The San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams battled to a tie last time out, but both teams are coming off of big wins and will look to wrap things up with a win in the season series.
If there's one saving grace for the NFL's first tie in about four years, it's the fact that both teams get another four (or five) quarters to resolve it and beat the other team into the ground, like any civilized franchise would (hope to) do.
The San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams combined for a miserable game in Week 10, with both teams missing multiple field goals and generally doing all they could to avoid the end zone (and yet still managing to score 24 points apiece, another easy target for general ineptitude). It was the first tie since the 2008 season, in which Donovan McNabb admitted he didn't know the game would end after the overtime quarter.
Now the teams have played a couple games, with San Francisco picking up wins over the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints, while the Rams split theirs, losing to the New York Jets while beating the Arizona Cardinals. On Sunday, they'll rematch for what some are calling the sixth quarter, but there's plenty more to take note of this time around.
Meet the Rams
St. Louis saw a lot of things go right last week against the Cardinals. The team forced four turnovers in the 31-17 road win, after not forcing any during its previous winless streak of five games. The biggest potential change for the Rams this time around related to wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Amendola caught 11 passes for 102 yards in the first meeting with the 49ers, and many of those were big receptions in key situations. But he played in a limited capacity against the Cardinals last week, and is limited with a heel injury. There's no word on if he'll play against the 49ers this week, but his absence would be huge for the Rams.
Running back Steven Jackson has had a rough season, but he chose the first 49ers game to rebound, rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown. Against the Cardinals, he rushed for 139 yards. Jackson clearly is at his best when he's playing his rivals, but the 49ers will keep more of an eye on him this time around.
Meet the 49ers
Quarterback Alex Smith went down in the Rams game, shortly after throwing a touchdown pass. Then, he was cleared to play against the Chicago Bears on primetime, but the 49ers elected to start Colin Kaepernick instead. This was after Kaepernick had a lackluster performance in relief against the Rams.
Well, Kaepernick went out there and dominated the vaunted Bears defense. So much so that he managed to wrest the starting job from Smith, who has won his team 19 games over the past two seasons, and who spots a quarterback rating better than 100 and a completion percentage of more than 70.
Kaepernick will be looking to get some revenge against St. Louis on Sunday, though he's officially 2-0 as a starter, as Smith didn't leave until near the end of the first half. Theoretically, he opens up the San Francisco offense and can make things much, much tougher for the Jeff Fisher's Rams on the defensive side of the ball.
Local Takes: Rams
During the last Rams-49ers game - when Smith went down with a concussion - Kaepernick took the field. What I noticed though is who he spoke to on the sidelines after every series - Mario Manningham. He was targeted 3 times, catching one for 20 yards. The following week against Chicago, Manningham caught two passes for 45 yards, then had five catches against New Orleans for 69 yards. This connection between receiver and quarterback is growing, so don't be surprised - with Kyle Williams on IR - if Manningham's numbers start to explode.
Local Takes: 49ers
The Rams should have their hands full with Crabtree this Sunday. That hard running is going to be fueled by that blemish on the team's 2012 record - the dreaded tie.
It will be interesting to see how Kaepernick, 25, and Crabtree, 25, develop with one another. Both were highly regarded players coming out of college. In this duo we have one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history as well as one of the most dynamic receivers college football has ever seen.
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St. Louis vs San Francisco: A 49ers Player to Watch Many May Have Overlooked sbn.to/Tt3TrK— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) December 1, 2012
Kinda liking @notorious_jmt's suggestion of "Alcatraz" for defense (b/c they lock it down). The Alcatraz defense, or something like that?— NinersNation (@NinersNation) November 30, 2012
@Eric_Branch, 49ers beat writer
Jim Harbaugh's team has been pretty good at facing teams multiple times and, given that the first time out was a tie game that made a lot of players upset, it stands to reason they'll come out swinging. St. Louis does have a strong defense, but Kaepernick might just be going for the throat in this one, and the 49ers are the smart picks. They might even be the smart pick for a blowout.
The pick: 49ers win, 31-7
The 49ers opened as 6.5-point favorites, just under a touchdown. The line quickly moved in their favor though, with them favored by as much as eight points, according to OddsShark.