NFL Predictions: 49ers at Rams Week 4 Odds and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 9/25/2013
I wouldn't say that Thursday night's game in St. Louis is an absolute must-win for the preseason NFC favorite San Francisco 49ers, but it's awfully close. Yes, the Niners have some concerns right now in having lost two straight games. I will say that the Washington Redskins, Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots also started 1-2 last year and won their divisions. If the Niners can turn it around on Thursday, they should be just fine. Then they get a mini-bye week before facing Houston and Arizona at home, both games they should win. The Niners certainly then would be favored the next two weeks at Tennessee (sorry not buying the Titans yet) and Jacksonville.
On the flip side, a loss here all but eliminates the 49ers from the NFC West race. The Seahawks already own the head-to-head tiebreaker, and I'm not sure they will lose more than three times all season. They do have tough trips to Houston this week and then Indianapolis, so the Niners could find themselves tied atop the division at 3-2 with Seattle in a few weeks. But it all starts with Thursday.
49ers at Rams Betting Story Lines
By now you know all about the situation involving 49ers talented-but-troubled linebacker Aldon Smith. San Francisco unthinkably let him play last week even thought it apparently had been pre-arranged that Smith would then head to drug/alcohol rehab. He looks to miss at least a month and maybe longer. Smith certainly will face a suspension as well at some point, although that may not come until next year after the legal process plays out. You can't tell me that wasn't a distraction last week when the Niners laid an egg at home, falling 27-7 to the Colts. It was San Francisco's first home loss with Colin Kaepernick as the starter.
Speaking of Kaepernick, let's slow it down on how he might be the best all-around QB in the NFL. After a brilliant season opener against Green Bay, Kaepernick is 16-for-55 for 277 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions the past two weeks. He was also a non-factor on the ground against Indy and lost a fourth-quarter fumble. As good as receiver Anquan Boldin was in the opener, the Niners badly miss Michael Crabtree to stretch the field. The running game also hasn't been good with Frank Gore averaging only 3.5 yards per carry. Tight end Vernon Davis was inactive against the Colts with a hamstring injury. He returned to practice on Tuesday in a limited fashion. It looks like he's questionable for Thursday. All-pro linebacker Patrick Willis seems doubtful to play with a groin injury. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) also probably sits.
The Rams have allowed 31 points each in losing back-to-back weeks in Atlanta and Dallas. They played pretty decent against the Falcons but stunk it up in Texas. DeMarco Murray torched the Rams for 175 yards, his first 100-yard game in more than a year. Sam Bradford threw the ball 48 times but for only 240 yards. The Rams are in even worse shape than San Francisco in terms of a running game, averaging only 57.0 yards per game. What did they expect going with the likes of Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead? Richardson missed most of the Dallas game with a foot injury but should return. The Rams aren't making much of rookie speedster receiver Tavon Austin yet. He has 18 catches but for only 118 yards. He has rushed four times for 10 yards. Bradford is throwing a lot and is second in completions, but it's just short check-down passes. Think Alex Smith. Actually that's a slight to Smith. He's averaging 6.37 yards per attempt and Bradford only 6.32.
49ers at Rams Betting Odds and Trends
At WagerWeb, the 49ers are three-point favorites with a total of 41.5. The Niners are 1-2 ATS this season (0-1 on road) and 1-2 “over/under” (0-1 on road). The Rams are 0-3 ATS (0-1 at home) and 2-1 O/U (1-0 at home). San Francisco is 9-4 ATS in its past 13 following a loss. It is 1-5 ATS in its past six against teams with a losing record. The 49ers are 0-5 ATS in their past five against the NFC West. St. Louis is 7-1 ATS in its past eight against the NFC West. The Rams are 1-5 ATS in their past six home games. The under is 6-0 in the Niners' past six Thursday games. The over is 5-1 in the Rams' past six home games. The Niners are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings.
NFL Predictions: 49ers at Rams Betting Picks
St. Louis was 1-0-1 against the 49ers last year, the Rams' first unbeaten season against them since 2004. The 24-24 tie was quite a big deal because it ushered in the Kaepernick era. That was Week 10 in San Francisco when Smith was knocked out with a concussion. Both teams missed field goals in overtime -- well, Greg Zuerlein made one with a little under three minutes left in OT but the Rams were penalized five yards for delay of game on the play. Zuerlein then missed from 58.
It was a wild game, with the Rams taking a 24-21 lead with 1:09 left on a Bradford TD pass to Austin Pettis, only to have David Akers send it into OT with a 33-yard kick with three seconds remaining. Bradford was quite good, completing 26-of-39 for 275 yards, two scores and no picks. Kaepernick showed signs of whom he would become, completing 11-of-17 for 177 yards and rushing eight times for 97 yards and a score.
In Week 13 in St. Louis, they amazingly almost tied again, with the Rams prevailing 16-13. Zuerlein won it with a 54-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in OT after tying it at 13 at the regulation gun with a 53-yarder. He became the first kicker ever to tie a game with a field goal of at least 50 yards as time expired in the fourth quarter and kick an OT field goal of at least 50 yards in the same game.
I would highly recommend waiting on this line to see if it moves to 3.5, and the heavy lean is on San Francisco, so it might. I like the Rams for sure at 3.5 and probably to win outright. It's the short week syndrome, plus the Niners are without Smith, Willis and maybe Davis. That's a lot to lose. Take the under.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews