NFL Picks: Rams vs. 49ers

Jason Lake

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 4:23 PM UTC

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 4:23 PM UTC

The San Francisco 49ers have beaten the NFL odds in seven of their last eight games. But the pesky St. Louis Rams stand between them and paydirt this Sunday.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to November 25 inclusive:

28-25-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

5-10-1 Totals

It’s go time for the San Francisco 49ers. They came into the 2013 NFL season as 6-1 co-Super Bowl favorites with the Denver Broncos, encountered some early turbulence with injuries and the Aldon Smith Incident, then proceeded to rattle off five straight wins before tripping up against the Carolina Panthers (+6 away) and the New Orleans Saints (–3.5 at home). Things went much more smoothly this past Monday, as San Francisco torched Washington 27-6 as a 5.5-point road chalk to improve to 7-4 SU and 8-3 ATS.

The Niners had better keep winning, or they won’t even make the playoffs. The 10-1 Seattle Seahawks have a stranglehold on the NFC West, and the 7-4 Arizona Cardinals are tied with San Francisco for the last Wild Card spot in the conference. But there’s one more team in the NFC West with a say in things. The St. Louis Rams (5-6 SU and ATS) have been very pesky indeed, winning their last two games and covering five of their past seven. St. Louis is a 9-point dog on the early NFL lines for Sunday’s big matchup at The Stick (4:05 p.m. ET, FOX).

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All Hands on Deck

Depending on what side you’ve been betting, San Francisco’s ability to weather the storm this year has been either highly impressive or incredibly frustrating. I was fading the Niners early before it became clear that they weren’t falling apart at the seams. Now they’ve got almost all their players back and relatively healthy; WR Michael Crabtree (Achilles’ tendon) is expected to make his season debut this week, joining recently-returned WR Mario Manningham alongside WR Anquan Boldin and TE Vernon Davis.

Now maybe we’ll see QB Colin Kaepernick work the same kind of magic that he did in 2012 when he took the starting job away from Alex Smith. Kaepernick (56.7 CMP%, 5.5 yards per carry) has taken a step back statistically, falling from No. 3 in passing DVOA last year to No. 19 through Week 11, but in Week 12, he had his best game of the season against Washington’s weak defense: 15-of-24 for 235 yards, three TDs and zero picks. Crabtree’s arrival should help Kaepernick stay on the good foot.

Colonel Stacy

The Rams were also supposed to hit the skids after losing QB Sam Bradford (torn ACL) in Week 7. Instead, they’ve covered three of their four games with Kellen Clemens at the helm, and Clemens seems to be getting more and more comfortable in his new role. He was still below replacement level through Week 11 at minus-55 passing DYAR, and No. 38 overall in passing DVOA, but Clemens managed to post plus-25 DYAR in last week’s 42-21 win over the Chicago Bears (+1 away).

The real turnaround for the Rams, however, came in Week 5 when rookie RB Zac Stacy (4.4 yards per carry, 16 catches) was thrown into the mix. Stacy has been a major upgrade over Daryl Richardson (3.1 yards per carry), and St. Louis is 4-3 SU and 5-2 ATS since making the change. Which is why everyone in Mound City got really, really nervous when Stacy was knocked out of the Bears game with a concussion. His status for Sunday’s matchup remained uncertain as we went to press.

If Stacy can’t go on Sunday, then it looks like St. Louis will go with RB Benny Cunningham, an undrafted rookie from Middle Tennessee State with good power and a solid attitude. Cunningham flattened the Bears for 109 yards and a TD on 13 carries in relief of Stacy; that was against the No. 15-ranked rush defense in the league, and San Francisco wasss No. 20 in that department before holding Washington to 100 yards rushing.

That’s the puncher’s chance the Rams bring to the field on Sunday. I’m usually not inclined to eat this much chalk against a live team, but the Niners are on a roll, and the weather report for San Fran calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-50s. May the prolate spheroid be with you.

NFL Pick: Take the Niners –8.5 (–105) at Pinnacle

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