The 49ers enter tomorrow's home game with the Rams as rather overwhelming favorites. Or at least, overwhelming gambling favorites. It's got some folks around here rather confident, even without Frank Gore in the lineup. It's safe to say it's been quite a while since there's been kind of confidence heading into any 49ers game.
Of course, the common refrain in the NFL is that on any given Sunday, any NFL team can supposedly beat any other NFL team. When your team is hot you hate to hear that and it can come across as a bit Debbie Downer-ish. Nonetheless, for a game like this it's certainly worth at least pondering the other end of the confidence spectrum. Fortunately for us, somebody has gone about researching game probabilities: the good people of Advanced NFL Stats.
Much of our statistical analysis at NN comes from Football Outsiders, but obviously they're not the only show in town. I actually came across this particular information via Mike Sando's NFC West blog over at the world wide leader. I won't even begin to try and explain how all this works, but for now, there's the explanation at their site and then the author of the site explains it a bit for the New York Times' Fifth Down Blog.
The crux of this particular information is that the St. Louis Rams have a 23% chance of beating the 49ers this week. To compare with the rest of the division, the Seahawks have a 13% chance of winning in Indianapolis (the Cardinals have a bye).
So what exactly would it take for the Rams to pull an upset in San Francisco? One could argue the potential for the team to come out flat following last week's ending. That's certainly a possibility, but I'd like to think Mike Singletary is the X-factor that can prevent that. Obviously I have no concrete proof of that, but I'm more hoping based on his motivational abilities. I'd like to think the 49ers are a team that can, for the most part, avoid coming out flat.
In terms of straight personnel and Xs and Os, any chance of a Rams upset would probably come down to two things. First, how the Rams defense handles Glen Coffee and Michael Robinson. If they can shut the running game down they would put themselves in a position to succeed. Obviously the 49ers passing attack could find success, but given the overall struggles of the 49ers offense, one can argue the Rams would be in a much better position.
The second thing is the turnover battle. Obviously they'll want to force 49ers turnovers, but just as important is protecting the ball against an aggressive, swarming 49ers defense. The 49ers defense has shown great improvement and if the Rams are going to have any chance of winning, they'll need to avoid any turnovers.
I realize this is not a Rams blog, but I nonetheless think there is value in considering potential worst case scenarios. We've stated plenty of times that the 49ers have to win this game and have no excuses to lose the game. Nonetheless, as history shows us, anything is possible.