Los Angeles Rams (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. San Francisco 49ers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: Monday, September 12, 2016 at 10:20PM EST
Where: Levis Stadium, Santa Clara, California
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LA -2.5/SF +2.5
Over/Under Total: 44
On Monday Night Football, the Los Angeles Rams make the trip up north to face the San Francisco 49ers in a key week one NFC West battle. Its the re-debut of the reformed L.A. Rams after 21 seasons in St. Louis. While its a fresh start and theres a good feeling about returning home, the Rams mean business this season, with Jeff Fisher in his fifth year and it being high-time that hire paid off. They face a San Fran bunch also looking for a fresh start under new head coach Chip Kelly. Things officially bottomed out last season at 5-11, with the Niners fading back to the pack. Can Kelly get them on the right track?
The feeling of Kelly at his former gig in Philly is that he left a stink behind him, fired before the season even ended last year. Never mind that he actually inherited a 4-12 team and immediately got them into the postseason, starting his coaching career with two straight ten-win seasons. After one bad season, he was cast as a villain. Granted, the follow-though on the initial signs of promise were not there, but there were positive things that happened in Philadelphia with Chip Kelly at the helm. Is the situation too far gone in San Francisco, though?
Granted, Blaine Gabbert added some pep to the Frisco offense last season when he was behind center. But to have a guy with an 8-27 career record as a starter, while former star QB Colin Kaepernick makes headlines for anything but his play is not what this franchise drew up as their plan. They look to be going with RB Carlos Hyde, who needs to establish himself as a serviceable back after an inconsistent season cut short by injuries. At receiver, the cast of Quinton Patton, TE Vance McDonald, and Torrey Smith is bordering on horrible. The line added an interesting piece or two inside, which could help spring Hyde more. Maybe some Chip Kelly pixie dust can result in something. On paper, however, its not a group that looks much better than 2015s last-ranked scoring offense at 14.9 points per game.
When San Francisco fails to even field a marginally-stout D, you know they have problems. Last season saw them bottom out as the leagues 29th-ranked unit. Certainly, having the leagues most-futile offense wasnt going to help, but even the few times the offense was on-point, the defense wasnt very good. Left in the mix are vets NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooksstill effective in the middle. DeForest Buckner, a first-round pick in this years draft, and Arik Armstead looks to give the line a big boost, as the Oregon products are two of the more interesting young D-lineman. The pass-defense needs to get better with S Antoine Bethea, S Eric Reid, CB Tremaine Brock, and CB Jimmie Ward.
The Rams havent done anything yet. They moved to LA, which you would figure could pump some more life into this franchise after a stale period in St. Louis. It just seems like every season under Fisher, were making a case on why they should improve and they never do. You look at this offense and nothing grabs you other than monster-in-the-making Todd Gurley. The second-year back went for 1106 yards on just 12 starts last season and could carry this offense on his back. He might have to.
Its not clear what to make of the Jared Goff situation, as the number-one pick couldnt usurp Case Keenum at quarterbackand some say he didnt even surpass Sean Mannion. You wonder if thats the best long-term decision or if its what Fisher feels is best for the short-term. After a 27-36-1 start to his career, he doesnt have the luxury of working through the inevitable bumps of a rookie quarterbacks season. One possible upside is the growth of the offensive line, which features Greg Robinson, Rob Haverstein, Tim Barnes, Rodger Saffold, and Jamon Brown. If this bunch can stay healthy, it could form into a real asset to the overall team effort.
Keenum is going to need all the help he can get. Having a compelling weapon like Gurley is nice, but for a team with postseason aspirations, theyre going to need more. Tavon Austin is a real weapon, but more of a versatile tool and not an impact position player per se. The WR crew of Kenny Britt, Austin, and Brian Quick looks pretty bland. Keenum was a ball of fire for Houston in college, but hasnt been able to replicate that menace in the pros. At the same time, he is 5-2 in his last 7 NFL starts and was impressive enough in camp to get the nod.
With the offense looking dicey outside of Gurley, the Rams defense is going to be depended on to make a major impact. They werent good last season. Again, they have a fearsome line, led by supernatural Aaron Donald at DT. Defensive end Robert Quinn being healthy this season would be a great development. Michael Brockers is a solid contributor, as is William Hayes. Losing Chris Long and James Laurinaitis is not going to help in the front seven. Still, they look strong in the middle, as well, with Akeem Ayers, Mark Barron, and Alec Ogletree. The big issue could be the secondary. A group that wasnt very good in 2015 loses Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Some of their depth will need to manifest, but its something worth watching as we head into the new season.
If theres any team where youd like to see one game before getting involved, it might be the San Francisco 49ers. Theres just some nagging sense that theyre not the hopeless mess they look to be on paper. The Rams are not a complete team by any stretch, but they have a compelling force at running back and a pretty strong front seven on defense. Unless San Francisco is able to spring something forth that no ones counting on, wins might be hard to come by this season. I see the Rams nipping a cover in this one.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Los Angeles Rams minus 2.5 points.
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