As I wrote recently, this is not yet the time to write the season off. There is still a lot of football to play. However, to have a chance at the playoffs is to be competitive in the division where the Niners are three games behind Seattle, and two behind the Rams whom the 49ers play on Sunday. This game marks the start of a tough stretch of games vs LA, New England, Seattle, Green Bay and New Orleans. At which point comes the bye week, which will likely be very welcomed.

The 49ers roster has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and Sunday should see the return of several players fresh off the injury report; such as corner Emmanuel Moseley. Kwon Alexander won’t play, so Dre Greenlaw will step in like he did last year. Veteran Richard Sherman suffered a setback recently and the team will not be getting him back as quickly as previously imagined. Coach Shanahan provided an update on his status this week.

“Sherm got the injections and stuff,” Shanahan said. “I know now is a matter of time resting it, and you don’t go out and see if they’ve worked yet. You let the injections do their course, and you see how it is, whether it’s next week or the week after.”

Coach Shanahan gave the media an update on Sherman’s status.

Of course the biggest question is when the O-line will start to gel as a unit, and, going up against the league’s premiere interior lineman, means that we should all hope that that starts now. Again, the players are talented enough; it’s just not clear if the issue is communication, assignment knowledge or protection calls. Whatever the reason, week 6 is long enough to wait to get clicking.

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The offensive key will be balancing the YAC attack with an effective running game — something that of late, with the O-line issues, has been missing and is obviously pivotal in the system.

Last season the 49ers swept the Rams beating them soundly 20-7 in the first game, whilst the second game was a much more competitive affair, ending at 34-31. The biggest changes to the Rams are the release of Todd Gurley and Clay Matthews & the retirement of Eric Weddle.

Aaron Donald vs Ben Garland

Garland will need to recognise, adjust to and communicate the defensive front looks well with the rest of the line. Donald will likely be facing mostly double teams (not that that usually worries him) opening a gap for the pass rushing LBs – Troy Reeder had 3 sacks vs Washington last week. Donald is the ultimate disruptor, and the O-line will need to be on their A game, and that starts at center.

Jimmy Garoppolo vs the Pocket Ghosts

Last week we could see that Jimmy got happy feet, sensing phantom pressures and making what looked like panicked throws unnecessarily. Nursing an ankle injury, perhaps that’s to be expected, but he didn’t shake it off and was relieved of his duties at the half. With the problems Donald and Brockers bring, Jimmy will need good awareness to be able to get through his reads, move in the pocket and flick the ball out of there with his patented speed, but if he can’t keep his composure or he struggles, Kyle has confirmed that he’ll pull him again.

Winning in the NFL is hard. Playing a great game following an abysmal performance is hard. Creating a cohesive unit from a group of experienced quality players is hard. These are the challenges for this game, which sees the previous two NFC champions going head to head. In my opinion, for success this season, the 49ers don’t have to win, but definitely need to turn in a performance to be proud of in order to build momentum and confidence to start collecting W’s. It’s not time to write off the season, but the Niners must get to the bye with better than a .500 record to have a chance to make even the extended group of playoff teams. Last week we got offensive support back from injury, this week there’s defensive reinforcements. We are slowly running out of time to turn this thing around. From this point of view, if the Niners do lose on Sunday, the next few games are must wins. But, as ever, NFL teams focus on the current game, and this one will show the character of the team, the coaching adjustments and the will to be the best in the league.

Prediction: 49ers 42-35

What are your thoughts on this game and it’s RAMifications? Tweet me @TaggSimon