No one expected the St. Louis Rams to hang tough with the NFC's Super Bowl favorite, the San Francisco 49ers, the last time these teams met in 2012. Yet the Rams, led by Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson, put up a tough fight and almost pulled out the win. But David Akers' 33-yard field goal with three seconds left in the game sent it to overtime, where both Akers and Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein missed chances to win it.
But the 49ers have made a big change since that Nov. 11 game, replacing then-starting quarterback Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick. The 2011 second-round pick out of Nevada is 2-0 as a starter for San Francisco, dicing a tough Bears defense and winning a shootout with Drew Brees and the Saints. With Kaepernick under center, the Niners' offense has looked explosive, and will be giving St. Louis' defense a big challenge.
With that in mind, almost all the NFL experts are predicting a San Francisco win. On ESPN.com, nine of 10 analysts went with the 49ers, with only Adam Schefter calling for a Rams victory. There was no dissension at either Yahoo! Sports or CBS Sports. Yahoo's three experts all chose the Niners, as did the site's users. At CBS, all eight of the site's writers picked San Francisco. So did the site's Prediction Machine, which has gone 111-64-1 this season. Of course, that one is the last 49ers-Rams game.
Kickoff for this NFC West showdown will be at 1 pm ET in St. Louis.