On their way to the Super Bowl last season, the 49ers couldn't solve one team: the Rams. St. Louis beat San Francisco once and the teams played to a tie, rare blemishes on the 49ers' record.
Jim Harbaugh's team gets another shot at the Rams on Thursday night, and the 49ers (No. 12 in the AP Pro32) are 3-point favorites over No. 23 St. Louis.
Coming off successive losses in which their offense was awful, the 49ers are in turmoil. Linebacker Aldon Smith is taking a leave of absence to deal with personal problems. At least in a short week, they have no choice but to concentrate heavily on football.
''I think it's a distraction to whoever wants to think about it, to whoever wants to pay attention to it,'' cornerback Carlos Rogers said. ''When I get out there on the field and play, I'm thinking about playing whatever team, I'm not thinking about Aldon and whatever situation went on with him.''
Pretty good advice, especially facing Jeff Fisher's Rams, who also come off a poor outing. One of the NFL's top coaches for two decades, Fisher is likely to have St. Louis ready for the defending NFC West champs.
''We've been on the losing end of a lot of games, this organization has,'' Fisher said. ''Now last year, we got our feet back on the map, but I don't think there's a rivalry yet. It's a division opponent. It's a big challenge for us on a short week, but I don't necessarily see it as a rivalry yet. Hopefully, it will become one.''
This game could help do that.
No. 21 Philadelphia (plus 10 1/2) at No. 1 Denver
Eagles will score some points. Broncos will score many, many points.
BEST BET: BRONCOS, 40-24
No. 3 Chicago (plus 2 1/2) at No. 15 Detroit
Was tempted to make this BEST BET, too.
UPSET SPECIAL: BEARS, 26-13
No. 8 Baltimore (minus 3 1/2) at No. 24 Buffalo
Along with UPSET SPECIAL, another road team win.
No. 9 Cincinnati (minus 4 1/2) at No. 25 Cleveland
No. 26 Washington (minus 3) at No. 30 Oakland
You get the message.
No. 2 Seattle (minus 3) at No. 11 Houston
A real road test for Seahawks. Win convincingly and they rule the NFC. Nope ...
No. 7 Miami (plus 6) at No. 4 New Orleans, Monday night
A real road test for Dolphins. Win in any manner and playoff goals look real. Nope ...
No. 10 Indianapolis (minus 8 1/2) at No. 32 Jacksonville
Lay the points against Jags until they show something.
No. 5 New England (plus 1 1/2) at No. 16 Atlanta
Falcons need to figure out their problems now. Tough chore, but doable.
No. 28 Minnesota (plus 1) vs. No. 27 Pittsburgh
The first of two London games. What a dud the Brits are getting.
No. 22 Arizona (plus 3) at No. 31 Tampa Bay
Turmoil in Tampa leaves Bucs vulnerable, even to injury-ravaged Cardinals.
No. 29 New York Giants (plus 4 1/2) at No. 6 Kansas City
Giants yielded seven sacks to Panthers. Chiefs REALLY know how to get after QBs.
No. 18 New York Jets (plus 4) at No. 17 Tennessee
Two coaches on hot seats whose teams are producing.
No. 13 Dallas (minus 1 1/2) at No. 19 San Diego
Would Cowboys clinch NFC East with win? Not quite.
Against spread: 8-7-1 (23-22-3). Straight up: 10-6 (33-15).
Best Bet: 2-1 against spread, 3-0 straight up.
Upset special: 1-2 against spread, 1-2 straight up.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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