NFC West: Dolphins-Rams

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, please rise and acknowledge Leesters and evenkill72 for comings closest in our latest "You called it" score predictions for NFC West games.

Leesters, who predicted the Bears' 27-3 victory against the Rams in Week 12, forecasted a 24-12 Dolphins victory over the Rams in Week 13. Actual score: 16-12. The eight-point differential for this game came closer than anyone. Noahhasabs was second with a 20-6 prediction, good for a 10-point differential.

Evenkill72, who came closest to predicting the Eagles' 48-20 victory over the Cardinals in Week 12, predicted a 20-17 victory for the 49ers in Week 13. He missed by 24 points -- 10-3 was the final score -- but no one came closer. Quite a few people predicted a Bills victory.

Four people predicted every NFC West outcome correctly in Week 13: evenkill72, digitool, sremuggs1 and poolenium. Of the four, evenkill72 came closest to hitting actual scores on average. Way to go.

The Wall of Fame remains unchanged following Week 13. We take a quick moment to acknowledge our two WOF members:

  • Elion245. Forecast the Redskins' 20-17 victory over the Seahawks in Week 12.
  • Leesters. Forecast the Bears' 27-3 victory over the Rams in Week 12.
The fine print: Those submitting predictions must pick the winner correctly for their scores to be considered. Scoring is easy to calculate. The difference between a 20-17 prediction and a 31-14 outcome would be 14 points. We would calculate this by adding the difference between 20 and 31 to the difference between 17 and 14.

Rapid Reaction: Dolphins 16, Rams 12

November, 30, 2008
11/30/08
4:28
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams, blown away more often than not lately, hung tough and lost a close one for a change. The close call won't do anything to endear Marc Bulger to the St. Louis fans, however.

Bulger tossed three second-half interceptions while completing only 46 percent of his passes with a 4.3-yard average per attempt. His 22.2 passer rating came despite strong production from Steven Jackson in the running back's first game back from injury. The Rams' defense also showed improvement in holding the Dolphins to one touchdown.

Jackson carried 15 times for 72 yards in the first half. He carried only six times for 22 yards in the second half, when Bulger's interceptions prevented the Rams from sustaining drives.

Life could get tougher for the Rams in the short term as they travel to face the Cardinals in Week 14. Arizona will be playing for the NFC West title after an extended layoff.

Rams, 49ers better than half bad

November, 30, 2008
11/30/08
2:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The 49ers hold a 10-0 lead over the Bills at halftime. The Rams are hanging tough with the Dolphins, trailing 10-9 at halftime.

The 49ers are sticking to Mike Singletary's run-heavy approach, then finding openings with selective throws downfield. Jason Hill again looks good as a receiver. Frank Gore ran the ball on the 49ers' first five plays of the game. We're seeing the 49ers using two tight ends most of the time, including when they line up Sean Ryan as the fullback for I-formation looks. This is working pretty well. Niners linebackers Patrick Willis forced a Marshawn Lynch fumble, setting up a 49ers field goal right before halftime.

San Francisco's Shaun Hill is a better quarterback than the Bills' Trent Edwards right now, from what I am seeing. He fits the way the 49ers want to play on offense. The Bills' inability to get a pass rush is helping Hill show what he can do when he has ample time and a reliable ground game. Hill should factor in the 49ers' quarterback equation in some capacity next season.

The Rams had Orlando Pace, Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson in the starting lineup for the first time since Week 6. The combination has helped Jackson rush for 72 yards on 15 carries in the first half even though Bulger has shaky numbers so far. Improved play down the stretch with Pace, Bulger and Jackson in the lineup could give the Rams something to build around. We still don't have enough evidence to suggest Pace can stay healthy for a full season, though.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Eagles' 48-20 victory over the Cardinals wasn't close to what anyone predicted during the most recent "You called it" item.

Evenkill72 came within 21 points with a 42-35 prediction. No one came closer. Digitool finished second with a 22-point differential (27-21 prediction). 

ASKilroy, NEforAZ and dickster944 came within one point of predicting the Cowboys' 34-9 victory over the Seahawks. Each predicted a 34-10 outcome. Way to go.

Do the 49ers have a realistic chance at Buffalo? Can the Rams finally do something right when the Dolphins visit? You've got until kickoff Sunday to make your predictions in the comments section of this item.

A few made their predictions in a previous item. I'll honor those predictions because I noticed them. Noahhasabs sees a 20-6 Dolphins victory. Digitool picked the 49ers (24-16) and Dolphins (28-13). Slotterhouse picked the Bills (17-6) and Dolphins (24-9). Pete Reggio picked the Bills (34-23) and Dolphins (27-17). Kwilson1985 picked the 49ers (27-23). Evenkill72 picked the 49ers (20-17) and Dolphins (35-9).

This is your chance to earn a spot on the Wall of Fame, reserved for those who pick scores and outcomes exactly. Current WOF members:

  • Elion245. Forecast the Redskins' 20-17 victory over the Seahawks in Week 12.
  • Leesters. Forecast the Bears' 27-3 victory over the Rams in Week 12.
The fine print: Those submitting predictions must pick the winner correctly for their scores to be considered. Scoring is easy to calculate. The difference between a 20-17 prediction and a 31-14 outcome would be 14 points. We would calculate this by adding the difference between 20 and 31 to the difference between 17 and 14.

Audibles: NFC West Week 13 preview

November, 28, 2008
11/28/08
3:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

San Francisco 49ers (3-8) at Buffalo Bills (6-5), 1 p.m. ET

The 49ers can make it 0-for-15 among teams traveling west to east across a 3-hour time difference this season. Seattle (0-4), Oakland (0-3), San Diego (0-3), Arizona (0-3) and San Francisco (0-1) have combined for an 0-14 record in games starting at 10 a.m. PT.

The Cardinals' defeat to the Eagles on Thursday night didn't qualify because Arizona is on Mountain time and does not adjust for daylight savings.

The early start isn't the 49ers' only enemy at Ralph Wilson Stadium. San Francisco's defense has allowed nine passing touchdowns over its last four games despite holding the Rams to one during a 35-16 victory in Week 11. The Bills aren't a great passing team, but they are coming of a 54-point showing at Kansas City.

Miami Dolphins (6-5) at St. Louis Rams (2-9), 1 p.m. ET

The Rams hope to have Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson and Orlando Pace in the starting lineup together for the first time since Week 6. They also hope it makes a difference.

Bulger has taken too many hits to trust his protection and run the offense with confidence. Jackson figures to be rusty if he returns, and his durability is in question. Pace is still a good player when healthy, but an offensive tackle can do only so much.

And it's not as though the Rams' defense has shown signs of picking up the slack. This game qualifies as a must-win for the Dolphins as they make a playoff push. Their ground game should punish the Rams' poor-tackling defense.

Around the NFC West: Big Three back?

November, 27, 2008
11/27/08
11:11
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams could have Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson and Orlando Pace back Sunday. The three haven't started a game together since a 19-17 victory over the Redskins in Week 6.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams guard Richie Incognito is apologizing to fans for the criticism he directed their way.

Also from Coats: The Rams' recently concussed quarterback should be able to start against the Dolphins.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams can find hope in the fortunes of three opponents. The Jets, Falcons and Dolphins are playoff contenders after suffering through horrendous seasons in 2007.

Also from Thomas: An explanation for what made Jim Haslett yell at officials in a display that cost him $20,000.

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