The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play a 3-5 St. Louis Rams team with a battered offensive line and an aging running back, Steven Jackson. Still, to hear 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh tell it, he's not overconfident heading into the Sunday game to Candlestick Park.
"They present all kind of problems along the (defensive) front, the linebackers. (They are) very good in the secondary," Harbaugh said of the Rams. "You're worried, you're nervous."
While he didn't say it, Harbaugh also might be concerned about circumstances. This is only the second game the 49ers will play in 24 days. Rust could be a factor, as could the looming Monday night game against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 19.
The Rams also present legitimate problems. They added speed in their wide receiver corps. Quarterback Sam Bradford is a natural thrower, and the team became tougher with the additions of cornerback Cortland Finnegan and guard Harvey Dahl. Both players are known for rough tactics, and they specialize in getting opposing players out of their game.
In fact, the Rams' current state is similar to where the 49ers were a couple of years ago. Bradford's development has been stunted by rotating offensive coordinators, a lack of receiving weapons and a porous offensive line. Now with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the Rams have a familiar offense -- one that is best on shifts and motions and a variety of personnel groups.
St. Louis just isn't as advanced as the 49ers because Schottenheimer is in his first year teaching the offense. The Rams also will be playing with an edge and a little desperation. They need a win to stay alive in the NFC West, and they are eager to forget the 45-7 thrashing they received from the New England Patriots in London on Oct. 28 in their most recent game.
It's no wonder Harbaugh is nervous.