The St. Louis Rams will travel down to Santa Clara to take on the San Francisco 49ers. This weekends matchup will be the very first time this storied rivalry will take place in the new Levi's Stadium. The Rams will be looking to even their record with the 49ers this season, as well as push their record within the division to 2-1. The 49ers are coming off their bye week, and should be well rested and prepared to take on the ailing Rams. The odds sure look long for the Rams to pull out a victory in this one, if they are going to they will have to fully exploit every matchup in their favor. So let's take a look at some matchups that may swing in favor of the Rams.
Aaron Donald vs. 49ers Interior O-line.
Since being inserted into the starting lineup against Seattle, Aaron Donald has essentially been a one man wrecking crew. I have said it more than once here on TST, but if you haven't been impressed with Donald so far this season you just haven't been watching. While Donald is listed on the injury report this week as Questionable, we will go under the assumption that he will play and wont be too limited by his surprise shoulder injury. The 49ers are looking to get bruising Guard Mike Iupati back from injury this weekend, but will be starting rookie Marcus Martin at center following the loss of Daniel Kilgore to a broken ankle. If Iupati has any rust from missing a few weeks, it may make it difficult for him to provide the help the rookie Center would need to handle Donald on the inside. Donald has basically lived in the opponents backfield when he is in the game this season, if healthy enough to play, expect that trend to continue in Santa Clara.
Rams Offensive Line vs. 49ers Defense
The Rams offensive line took a beating against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend, surrendering 7 sacks and allowing constant pressure. While it remains to be seen if Aldon Smith's suspension is reduced in time for kickoff, the 49ers defense doesn't have the pass rush ability of the Chiefs. Still, with Greg Robinson being thrust into the Left Tackle role earlier than anticipated it may be difficult for the Rams offensive line to keep a pocket around Austin Davis. The good news along the offensive line is Scott Wells and Rodger Saffold should return this week, while that may not really qualify as good news it is better than the alternative. Yes the loss of Jake Long means the return of human punching bag Davin Joseph to the lineup, but one weak spot on the line is better than 3 or 4. I expect the 49ers defense to have the advantage with this matchup, but if the Rams offensive line could manage even a draw here it would go a long way
Rams "Back 7" vs 49ers Offense
It is no secret the Rams linebackers and secondary have struggled in recent weeks. The injuries to Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins have thrust 3 rookies into the CB1, CB2 and Slot CB roles over the past couple weeks. While it looks Tru may be in line to see his first regular season action of 2014, Janoris Jenkins may still be out for this weekend. It is my opinion that Tru is the best corner on this team, although Lamarcus Joyner is rapidly improving, and his absence has had a big impact on the teams ability to defend both the pass and run on the perimeter. Of course there is also the addition of former first round pick Mark Barron to the backend, who may be pressed into action with the injury to Rodney McLeod. Barron may be put on the field as a 3rd safety/linebacker for the purpose of spying Colin Kaepernick. Ogletree and Laurinaitis really need to step up their game this weekend, as they have seemingly regressed big time under Gregg Williams.
The unit that set the league on fire with their huge plays against the Seahawks sure looked terrible in Kansas City last sunday. The Rams are going to need to see Greg Zeurlein return to his "Legatron" form soon, because he was flat terrible last weekend. His accuracy from over 50 yards has really suffered since his rookie season, and he is starting to look more and more like an average place kicker than one deserving of a dozen nicknames. Johnny Hekker continues to be Johnny Freakin Hekker, and if it weren't for the presence of Quinn and Donald would be the Rams best player. This would be a good weekend for Tavon Austin to rewatch his 98 yard punt return TD against the Indianapolis Colts in 2013, and realize the reason it worked was he was decisive and he ran UP THE FIELD!!! The Special Teams will need to bring its A game to Santa Clara for the Rams to spring the upset.
There you have it ladies and gentlemen. The matchups that will be key to the Rams quest to upset another division rival. The odds sure are long, let's hope that Jeff Fisher and his staff put together a gameplan that more closely resembles the one used to take down the Seahawks, than what we have seen the other 6 weeks of the 2014 season. Thanks for reading and as always, Go Rams!!!