Anarchy reigns in the NFC West as the San Francisco 49ers remain in the hunt with a 5–9 record, just one game back of the Seattle Seahawks and their week 16 foes, the St. Louis Rams. By winning their final two games, the 49ers could win their division and go to the playoffs, a feverish prospect that has come and gone a number of times throughout this season. Each and every game has been the most important game of the season, week in and week out the team, media and fans have been on playoff watch.
Well, this is probably the most important game of the season, if we're keeping track. Might be better off is we weren't, but let's get to the specifics. The first time the 49ers played the Rams this season, it was a thrilling contest that saw both teams play well, (see the feature put together on the experience at the game here) and though the 49ers ended up on top, it was close. Razor thin, even, judging solely by the overtime finish.
Sam Bradford was on the money then. He completed 30-of-42 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He played pretty much as was predicted, working the short passes for the majority of the game and exploiting the 49ers deep when the coverage broke down. He did what he was supposed to do, and was beat out solely by Troy Smith starting for the Niners.
It's different this week though. Bradford is in a slump and can't get the offense moving, with no touchdown passes in his last three outings. In that same time, he's thrown five interceptions after starting the season well in that regard. He's hit that figurative rookie wall, and the 49ers defense will look to stomp on his fingers and send him tumbling down as he tries to climb over it.
The 49ers defense jumping at the opportunity to catch Sam Bradford in a bad spell not withstanding, the 49ers offense will be just about unpredictable in comparison to just a few weeks ago. Troy Smith and Frank Gore were the backbone of the 49ers offensive attack, and Gore is now on IR, replaced by a tandem of veteran Brian Westbrook and rookie Anthony Dixon. Troy Smith is ...
Well, we don't know where Troy Smith is. He could be the starter on Sunday, leading the 49ers in their last-ditch effort to claim the west and give the 49ers some hope going into next season, or he could be on the bench as the second string behind Alex Smith, who made the start in the 49ers last outing, a loss to the Chargers. Mike Singletary is yet undecided.
Either way, the teams are facing entirely different circumstances this time 'round and throughout the week we'll have plenty of analysis for you.