Originally posted on This Given Sunday  |  Last updated 11/29/12
  Does anyone really think that Jim Harbaugh will ever go back to Alex Smith? Barring injury of course, it is clear the second year coach is going to ride the second year pro Colin Kaepernick as far as possible.  After walking in and taking the league by storm last season, with the most stout defence in the league, the 49ers have had all the pieces needed to be an elite team. That is expect the man under centre. Alex Smith has been moulded into as good of a player as he will ever be by Harbaugh, and may actually be able to find another job because of it. But the former first overall pick lacks the dynamic skills that the new starter has seeping through his pores.  Harbaugh made the call that he wanted Kaepernick on draft day. Taken ahead of Andy Dalton who already has 14 wins under his belt, Kaepernick was seen as a raw prospect out of Nevada in need of coddling to ensure that he could maximize his potential.  So he worked with Harbaugh and Smith for a year and a half, and once a crack opened up with Smith going down with a concussion, in he went to lead the team down the stretch. Now Smith has been cleared to play for two weeks, and for two weeks Harbaugh has named the youngster his starter.  This week they are on the road again after a strong performance at the Superdome last week. We tuned in to see if it was just a one game flash in the pan, but Kaepernick put another strong performance together and the 49ers defence shut down Brees and co. Now he is trying to win his second straight road game in his third career start.  While the 49ers are the cream of the crop in terms of defence, and quickly improving on the offensive side, the Rams are nothing to sneeze at when they line up to shut a team down. They have gone heavy on the defensive line with recent draft picks, from Chris Long to Robert Quinn to Michael Brockers. Quinn is dealing with a concussion and is no sure bet to play this week, but the other two are going to be in tough against the '9ers underrated offensive line.  The corners is where Kaepernick could get in trouble. He has all the down field arm strength in the world, but his touch on shorter passes is not quite at Tom Brady levels. With Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins lurking on the outside waiting to take it back to the house, the young pivot had better better not try to force any throws to the outside.  Super slot man Danny Amendola is dealing with lingering foot and heel issues that allowed him to play only seven snaps  last week, but he is expected to be able to withstand a bit more this week. Chris Givens and Brandon Gibson have been doing their best to get deep for Bradford, but the team at the end of the day runs around the ground game.  Steven Jackson is suffering from a similar treatment that Michael Turner is going through in Atlanta. The old between the tackles horse is slowly being pushed out in favour of the young burner. Daryl Richardson is the man nipping at the heels of Jackson, but the veteran is still plodding along and it going to be at his trucking best this week when Willis and Bowman are firing through the A and B gaps.  This game is set up to be close if not a complete let down for San Fran. Vernon Davis was completely left out of the '9ers attack last week and the rest of the downfield weapons are no sure thing for Kaepernick. Kyle Williams and backup running back Kendall Hunter are both out for the year, and it will be time for a trio of players who have played sparingly to step up.  Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James and AJ Jenkins. Two rookies and a veteran big time back. James and Jenkins were the 49ers first two picks this year, but neither have seen much of anything in terms of field time. Jacobs has been waiting his turn and he might get it this week. But relying on this many new pieces on the road for the second straight week make the script for a letdown complete.    Pick of the Week record: 5-7. The Ravens came to the rescue to end an ugly four game losing streak. Now is time to get it rolling for the end of the season. 

This article first appeared on This Given Sunday and was syndicated with permission.

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