What a season it has been. It is sad to see the regular season come to a wrap. But unlike years past, the San Francisco 49ers will finally see the post season. There is still some business to be taken care of before we look ahead to the playoffs. With a win against the St. Louis Rams, the Niners will earn a first round bye. It is a much needed first round bye with injuries piling up in the last few weeks. Most of the injuries have been occurring on the offensive side of the ball, which means the defense (the strength of the Niners) is still healthy. Do not think it will be an automatic win for the Niners. I understand it’s the sorry Rams, who are tied with the Indianapolis Colts for the worst record in the NFL. Let’s remember that the Rams do hold a victory over the New Orleans Saints and at the end of the day the players are grown men and will not roll over for anybody. The Rams will show up with plenty of pride. Here are some keys to the game.
As mentioned earlier, the Niners have had their share of injuries in the last few weeks. QB Alex Smith is going to have to make adjustments as he will have different receivers to throw at. WR Ted Ginn Jr., WR Kyle Williams, and TE Delanie Walker will most likely all be out. Also the Niners released WR Braylon Edwards earlier this week, making the Niners depth at wide receiver even lesser. This will put most of the pressure on WR Michael Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis to get open and make big plays for Alex and the Niner offense.
With so many injuries at wide out, expect the Niners to concentrate on running the ball early and often. They will look to wear down the Rams defensive line, giving the Niners an edge heading into the second half. Lastly, the Rams have had a list of injuries in their defensive back field all season. So when you really look at it, the injuries are a wash. It will simply come down to what team adapts the best to their injury issues.
Will LB Patrick Willis finally make his return? Then again does it really matter? The answer is NO! The Rams are most likely going to start their third string quarterback Kellen Clemens. The Rams will try to use RB Stephen Jackson as often as possible. Like the first meeting between the two teams, Jackson will not accomplish much. The Rams are going to have a very difficult time moving the ball against the Niner defense. The only thing to be worried about is the fact that the Rams have nothing to lose in this game, other than the possible number one pick in the 2012 draft. Trick plays, fake punts, and surprise onsides are all possibilities.
If Patrick is 100% to play, then he should play. Even though Patrick is a hell of an athlete, it is good to have him play in a game before the playoffs. If not, he’ll have the whole bye week to get himself accumulated again. In all Patrick is a beast and he will be ready to perform at a high level whenever he comes back.
LB Aldon Smith
We all know Aldon was robbed a Pro Bowl selection. That could be a good thing. He is a sack away from breaking the record of most sacks by a rookie defender. Former NFL player DE Jevon Kearse had 14.5 sacks in his rookie season. Aldon at the moment is at 14 sacks. Expect Aldon to come out with a great deal of intensity. He wants that record after getting snubbed form the Pro Bowl. He had two sacks in their previous meeting and anticipate him getting at least two more.
Along with Aldon’s record attempt, the defense will also look to set one as well. The record for rushing touchdowns allowed in a season is two, the Niners have only allowed one this season. If they keep the Rams from converting a rushing touchdown the Niner defense would have accomplished a great feat in NFL history. Expect the Niners to do it! In the process they will smash the Rams. The Rams will put up a fight in the first half showing lots of pride, but the Niners will eventually pull away. The final score 26-6, capping a great regular season for the San Francisco 49ers. GO NINERS!!!!!!!!