Less than eight months removed from a Super Bowl appearance, the San Francisco 49ers are immersed in controversy on and off the field heading into Thursday night's matchup at the St. Louis Rams. San Francisco has dropped two straight, including a stunning 27-7 defeat at home to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. No team played the 49ers tougher last season than the AFC West rival Rams, who battled to a 24-24 tie in San Francisco and beat them in overtime in St. Louis.
The 49ers' issues go beyond back-to-back inept performances - the team is under siege for allowing sack specialist Aldon Smith to play in Sunday's game only two days after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Smith, who has a history of off-field issues, will enter a rehab facility to receive treatment and will miss Thursday's game. St. Louis is seeking a bounce-back effort after it was demolished by the Dallas Cowboys 31-7.
TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network. LINE: 49ers -3. O/U: 42.
ABOUT THE 49ERS (1-2): Losing in Seattle in Week 2 wasn't a surprise for San Francisco, but getting bulldozed by the Colts on both sides of the ball sent shock waves through the league. Colin Kaepernick turned in a breathtaking performance by throwing for 412 yards in the season opener but has tossed four interceptions and been limited to a combined 277 yards while leading the 49ers to only 10 points in the past two weeks. The absence of tight end Vernon Davis (hamstring) hurt versus the Colts, while the normally stout defense saw All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis exit Sunday's game with a groin injury.
ABOUT THE RAMS (1-2): St. Louis posted a gritty comeback victory over Arizona in its season opener but has fallen behind by at least 21 points in back-to-back road losses to Atlanta and Dallas. Quarterback Sam Bradford threw for a season-low 240 yards and was sacked six times against the Cowboys while receiving little help from a ground game that saw starting running back Daryl Richardson play only one snap due to a foot injury. Rookie wideout Tavon Austin, the team's first-round draft pick, has six receptions in each of the first three games but is averaging only 6.6 yards per catch.
1. Kaepernick made his third career start at St. Louis last season and had a safety and lost a fumble that was returned for a TD.
2. The Rams tied for the lead league with 52 sacks last season, but have only seven through the first three games.
3. LB Smith was second in the league with 19.5 sacks in 2012 and has registered 37 in 35 games.
PREDICTION: 49ers 23, Rams 17