With Rams-Niners week reaching a fever pitch, this makes a perfect opportunity to reach out to Josh at The Red and Gold to exchange some questions and answers. (You may remember Josh's work from Niners Nuggets on the Fanball network -- like us, he has migrated over to Bloguin and is keeping the fire burning.)
RamsHerd: Are you surprised that Singletary went with Troy Smith in this game, and do you think it's the right move?
The Red and Gold: I wish I was more surprised by Singletary's move back to Troy Smith. Fact is, Alex Smith had his last legitimate chance against the Chargers and laid a big egg. Troy Smith is more mobile, more apt to make the big plays and has a good grasp of the system. I also think it's a plus that he performed very well against the Rams in San Francisco back in week 10 with 356 yards passing and a touchdown with no interceptions.
Mike Singletary and offensive coordinator Mike Johnson seem to have the 'which Smith' debate every week. I've never been an Alex Smith fan and I think going with Troy Smith for this game is the right decision.
RH: The Niners' offense was wide open in your first matchup with the Rams. Should we expect more of the same, or was that an aberration?
TR&G: It's a little tough to predict because the 49ers offense has been so erratic and inconsistent all year but with Troy Smith at the helm and with the 49ers season on the line, I would anticipate it being a wide open game. I think Troy will be throwing a lot downfield and hopefully keeping the Rams off-balance with his threat to run. Alex Smith at QB is a little more conservative but I'll be we see Troy taking his fair share of shots downfield and continuing to get Brian Westbrook involved in the offense.
RH: Your draft this year produced two key components toward rebuilding the offensive line. How have they performed, and did they fill the team's biggest need?
TR&G: Both Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati filled big needs for the 49ers and both have performed well. Davis has had more struggles this season but it seems like he'll be a good long-term solution. As for Iupati, I've read that some already consider him one of the top 5 guards in the NFL, regardless of experience. That might be a bit of a stretch, but he has definitely played well and is much more consistent. As you know, the less you hear about an offensive lineman, the better he is. That has been the case much more with Iupati than Davis.
As for biggest need, it is clear this season that the 49ers have more needs than they thought. Their three biggest needs this offseason (in my opinion) will be quarterback, head coach and offensive coordinator. The defense has also been a disappointment and addressing a cornerback and probably outside linebacker will be critical as well.
RH: Obviously, this isn't the year most people thought the 49ers would have. Does the possibility of winning the division absolve all wounds, or are there troubles that run so deep that this team is in need of change regardless?
TR&G: If the 49ers somehow win this weak division, I don't think all will be absolved - unless they go deeper into the playoffs. There are too many big issues on this team. Mike Singletary is not the team's long-term solution at head coach and I don't think should be coaching any team for a while. He would make a good coordinator but he just isn't ready. The 49ers are working on building a new stadium in Santa Clara and need all of the good will and fan support they can get. They are not going to get it by underwhelming next season again. The 49ers fired their offensive coordinator, Jimmy Raye, a few games into the season and replaced him with Mike Johnson. He's not ready either to call the offense for an NFL team. It starts at the top and goes from there. I think the 49ers next year will be a drastically different team on the field and in the front office.
RH: Game prediction?
TR&G: I am going to be optimistic and say 23-19 (I am also optimistic on my fantasy team as well since I have Josh Brown as my kicker). I think the 49ers squeak this one out like the last one...