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Dubs' Pigskin Picks - Week 4

After a disappointing performance, and lopsided loss, versus the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, the Rams are back on their home field tonight, hosting their bitter divisional rival - the San Francisco 49'ers. This is a critical game for both teams. The loser will fall to 1-3, with a steep climb ahead of them, to move back into playoff contention. Can Dubs' gain back the ground lost to the leaders in the weekly picks race?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 of the NFL season is in the history books. There were many disappointed St. Louis Rams fans this past weekend, as the Rams were defeated 31-7, by the Dallas Cowboys . It's a short week for the Rams, as they are back at home on Thursday to face the San Francisco 49'ers, in a key divisional match up. This game could have far-reaching implications for both teams, and may be indicative of how the remainder of their seasons will unfold.

Week 3 Results

The accompanying chart presents the results of my picks for Week 3, and the season totals to-date:

Week Wins Straight Up Wins vs Spread Rams Straight Up
Last Week 9 - 7 9 - 7 0 - 1
Season 32 - 16 26 - 22 2 - 1

It was a tough week picking straight-up, as many favorites lost in close games. As the season progresses, it becomes somewhat easier to pick against the spread, as evidenced by my 20-12 record the last two weeks. Overall, this has been a difficult season to predict to-date, as many 2012 playoff teams from the NFC are struggling. Notwithstanding the Seattle Seahawks, the other 5 playoff teams from 2012 are a combined 3-12.

How am I faring against the 82 experts Pickwatch is tracking? (link). As a result of my 9-7 record, ground was lost to the leaders. My 32 wins is tied for 22nd in the standings, a drop of 8 places over the previous week. Picking the Rams to defeat Dallas did not help the cause, as the vast majority of experts picked Dallas to win. I now stand 4 wins behind the leaders. The chart below identifies the top 25:


How did my "Hot Picks Versus The Spread" fare? Chicago, Denver, and Indianapolis all covered the spread, giving my "hot picks" a perfect 3-0 record (7-2 overall).


Week 4 Picks

The accompanying chart presents the format [and selections] for each game this week: home team - away team - the spread - my straight-up winner - which team covers/beats the spread - and the outcome of the game:

Home Away Spread Straight Up Vs. Spread Score
St. Louis San Francisco SF 3 St. Louis St. Louis 20 - 17
Buffalo Baltimore Bal 3 1/2 Baltimore Baltimore 21 - 17
Cleveland Cincinnati Cin 4 1/2 Cincinnati Cincinnati 24 - 14
Detroit Chicago Det 2 1/2 Detroit Detroit 21 - 17
Houston Seattle Sea 3 Seattle Seattle 27 - 21
Jacksonville Indianapolis Indy 9 Indianapolis Indianapolis 31 - 10
Kansas City NY Giants KC 4 1/2 Kansas City Kansas City 21 - 16
Minnesota Pittsburgh Pitt 1 1/2 Minnesota Minnesota 17 - 13
Tampa Bay Arizona TB 3 Arizona Arizona 23 - 17
Tennessee NY Jets Ten 3 1/2 Tennessee Tennessee 20 - 16
Denver Philadelphia Den 11 Denver Denver 27 - 14
Oakland Washington Was 3 Washington Washington 23 - 20
San Diego Dallas Dal 1 Dallas Dallas 23 - 20
Atlanta New England NE 1 1/2 Atlanta Atlanta 27 - 24
New Orleans Miami NO 6 New Orleans New Orleans 27 - 20

Hot Picks Versus The Spread

Indianapolis over Jacksonville - The Colts will continue to roll, against the worst team in the league.

Arizona over Tampa Bay - The Bucs are benching Josh Freeman, in favor of rookie Mike Glennon. Tampa Bay is in disarray, with a surprising 0-3 record.

New Orleans over Miami - The Saints look formidable, both offensively and defensively. Look for them to cover the spread at home, against a much-improved Miami team.


Keys For The Rams vs. San Francisco

  1. The Rams were ineffective in the first half in each of their last two games. They were plagued by poor field position, mistakes, and penalties, at inopportune times. The offensive play-calling remains conservative. It's imperative that the Rams get off to a better start in the game against San Francisco. The Rams will also need to improve their punt return game, avoid costly penalties, and eliminate the mistakes prevalent in the last two games. This game should be very close, with field position an important factor.
  2. The Rams seemed unprepared mentally for the game against Dallas, on the weekend. They will need to come out with fire, and intensity, in this game against their most bitter rival.
  3. The Rams need to establish the running game early in this contest. The Rams rank 29th in the league, with only 171 yards (3.2 avg.) on the ground through 3 games. Given his foot injury, it is questionable how effective Daryl Richardson will be in this game, if he plays at all. An effective running game will assist in opening up the passing game, and balancing the Rams' attack. The 49'ers have been ineffective in stopping the run, ranking 29th in the league (138.0 yards-per-game).
  4. The offensive line allowed 6 sacks against the Cowboys, in a generally poor performance. The line must open holes for the running backs, and protect Sam Bradford, if the Rams are to win this game.
  5. Alec Ogletree and James Laurainaitis versus Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore. Containing both Kaepernick and Gore will be key to the Rams defeating the 49'ers.
  6. This may appear ridiculously simple, but effective. The Rams need to scheme and execute in the same manner they did in the two games against the Niners in 2012. They have the blueprint for beating them. Let's dust it off and achieve results similar to last years.
Prediction: Rams 20 - 49'ers 17


Perspective on the Rams vs. the 49'ers

Can the Rams' recent success against the 49'ers continue? Nick Wagoner of ESPN shares his thoughts on the game tonight, and what it means to both teams. (link)

When all is said and done, the game may just come down to the Rams' attitude:

"So, why did it seem as if the Rams had the Niners' number? Why was Rams coach Jeff Fisher able to outmaneuver Harbaugh?"
"Attitude, for starters. The Rams openly admit that although they get up for every game, they treated both games against the reigning kings of the division a little differently."

Jamal Collier of Bleacher Report lends further insight into the game: "Breaking Down St. Louis' Game Plan".

ESPN's Nick Wagoner and Bill Williamson predict the outcome of tonight's match up between the Rams and the 49'ers:

Bill Williamson: I don't feel uber confident in this, but I'm going with the 49ers. It's just hard to believe a Jim Harbaugh team will fall to 1-3. That would be panic time. Harbaugh said this week he is looking forward to "whipping" adversity. There is no doubt the 49ers have a lot of it. I just think they find a way to stop the madness for at least a week.
49ers 24, Rams 23
Nick Wagoner: After what happened in Dallas, it's awfully hard to pick the Rams. But given all that's gone on in San Francisco, the Rams' apparent ability to kick into another gear for division opponents and the fact that the Rams don't have to travel across the country on a short week, I think the Rams find a way to steal a close one.
Rams 20, 49ers 17