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Dubs' Pigskin Pick'em & St. Louis Rams-San Francisco 49'ers Preview - Week 8

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The Rams are in the unfamiliar position of being the big favorite in a matchup against the Niners. Will the Rams move above .500 and stay on the heals of the division-leading Arizona Cardinals? Can Dubs make up some ground on the leaders in the weekly picks contest?

Week 7 of the NFL regular season is now in the history books. The Rams are coming off a 24-6 win over the Cleveland Browns and are home again this Sunday to face arch division rival San Francisco 49ers. The Rams are in the unfamiliar position of being the big favorite in a matchup against the Niners. Will the Rams move above .500 and stay on the heals of the division-leading Arizona Cardinals? Can Dubs make up some ground on the leaders in the weekly picks contest?

Dubs' Pigskin Pick'em & Rams Game Preview returns for a third season. I'll be predicting the winners (both straight up and against the spread) for all 256 regular season games. In addition, each week I'll be featuring 3 games in my "Hot Picks Against The Spread".

Pickwatch is a site devoted to tracking weekly picks results from NFL experts, analysts, and media types. This year, they're tracking 136 experts on a weekly basis. I'm competing against them again this season, and will publish the weekly results! In each of the last two seasons, I've managed to tie for first place in the overall standings. Can Dubs make it three years in a row?

Week 7 Results

Week Wins Straight Up Wins vs Spread Hot Picks vs. Spread Rams Straight Up
Week 7 10  4 8  6 2  1 1  0
Season 71  34 67  37  1 18  3 3  3
Win Percentage 67.6 64.4 85.7 50.0

How did I fare against the experts in Week 7? My 10-4 straight up picks record was enough to move up to a tie for 9th in the overall standings, 6 behind the leader Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus. My "Hot Picks Against The Spread" continue to impress. Both Seattle and Arizona won and covered the spread last week. Atlanta won but did not cover the spread. Record for the week: 2-1 (and 18-3 overall on the season). My ATS record has suffered over the last three weeks (22-20). Let's hope I can get back on track this week!

2015 NFL Team Records

NFL ATS RANKINGS
Straight-Up Against The Spread Over/Under
Team Total Home Away Total Home Away Total Home Away
Arizona Cardinals 5-2-0 3-1-0 2-1-0 4-3-0 2-2-0 2-1-0 5-2-0 3-1-0 2-1-0
Atlanta Falcons 6-1-0 3-0-0 3-1-0 4-3-0 2-1-0 2-2-0 2-5-0 1-2-0 1-3-0
Baltimore Ravens 1-6-0 0-2-0 1-4-0 4-5-1 0-2-0 4-3-1 4-6-0 2-0-0 2-6-0
Buffalo Bills 3-4-0 1-3-0 2-1-0 3-4-0 1-3-0 2-1-0 4-3-0 2-2-0 2-1-0
Carolina Panthers 6-0-0 3-0-0 3-0-0 5-1-0 2-1-0 3-0-0 3-2-1 1-1-1 2-1-0
Chicago Bears 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0
Cincinnati Bengals 6-0-0 3-0-0 3-0-0 5-0-1 2-0-1 3-0-0 5-1-0 2-1-0 3-0-0
Cleveland Browns 2-5-0 1-2-0 1-3-0 3-3-1 1-1-1 2-2-0 6-1-0 3-0-0 3-1-0
Dallas Cowboys 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 1-5-0 0-3-0 1-2-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0
Denver Broncos 6-0-0 2-0-0 4-0-0 4-1-1 1-1-0 3-0-1 2-4-0 0-2-0 2-2-0
Detroit Lions 1-6-0 1-3-0 0-3-0 1-6-0 0-4-0 1-2-0 4-3-0 3-1-0 1-2-0
Green Bay Packers 6-0-0 4-0-0 2-0-0 5-1-0 3-1-0 2-0-0 2-4-0 1-3-0 1-1-0
Houston Texans 2-5-0 1-2-0 1-3-0 2-5-0 1-2-0 1-3-0 5-1-1 2-1-0 3-0-1
Indianapolis Colts 3-4-0 1-3-0 2-1-0 2-5-0 1-3-0 1-2-0 3-4-0 1-3-0 2-1-0
Jacksonville Jaguars 2-5-0 2-2-0 0-3-0 3-4-0 2-2-0 1-2-0 5-2-0 3-1-0 2-1-0
Kansas City Chiefs 2-5-0 1-2-0 1-3-0 2-5-0 1-2-0 1-3-0 4-3-0 1-2-0 3-1-0
Miami Dolphins 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0
Minnesota Vikings 4-2-0 3-0-0 1-2-0 5-1-0 3-0-0 2-1-0 1-5-0 0-3-0 1-2-0
New England Patriots 6-0-0 3-0-0 3-0-0 3-1-2 1-0-2 2-1-0 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0
New Orleans Saints 3-4-0 2-1-0 1-3-0 4-3-0 2-1-0 2-2-0 3-4-0 0-3-0 3-1-0
New York Giants 4-3-0 3-1-0 1-2-0 4-3-0 2-2-0 2-1-0 4-3-0 3-1-0 1-2-0
New York Jets 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0 4-1-1 2-1-0 2-0-1 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0
Oakland Raiders 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0 4-2-0 2-1-0 2-1-0
Philadelphia Eagles 3-4-0 2-1-0 1-3-0 3-4-0 2-1-0 1-3-0 1-6-0 1-2-0 0-4-0
Pittsburgh Steelers 4-3-0 2-1-0 2-2-0 4-1-2 2-0-1 2-1-1 1-6-0 1-2-0 0-4-0
San Diego Chargers 2-5-0 2-2-0 0-3-0 2-5-0 1-3-0 1-2-0 3-4-0 3-1-0 0-3-0
San Francisco 49ers 2-5-0 2-2-0 0-3-0 3-4-0 2-2-0 1-2-0 4-3-0 1-3-0 3-0-0
Seattle Seahawks 3-4-0 2-1-0 1-3-0 2-4-1 1-2-0 1-2-1 3-4-0 1-2-0 2-2-0
St. Louis Rams 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 3-3-0 2-1-0 1-2-0 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-4-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 3-3-0 1-2-0 2-1-0 4-2-0 3-0-0 1-2-0
Tennessee Titans 1-5-0 0-4-0 1-1-0 3-3-0 2-2-0 1-1-0 4-2-0 2-2-0 2-0-0
Washington Redskins 3-4-0 3-1-0 0-3-0 3-4-0 2-2-0 1-2-0 3-4-0 1-3-0 2-1-0

NFL Crystal Ball

Dubs' Pigskin Picks - Week 8

Home Away Spread Straight Up Vs. Spread Score
New England Miami NE 8 New England New England 31  20
St. Louis San Francisco StL 9.5 St. Louis San Francisco 23  14
Kansas City Detroit KC 5.5 Kansas City Kansas City 27  20
Atlanta Tampa Bay Atl 7.5 Atlanta Atlanta 31  20
Chicago Minnesota Even Minnesota Minnesota 24  20
Cleveland Arizona Ari 4.5 Arizona Arizona 27  10
New Orleans NY Giants NO 3 New Orleans New Orleans 23  17
Pittsburgh Cincinnati Even Cincinnati Cincinnati 27  24
Baltimore San Diego Bal 3 Baltimore San Diego 21  20
Houston Tennessee Even Houston Houston 24  20
Oakland NY Jets NY 1 NY Jets NY Jets 21  17
Dallas Seattle Sea 6.5 Seattle Seattle 24  14
Denver Green Bay GB 3 Green Bay Green Bay 21  17
Carolina Indianapolis Car 7.5 Carolina Indianapolis 24  23
Byes: Buffalo Jacksonville
Philadelphia Washington

Hot Picks Against The Spread

Atlanta (-7.5) over Tampa Bay - The 6-1 Falcons should likely be more than 7.5 point favorites at home against the struggling Buc's. Look for Atlanta to romp in this one.

Seattle (-6.5) over Dallas - It's about the time of year when Seattle goes on one of their patented 8-1, 9-1 runs to the playoffs. Dallas goes with Greg Hardy and no Tony Romo.

Arizona (-4.5) over Cleveland - The Browns and Cardinals are heading in opposite directions. The spread is way too tight given the relative strengths of the two teams.

San Francisco 49'ers @ St. Louis Rams

Keys For The Rams Vs. San Francisco
  • The Rams must get off to a fast start in Sunday's game. In each of their 16 victories over the last 2 plus seasons, the Rams were either tied or leading at the half. In their first 6 games this season, the Rams have been outscored 37-17 in the first quarter.
  • Winning the turnover battle. In 2014, the Rams were 0-6 in games with a negative turnover differential. In contrast, the Rams were 3-0 in games with a positive turnover differential and 3-4 in games with an even turnover differential. Finally, the Rams were 4-0 in games where they didn't turn over the football. In the game against the Cleveland Browns, the Rams' defense created 4 forced fumbles, which were key to the outcome of the game.
  • The Rams must establish the running game, against a San Francisco defense ranked 20th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (113.3) for the 2015 season. Can Todd Gurley rush for over 125 yards for the 4th consecutive week?
  • Minimizing mistakes and penalties. When the Rams play disciplined football, they win games. In 2014, the Rams were 3-1 when they had a positive team penalty yards differential, and 3-9 when they had more penalty yards than their opponent. This season, the Rams are 2-1 when they've had fewer penalty yards than their opponent and 1-2 when they've had more than their opponent.
  • Pressuring and containing QB Colin Kaepernick. Putting pressure on and containing Kaepernick may be one of the bigger keys in this game. Kaepernick has been sacked the 2nd most times of any quarterback in the NFL this season. In contrast, the Rams are tied for 2nd in the league in sacks (23).
  • Nick Foles will lead a conservative, ball-controlling Rams offense. A clean, mistake-free game is all that's expected of him. He'll need to connect deep with Jared CookTavon Austin and Kenny Britt to open up the Rams' running game. Better utilization of: the RB's coming out of the backfield, screens and shorter patterns all may help in reducing the pressure being put on Foles in the pocket.
  • 3rd down and red zone conversions will play a big role in this game. The Rams rank close to the bottom of the league in both statistical categories. It doesn't matter how many times Todd Gurley gashes the opposing defense, if the Rams can't punch it in (see Green Bay game).
Prediction: Rams 23 - San Francisco 14

This game will be closer than many think. Division rivalry games in the NFC West are hard fought battles. It makes little difference if the Rams are ascending and the 49ers are declining. They're still a dangerous opponent with many talented players (both on offense and defense). The Rams will win this game but won't cover the 9.5 point spread.

From ESPN's Nick Wagoner:

"The Rams have scored just once on their opening possession (a 17-yard drive after a fumble recovery on the kickoff against Arizona) and the offense has mustered just 10 points in the first quarter. Worse, the Rams aren't even moving the ball in the opening quarter, averaging a league-low 2.85 yards per play and 30.8 yards. Perhaps most damning, the Rams have mustered only 11 first downs in the first quarter, which lags far behind everyone else in the league. Miami is 31st with 21."

Perspective On The Rams Versus San Francisco

Fisher Up Front: 49ers at Rams

Reporter Dani Klupenger sits down with head coach Jeff Fisher to discuss this week's matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.

NFL Week 8 Capsule: Rams-49ers: Associated Press via Rams Gab

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-5) AT ST. LOUIS RAMS (3-3)

SERIES

49ERS RAMS
SERIES LEADER 64-63-3
STREAKS 3 of past 4
COACHES VS. OPP. Tomsula: 0-0 Fisher: 4-5-1
LAST WEEK L 20-3 vs. Seahawks W 24-6 vs. Browns
LAST GAME 11/2/14: Rams 13 at 49ers 10. St. Louis kicker Greg Zuerlein kicks GW 39-yard FG with 5:30 remaining in 4th quarter. Rams defense records 8 sacks.
LAST GAME AT SITE 10/13/14: 49ers 31, Rams 17. San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick throws for 343 yards & 3 TDs. 49ers WR Anquan Boldin records 7 catches for 94 yards & TD.
REFEREE Jerome Boger
BROADCAST FOX (12:00 PM CT): Dick Stockton, David Diehl, Kristina Pink (field reporter). SIRIUS: 137 (SF), 145 (StL.). XM: 232 (StL.).

STATS

PASSING Kaepernick: 124-202-1453-6-5-82.8 Foles: 96-164-1119-6-5-78.8
RUSHING Hyde: 115-470-4.1-3 Gurley (R): 74-442-6.0-2
RECEIVING Boldin: 31-372-12.0-2 Austin: 20-187-9.4-3
OFFENSE 295.6 298.8
TAKE/GIVE 0 +4
DEFENSE 406.0 351.3
SACKS Lynch: 5 Donald: 4.5
INTs Acker, Brock: 3 (T2C) Jenkins, Johnson: 2
PUNTING Pinion (R): 43.5 Hekker: 47.3
KICKING Dawson:41 (8/8 PAT; 11/12 FG) Zuerlein: 36 (12/12 PAT; 8/13 FG)

NOTES

49ERS: QB COLIN KAEPERNICK has won past 2 starts at StL with 5 TDs, 0 INTs & 120.6 rating…RB CARLOS HYDE has 15 runs of 10+ yards & 25 rush 1st downs. In only game at StL (11/15/09 with NO), RB REGGIE BUSH had rush TD & rec. TD. Is 1 of 2 active players with 5,000+ rush yards (5,493) & 450+ receptions (470)…WR ANQUAN BOLDIN aims for 5th in row vs. StL with 90+ rec. yards. Has TD catch in 4 of past 5 at StL. Has 6 100-yard games vs. Rams. In only game vs. StL (9/25/11 with Bal.), WR TORREY SMITH had 5 catches for 152 yards (30.4 avg.) & 3 TDs. Since entering NFL in 2006, TE VERNON DAVIS has 62 TDs (incl. playoffs), 3rd most by TE…In his past 2 vs. Rams, LB NA VORRO BOWMAN has 17 tackles, 3 sacks & FF. Leads team with 69 tackles. LB MICHAEL WILHOITE is 2nd on team with 63 tackles. LB AARON LYNCH had 2 sacks last week. Had sack in last meeting. LB AHMAD BROOKS has 3.5 sacks in past 2 at StL. Had 2 sacks last week. CB KENNETH ACKER aims for 3rd in row with INT. CB TRAMAINE BROCK has INT in 2 of past 3…RAMS: QB NICK FOLES has 91.8 career rating…Rookie RB TODD GURLEY has rushed for 433 yards (144.3 per game) in 1st 3 career starts. Is 1st rookie since 2005 with 125+ rush yards in each of 1st 3 career starts. Leads NFL with 3 rushes for 45+ yards. Scored 1st 2 career TDs last week. RB BENNY CUNNINGHAM had rush TD in last home game vs. SF…WR-PR TAVON AUSTIN has 14 career TDs (7 rec., 4 rush, 3 PR). Is 1 of 3 players in NFL with rec., rush & return TD in 2015. WR KENNY BRITT had TD catch in last meeting. TE JARED COOK had 4 catches for 74 yards (18.5 avg.) in last home meeting…Defense ties for NFC lead with 23 sacks led by DT AARON DONALD (4.5) & DE ROBERT QUINN (4). Donald has 0.5+ sack in 10 of past 13. Has 8 sacks in past 8 at home. Quinn had 2 sacks & FF in last game vs. SF. Since 2009, LB JAMES LAURINAITIS is only NFL player with 15+ sacks (16.5) & 10+ INTs (10).

ESPN's Nick Wagoner shares his thoughts on the game between the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers:

Game preview from New York Times/STATS:
  1. The Rams and 49ers will meet for the first time this season on Sunday, with the teams splitting their two matchups last season. The Rams, who won the last meeting between the two in San Francisco in Week 9 of last season, haven't won consecutive games against the 49ers since Week4/13 of 2004. In addition St. Louis, which is 2-0 against the NFC West this season, hasn't opened up 3-0 against their division since the 2004 season.
  2. St. Louis defeated the Browns 24-6 at home last week, its first win this season against a non-divisional opponent. The Rams had just 150 net passing yards in that game, their fewest in a win since defeating the 49ers last season in Week 9 with only 102 net passing yards. The Rams now have gone five straight games with under 200 net passing yards, tied with the Steelers for the longest active streak in the league.
  3. The 49ers were defeated at home 20-3 last week against the Seahawks, putting up just 142 yards of total offense in that contest. The 49ers have been held to seven or fewer points three times this season, by far the most in the league (no other team has more than one such game).
  4. Colin Kaepernick threw for just 124 yards and was sacked six times in last week's loss to the Seahawks, and has now been sacked 25 times this season, tied with Alex Smith for second most in the league (Russell Wilson has been sacked 31 times, the most so far in 2015). In addition, Kaepernick had no rush attempts, the first time in his career he started a game and had no rush attempts (it was also the first time in a start he had zero or fewer rush yards).
  5. Nick Foles threw for 163 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in last week's victory over the Browns. Foles has averaged just 186.5 pass yards per game this season after averaging 270.4 pass yards per game last season, the largest decline among quarterbacks (minimum six starts each season).
  6. Todd Gurley rushed for 128 yards against the Browns last week, his third consecutive game with at least 120 rush yards. Gurley became just the fifth first-year player in NFL history to rush for 120 or more yards in three straight games (also Carnell Williams in 2005, Mike Anderson in 2000, Eric Dickerson in 1983 and Franco Harris in 1972).
  7. After posting back-to-back 100-yard receiving games in Weeks 5 and 6, Anquan Boldin was held to just 39 receiving yards and three receptions in last week's loss to the Seahawks. However, Boldin has 90 or more receiving yards in each of his last four games against the Rams, tied for the longest active streak by a player against an opponent (also Steve Smith Sr. against the Bears, Antonio Gates against the Packers and Larry Fitzgerald against the Redskins).

CBS Sports' NFL analysts Pete Prisco, Brady Quinn and Pat Kirwan break down the keys for the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams ahead of Sunday's Week 8 divisional showdown in St. Louis.