ball to Gore is the better option and he is correct. Niners receivers like Vernon Davis, Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree are solid, but Smith is better off handing the ball to Gore than he is throwing it to his receivers.
- DefenseThe Rams are going to have to play better on the defensive end against the 49ers than they have all year if they are going to have a chance in this game. The Rams get an excellent push up front from Robert Quinn (seven sacks) and Chris Long (four sacks). James Laurinaitis is a superior tackler while defensive back Cortland Finnegan is a huge hitter.The 49ers are one of the most consistent and hard hitting defensive teams in the league. They take their lead from middle linebacker Patrick Willis (65 tackles), but he has plenty of company. The Niners may not take the ball away from opponents like the Bears do, but they are a harder hitting unit. Aldon Smith is a first-rate pass rusher (7.5 sacks) while NaVorro Bowman (team-high 68 tackles) may be the fastest linebacker in the league.
- Special TeamsThe Rams have gotten excellent production from rookie placekicker Greg Zuerlein and punter Johnny Hekker. Zuerlein probably has the second-strongest leg in the NFL behind Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski. Hekker is averaging 49.0 yards per punt.The 49ers should get a boost from their return game. Kyle Williams has returned a kickoff 94 yards while Ted Ginn is one of the fastest punt returners in the league. David Akers still can boom the ball from a distance and is a tough field goal kicker in clutch situations.
The Niners are not about to let an opportunity to punish a division opponent at home slip away. The Rams are playing much harder under Jeff Fisher, but they don’t have the skill to compete with the 49ers over 60 minutes. Look for the San Francisco defense to shut down Bradford and the St. Louis passing attack.