Why Not Us? (Part 2)

Our St. Louis Rams had the second worst record in the NFL in 2008, just changed head coaches and have a team focused around one superstar, Steven Jackson.  The Rams just came off a very disappointing showing by their first team offense and defense against the Atlanta Falcons in their second preseason game.

But, the Rams have a few things going for them.  First is regression to the mean, their division and history.

First and foremost, the Rams play in the NFC West.  Three out of five of the last years, the NFC West has been won with a 9-7 record.  The NFC West is not the AFC East or South or the NFC East.  It is a step above the AFC West as far as quality of teams goes.  If someone is going to go from worst to first in a division, the NFC West is a great division to be in.  So, let’s look at the opposition in the NFC West and why they won’t be the division champions.

So, come take a ride with me on the unbridled optimism bandwagon after the jump as we look at the San Francisco 49ers.

So, it is easy to forget, but last year the San Francisco 49ers were in second place in the division at 7-9.  They were shrouded in a bit of scandal with new head coach Mike Singletary after he pulled down his pants for his half time speech, sent Vernon Davis to the locker room during the game and had several fiery press conferences.

San Francisco’s offense last year was bad, like -11.3 DVOA bad, good for 27th in the NFL.  They have named Shaun Hill their starting QB for 2009 over 1st overall selection and bust Alex Smith.  A full season of Shaun Hill should make the offense slightly better, but Isaac Bruce is there only wide receiver of note and he is attempting to slow father time.  Their 1st round pick, primadonna WR Michael Crabtree wants to do all sorts of things like destroy the draft slotting process and attempt to change the rules so he can retun to the draft in 2010.  The last thing Crabtree looks like he wants to do is sign a contract and actually play.  At this point, 2009 is already a lost year for Crabtree.

Their rush offense is much better with RB Frank Gore and newly-drafted RB Glen Coffee.  Look for improvement in their run offense this year.

As the above stats indicate, the Niners offensive line was 7th in run blocking and 31st pass blocking.

If the Rams can stop Frank Gore and company in the run and dare Shaun Hill to beat them, they will have a good shot at containing the 49ers offense.  Last year, the Rams were able to hold Frank Gore under wraps at the Edward Jones Dome until one long run broke their backs.  The Rams will just need a little improvement in their run defense, which they have upgraded with James Butler and  James Laurinaitis.

As for the defense, the 49ers run a 3-4 and were strong against the run (-2.4% DVOA where negative values are good.) and not good against the pass (15.7 DVOA).  However, if you look at the rankings, they are pretty much clustered.  Their run defense DVOA is 17th and their pass DVOA is 20th.  However, they were playing much worse defense later in the season to the tune of a weighted DVOA of 13%, nearly double of their season total.

Enough with the stats, the Niners have a talented linebacking corps lead by Takeo Spikes, Patrick Willis and Manny Lawson.

If the Rams can stop the pass rush long enough, Marc Bulger should be able to pick apart Dre’ Bly, Nate Clements and company.

The San Francisco 49ers probably played a little over their heads in 2008 to get to 7-9 and an improvement in the other members of the division will not bode well for their chances to have a winning record.  I don’t think the Niners will be able to take the NFC West in 2009.


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3 Responses to “Why Not Us? (Part 2)”

  1. Justin says:

    When you list those defensive players for the 49ers I would say they underachieved…

    Let’s face it, The Rams are in a winnable division and they still have no chance. The Ram’s need to hit more than once every 5 years with a single pick in a draft before they plan on being competitive. An identity would also be useful sometime this decade…

    Love the optimism, but I still require some convincing.

    • Jeff Roman says:

      I’m with you Justin. In reality, I don’t think the Rams will win the division. But, every team in the division is flawed. So, by reflecting on their flaws we can feel better about ours?

      Does that make sense or am I spouting off pop-psychology?

  2. Justin says:

    After reading today’s “Quote of the day” I have come around a bit. The Ram’s are building up in the right spots and if their O-line/D-line could just develop they could really make strides.

    It makes sense, you don’t really need the fearsome foursome when Shaun Hill is quarterbacking across from you.

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