The San Francisco 49ers will look to notch their first NFC West victory of the season when they travel to St. Louis for a Week 8 road contest against the Rams.
San Francisco enters the game with a 2-5 record and will have had 10 days to prepare for the Rams following a loss to the Seattle Seahawks on "Thursday Night Football."
St. Louis owns a 3-3 record and is coming off of a decisive, 24-6 win in Week 7 against the Cleveland Browns.
The 49ers own a 65-63-3 edge in the all-time series and have won three of their last four contests against the Rams. Additionally, San Francisco has come away victorious in its last three games at the Edward Jones Dome.
Here are the five biggest storylines to watch on Sunday from St. Louis. 1. Will Simpson be active?
If active, Simpson will see his first regular season action since 2013. The veteran receiver would also be making his 49ers debut after signing with San Francisco as a free agent during the offseason.
Anquan Boldin, who is questionable with a hamstring injury, told the media on Friday that there's "no doubt" that he plays on Sunday. That doesn't help Simpson's chances of being active, but coaches indicated this week that the wideout returned from suspension in playing shape.
2. The start for Tartt
Nothing is official as of yet, but safety Jaquiski Tartt is expected to get his first-career start against the Rams in Week 8.
The opportunity comes after Antoine Bethea was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Tartt is no stranger to the field, however, as he has played in each of the team's first seven games of the season. San Francisco's second-round pick in 2015 has 17 tackles and one sack to his name and said on Friday that his experience early in the year has prepared him for the expanded role.
"It benefits me because once I'm out there, I'm confortable and I'm not nervous or anything," Tartt said. "I'm just trying to focus on my job assignments and play fast." 3. Contain Todd Gurley
The Rams stud rookie runner has at least 20 touches in each of his last three games. Gurley has also rushed for more than 100 yards in each of those contests. St. Louis is the 32nd ranked passing team in the league so it's no secret that they're going to get their new workhorse back as many carries as possible.
Stopping Gurley won't be easy given the volume of touches he'll see, but winning on first and second down to set up passing situations on third down will help contain him. Making Rams quarterback Nick Foles beat them should be the goal for the 49ers.
4. Convert on third down
This one is straight forward.
In Week 7 against the Seahawks, the 49ers offense converted just 1-of-11 third-down attempts (nine percent).
In the previous two games against the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens – which were also the team's two best offensive performances of the season – the 49ers were a combined 13-of-27 on third down (more than 48 percent).
This is always a key stat going into any game, but even more so for the 49ers this weekend on the heels of a sluggish offensive outing against the Seahawks. 5. Protect Kap
On paper, this is a strength versus weakness scenario benefiting the Rams.
St. Louis' defense ranks tied for third in the NFL with 23 sacks on the season
Conversely, the 49ers offense has allowed 25 this year, fourth most in the league. Six of those sacks came last Thursday when the Seahawks consistently pressured Colin Kaepernick.
Keeping Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald and the rest of St. Louis' talented defensive front at bay will be a tall, but crucial task for San Francisco on Sunday.
"They're playing at a high level," Joe Staley said on Friday. "They have a ton of guys in that line that are high draft picks for them. Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn are two of the top guys in the league at their position. They're all playing at a high level. It's a huge challenge for us."