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49ers vs. Rams: Gambling Odds, Chris Long Injury, Rams In "Playoff Mode"

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The 49ers travel to St. Louis to face the Rams on Sunday in a game both teams need to win. The 49ers will be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, while the Rams would drop into a tie with the 49ers and need a win over Seattle at Qwest Field and a 49ers loss to Arizona to get in the playoffs. Suffice to say, it's basically must-win territory for both teams.

The 49ers have actually won five straight games against the Rams dating back to 2008 and they've won 9 of 11 dating back to 2005. Of course, given the state of the NFC West in 2010, historical records really don't mean a whole lot. The Rams are currently sitting at anywhere from a point to two and a half point favorites. Over at Scores and Odds the line has risen from the original -1 to -2.5, which indicates people are putting money down on the Rams.

Although we won't know anything else until Wednesday, the 49ers might catch a bit of a break as defensive end Chris Long is dealing with a bruised thigh. He's apparently sore and day-to-day. Tomorrow will provide us with the first practice participation report which will give us a better idea of Long's status. If he is slowed down even a bit that would certainly be a plus for an often beleaguered 49ers offensive line. The 49ers gave up six sacks to the Chargers this past Thursday, which combined with all the QB hits is not a recipe for success.

Special teamer Brit Miller (of former 49ers fame) suffered a torn ACL against Kansas City and is done for the season. One of the rare highlights in an otherwise ugly season has been the return skills of Ted Ginn Jr. One of the real shames of this season is that the 49ers have been unable to take advantage of some of the great field position he has given them. Capitalizing on solid punt and kick returns is simply a must.

Aside from the on-field stuff, Turf Show Times had some interesting comments from the Rams, as well as their own pointed analysis of those comments:

Just as troubling as the results on the field was this quote from head coach Steve Spagnuolo following the game:

"Basically for us our regular season is over. Now it's a playoff mode for us."

Maybe you can argue the semantics of it. Technically, it's true. If the Rams lose next week, they're out of it. But it's not the technicality that should bother you. Why wasn't that the mentality before the Rams took the field this week?

Spagnuolo also made a comment (in the top TST link) about getting to work Wednesday and "try to win a football game."

Could this become the first playoff race showdown between two teams that may have trouble recognizing the urgency of the situation leading up to this game? Is this simply additional confirmation about the abysmal nature of our NFC West division? Earlier this season I remember hearing 49ers players talking about how it was NCAA tournament time because it was one-and-done time. I've heard that kind of talk numerous times so I'm honestly not sure when it was. All I know is it was before at least the most recent loss and possibly another loss before that. Consider the NFC West the consolation bracket of the NFL world.

Both the 49ers and Rams are coming off disheartening losses this past week, although one could argue the Rams loss at home to the Chiefs qualifies as a good deal worse than the 49ers loss at the Chargers. Earlier this week I remember seeing some comments in one thread about the idea of momentum and whether it really exists. Some were arguing that at most momentum can have an impact within a single series or a game as a whole, but beyond that there wasn't much impact.

I'd argue this idea could be tested this week, but all the games with NFC West playoff implications involve four teams coming off some manner of bad loss. We all know about the 49ers ugly loss at San Diego. The Rams and Seahawks both lost at home, although I think the Seahawks loss to the Falcons was a bit less surprising than the Rams ugly loss to the Chiefs. However, the Seahawks now head out to Tampa Bay to battle a Bucs team still in the wildcard race but coming off a truly disheartening and stunning loss at home to the Lions. In my hopes for a 49ers playoff berth, I have found myself concerned that the Bucs could find themselves suffering a hangover from that Lions loss. It's a plus that they still have something to play for so that at least that might bring them back from any malaise.

At the end of the day, the 49ers loss might qualify as the least painful from this past week all things considered. Of course that doesn't really mean much of anything given that the 49ers performances week to week are incredibly unpredictable. It's really hard to write about subjects like momentum and the playoff push given how the 49ers have performed this season. They've won two straight games once this season (Denver, St. Louis) and now they need to win two straight one more time to put themselves in a position to potentially secure a playoff berth.

I don't think any of us can predict whether that will happen, but I've got a poll up anyways for everyone to consider. Whether it matters depends on the Seahawks, but can the 49ers handle their own business?