Free NFL Pick: St. Louis at San Francisco 11-14-2010

November 12, 2010

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St Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers

Sunday November 14th, 2010 4:15 PM EST

Line: San Francisco -6

Overview:

The 4-4 Rams have a lot to prove in Sunday’s game against the 2-6 49ers. The Rams currently are in first place in the division, despite failing to post a winning record. If they can knock off the 49ers, they will move to 5-4. If they fail to do so, the 49ers will sneak back into playoff discussions at 3-6. The Rams have failed to come away with a victory on the road all season long. Will they be able to come away with their first road and division win all in the same week?

Keys to the Game:

  • Troy Smith has a chance to earn a starting spot for the remainder of the season. Alex Smith went down with an injury and allowed Troy Smith to showcase his abilities by posting a victory and a 115.2 quarterback rating. If Troy Smith continues to play at a high level, while getting the entire offense involved, the 49ers could stick with the hot hand for the remainder of the season. Troy Smith’s role was limited, but he excelled when the 49ers needed him to. Troy Smith failed to throw an interception all game in his start against the Broncos, a feat Alex Smith has only achieved once in his six complete games. If Troy Smith can limit turnovers, he puts the 49ers in a position to be successful, which will in turn result in more victories.
  • Steven Jackson is a big back whose size and athleticism are unmatched throughout the league. At 6’2 235, Jackson has elite power and surprising quickness. Jackson posted three 100 yard games in a row before being relatively quiet against Carolina last week. The 49ers can’t get lost in the Sam Bradford hype, because make no mistake about it, the Rams still love to run the football. The 49ers allow just over 100 rushing yards a game, but they are all too familiar with the threat Jackson poses coming out of the back field.
  • Manny Lawson is on a tear. The 49ers drafted Lawson to be the coveted edge rusher in a 3-4 defense. He is a hybrid defensive end outside linebacker who is rangy and solid against the run. Lawson began this year seeking a new contract, but the 49ers didn’t believe his play warranted an extension. Last year, Lawson was sidelined for many passing downs, because Ahmad Brooks proved to be a more capable pass rusher. As of late, Lawson has become a terror on the outside. In the game against Denver, Lawson had a forced fumble and a sack. He made his presence felt throughout the entire game, consistently beating his man in one on one situations. He was instrumental to the 49ers victory and will need to apply pressure to Sam Bradford on Sunday.
  • Sam Bradford might be the most coveted young quarterback in the NFL. He seems like a lock for rookie of the year, after turning around a struggling Rams franchise virtually by himself. Bradford’s numbers aren’t going to make anyone’s jaw hit the floor, but he is the driving force behind the Rams relative hot start. With a limited supporting case, Bradford constantly puts the ball right where he needs to. He has the arm strength to fit the ball into tight windows, but what is most impressive is his leadership. He has given the Rams direction and it is evident the entire team is playing with purpose, something that could not be said for Rams teams over the past few years. Bradford is most effective on third downs and in the 4th quarter, which creates a mystique about him and allows his teammates to put faith unabashed faith in him.
  • Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree need to get the ball for the 49ers to come away with a victory. Davis has scored a touchdown in five of his last six games and Crabtree has contributed three scores of his own in the last four games. While the strength of the 49ers offense lies within their backfield, Troy Smith would be wise to target his play makers. Crabtree and Davis both have a knack for getting in the end zone. When Troy Smith gets near the goal line, targeting his sure handed targets in pressure situations will provide positive results.
  • The Rams defense has come up big this season. After being horrendous last season, the Rams defense has played been given new life. While Sam Bradford has been given most of the attention -and deservedly so- the defense has allowed Bradford to stay within the confines of his game. Chris Long has come on as one of the shining stars of the Rams defense, racking up 4.5 sacks in the first half of the season. If the Rams can continue the upward trend of defensive play, they will be able to bring in talent to surround Sam Bradford with, without worrying about the ramifications it will have on the defensive side of the ball. The Rams have been in the middle of the road when it comes to containing the pass, but have made a spectacular turn around in their run defense. They will need to be at their best to stop Frank Gore.
  • The 49ers, like most teams, want to be effective at running the football. They have three offensive lineman that were drafted in the first round and a running back who can take the ball to the house on any given play. That being said, the 49ers fail to gain over 100 yards a game on the ground. Frank Gore is on pace for 1382 yards this season. he has posted back to back to back 100 yard games, which have resulted in two 49er victories. With Gore being on such a hot streak, the 49ers need to play action frequently. The entire defense expects to get a heavy dose of Gore all game long. With play action, the defense will need to play more honestly, which will take the heat off Gore later in the game and give receivers an extra step on over zealous defensive backs. If Gore manages to get into a rhythm early, you will see the offense click across the board. If he fails to do so, the 49ers fail to get anything going. He takes on a larger role this week while the offense adjusts to Troy Smith under center.

Wrap Up:

While the 49ers are in must win mode already, the Rams know that they need this victory to give them some breathing room at the top. They have two teams breathing down their neck already and allowing another team into the mix by letting the 49ers creep back in is only harming their chances of getting to the playoffs. Since the 49ers are at home, they should come away with a victory. The Rams have struggled on the road this year and the 49ers have had their number recently. That being said, the 49ers are not going to win by a large margin. Sam Bradford will probably come up short in this one, but like he has done so many times this year, he should put his team within striking distance.

Free NFL Pick: St. Louis +6


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