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By: Adam Curtis

 

                      The St. Louis Rams have looked shaky all season, and with star quarterback Sam Bradford out for the season, replacement Austin Davis has to step up and have his third straight 300-yard passing game if the Rams have any hope of beating the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.  Zac Stacy, the second year running back out of Vanderbilt University has been injured all week, and his status is uncertain as of now.  But even if he does play, don’t expect big numbers from him as the Rams offensive line has been inconsistent all season.  At the wide receiver position, Brian Quick has had a breakout year with 21 receptions and 322 yards so far, and is on his way to a 1000+yard season for the first time in his young career. The Rams also have solid catching options in Jared Cook and Kenny Britt, but with a tough defensive matchup this week, it’s going to be hard for them to have a big impact on the game.

                      Going into the season, the Rams supposedly had the most depth in the league at the linebacker position, but entering this game, they have only 1 total sack on the season.  At the defensive end position, with Chris Long out for a while, Robert Quinn will have to step up his already stellar play and put pressure on Collin Kaepernick and force turnovers, or at least get his first sack of the season. Linebacker Alex Ogletree leads the Rams in total tackles, with 27, while linebacker James Laurinaitis comes in a close second with 26. In the secondary, safety Rodney McLeod and cornerback Janoris Jenkins each have one interception this season, and the Rams have a total of three interceptions this season, an impressive stat considering their linebackers haven’t been putting enough pressure on the quarterback to force errant throws.

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                      For the San Francisco 49ers, lofty expectations entering this season haven’t panned out thus far, but with more than half the season remaining and given the tremendous amount of talent on their squad, a spot in the Superbowl doesn’t seem too far-fetched. Quarterback Collin Kaepernick hasn’t looked as sharp as he has in the past, but his offensive line hasn’t helped out his cause with the passing game. Kaepernick is only one of a few quarterbacks in the league who have great arms and great speed, so he has the tool set to be great, but execution has been the problem. The 49ers’ run game has been impressive with star running back Frank Gore gaining 365 yards on the season at 4.7 yards per carry. Collin Kaepernick’s running game isn’t too shabby either, running for 205 yards on 4.8 yards per carry. Backup running back and Ohio State University product Carlos Hyde has impressed as well, getting more carries in recent weeks, so the 49ers are definitely a threat on the ground.

 

The wide receiving corps of the 49ers is also very impressive, with the likes of Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Steve Johnson. Tight end Vernon Davis is also a big threat on offense, but he’s questionable for this week’s game and filling in for his production could be difficult. The 49ers’ defense is as good as any in the league, and it starts with their heart and soul, linebacker Patrick Willis. With 31 combined tackles and one interception entering Monday night, Willis is playing at a Pro Bowl level, and at the age of 29, he has a number of productive years ahead of him. Defensive end Justin Smith has three sacks on the season and has been putting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, so you can expect a big game out of him. In the secondary, the addition of safety Antoine Bethea during the offseason has been big for the secondary, contributing 24 combined tackles as well as one interception. Cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox have also been solid at covering opposing receivers, and the fact that Cox already has three interceptions on the season speaks volumes about how he’s played this season.

 

                      Although a 49ers-Rams matchup doesn’t sound very sexy at first blush, both teams have been part of many close games, so don’t expect a blowout come Monday. The 49ers seem to have an advantage on both sides of the ball, so you would expect them to win, even on the road, but there’s a reason why the game is played, and as the cliché goes, anything can happen.

                       

 

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