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49ers vs. Rams: Another Week, Another Most Important Game Of The Season

I suppose that title is a really long way of saying this is a must win game. Monday Night Football is tonight, but for the NFC West week nine is in the books and the San Francisco 49ers are officially in their next game week. Last night Vernon Davis joined Raj Mathai on NBC's Sports Sunday and he mentioned that the team would be back at practice today after a few days off over the weekend.

The 49ers come off their bye week with the St. Louis Rams on the schedule. The Rams are also coming off a bye week and are one of the bigger surprises in the league, sitting in first place at 4-4. While we all probably saw this as a must-win game in the offseason, it's safe to say it was for wildly different reasons than currently facing the 49ers. Heading into the season many of us looked at the 49ers as a division contender that would roll through the Rams at Candlestick with relative ease. And for those not completely sold on the 49ers, I'd think some of you would have viewed this Rams game as one of the less threatening games on the schedule.

Of course now the 49ers find themselves and their upcoming opponent in distinctly different positions than expected back in August. The 49ers sit at 2-6 and are in a very precarious position. However, as we discussed yesterday in the game thread following the Cardinals and Seahawks separate losses, the NFC West is a truly dreadful division this year, leaving the door slightly ajar on the 49ers playoff chances. The chances remain slim, but the chances do still remain. Naturally that makes this Sunday's game a must win, although I'm sure some folks label it must lose for the draft implications.

The 49ers have absolutely obliterated this season thus far and somehow have managed to keep a toe in the playoff race. After yesterday's NFC West struggles, the 49ers now trail the first place Rams and Seahawks by only two games. As long as the 49ers remain inconsistent that two game separation might as well be a hundred games. But if the 49ers were to actually find some positive consistency, this Sunday could be the first step back to the top of the division.

The Rams are an intriguing opponent for the 49ers because it remains to be seen how good they actually are in 2010. They've split their first eight games so clearly they're not an awful football team. And at the end of the day, as long as you win games it doesn't matter how you do it. But for purposes of assessing them as an opponent, I really don't know what to think of them. They're 4-4 and are getting quality play from first round pick QB Sam Bradford. I'd say their schedule has much to do with their victories, but as a 49ers fan that argument only goes so far. They're quite the conundrum. It's an eminently winnable game, but we all know the 49ers have rarely won winnable games in 2010.

Now I know some folks don't enjoy the glass half full posts, but given the state of the NFC West, a playoff spot does remain a possibility in 2010. Maybe it's not a great shot, but epic mediocrity does have its benefits. At one point I would have argued the AFC West could contend with the NFC West for worst division honors. However, the Raiders and Chiefs are both playing quite well and until the Chargers lose in December under Norv Turner, that's a third solid team. In the NFC West, the only consistency is inconsistency.

As bignerd stated yesterday, the NFC West really is the Hostess Cupcake Division. As long as the 49ers play in this inept division, there's always a chance! Consider this the new official video of Niners Nation if they can keep winning.