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Game Preview: 5 Things to Watch When the 49ers Host the Rams

The 2015 regular-season finale is upon us. Week 17 features an NFC West matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the visiting St. Louis Rams.

There are no playoff hopes on the line for either club which means divisional bragging rights is what players will be focused on. The 49ers will look to end their current three-game losing streak and avenge a 27-6 loss in St. Louis in Week 8.

The Rams have been surging of late and will aim to end their season on a four-game winning streak. A win would also give St. Louis its second straight victory at Levi's® Stadium.

Here are five things to watch in Sunday's contest.

1. Gabbert's final audition for 2016

There is no offseason scenario in which the quarterback position isn't a focal point for the 49ers, both internally and from those around the league. Has Blaine Gabbert done enough this season to warrant the starting job in 2016? Will Colin Kaepernick be with the 49ers next year? Is there a draft prospect the front office likes enough to select?

Those are all questions that will be answered during the coming months of the offseason.

For Gabbert, Week 17 will be his eighth start of the year. The quarterback has completed 63 percent of his passes this season for 1,677 yards, nine touchdowns and six picks. The efficiency has been there for the fifth-year signal-caller, but Gabbert's record is still 2-5 as the starter.

Gabbert has one year left on his contract and will likely be with the 49ers regardless of his play on Sunday. That said, Week 17 will be a prime opportunity for Gabbert to leave a positive impression on San Francisco's brass before decisions are made about the future of the quarterback position.

2. Timeshare at running back

Jarryd Hayne got the start last week and might be in line for another against the Rams. The Australian rookie turned 14 touches into 47 total yards in Week 16 against the Detroit Lions in what was his busiest day as a professional football player.

Mike Davis will also make his return to the lineup this weekend after missing seven games with a hand injury. The 2015 fourth-round pick has practiced the last two weeks and was activated on Saturday. It's unclear if Davis will be thrown into the fire or eased into Sunday's game. 

Kendall Gaskins and DuJuan Harris are the other running backs on San Francisco's active roster.

3. Containing Aaron Donald

The Rams star defensive lineman will be in the running for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Award. Donald has 11 sacks and 67 tackles, but only the tape can tell the true story of his dominance this season.

St. Louis' first-round pick from 2014 will keep the entire 49ers offensive line busy on Sunday, especially starting guards Erik Pears and Andrew Tiller.

4. Play a complete game offensively

San Francisco hasn't been able to avoid having a bad half in most games this year.

Last week the 49ers scored a season-high 17 points in the first half but failed to add to that total in the second half. San Francisco went into the halftime locker room down 24-0 the previous week against the Cincinnati Bengals. 

The examples could go on and on, but the point has been made. The 49ers need to find a way to find production offensively in all four quarters.

5. Final chapter for 2015 rookie class

Trent Brown, Arik Armstead, Eli Harold, Jaquiski Tartt and Davis are among the rookies who should see plenty of playing time against the Rams. It will be important for that group to walk off the field one final time this season feeling good about their rookie year, ready to attack their first offseason in the NFL.

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