This is not how the San Francisco 49ers expected to begin the 2013 NFL season. In the preseason, they were considered the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Now, they face the risk of starting off the year at 1-3 as they kick off Week Four.

The 49ers are set to begin this week’s NFL schedule with a visit to the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night. It’s their second division game of the year, as well as their second appearance in primetime.

After an impressive victory over the Green Bay Packers in the opener, the 49ers have been blown out in their last two contests. Week Two saw them lose to the Seattle Seahawks, which might not have been a complete surprise, if they were defeated by 26 points. On Sunday, San Francisco suffered an even more unexpected result when they lost to the Indianapolis Colts 27-7. With the game at home, the point spread had the 49ers favored by 10 points.

The 49ers will catch somewhat of a break on Thursday when they finally face a team that didn’t make the playoffs in 2012. It might not be easy for San Francisco, though, considering how poorly they’ve played. The betting line has the Rams set as three-point underdogs, and a win for St. Louis would put the 49ers in sole possession of last place.

The biggest reason for the 49ers struggles has been the play of Colin Kaepernick. Against the Packers, he set a career-high with 412 passing yards. He hasn’t come close to matching that in his last two games combined. In both losses, the quarterback has failed to complete 50 percent of his passes or throw for more than 150 yards. His four interceptions and no touchdowns in that time have put him at 25th in the NFL in passer rating.

While the 49ers best offensive player has been having trouble on the field, their best defensive player’s off-the-field issues will keep him from suiting up for the immediate future. Aldon Smith is no longer with the team, following an arrest for suspicion of DUI. He went to rehab for substance abuse after the team’s loss to the Colts. Police also found marijuana and pills his car. Last year, Smith was second in the league with 19.5 sacks, and his 4.5 sacks this season have him second, as well.

San Francisco could be without other star players, due to injury. Both Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis are questionable for the game. A groin injury prevented Willis from practicing on Tuesday, while was able to take the field on a limited basis.

The Rams are hoping to take advantage of their opponent’s issues and play as well against them as they did last season. In two games against their division rivals, St. Louis did not lose to San Francisco. On their way to a seven-win season, they defeated the 49ers at home and ended their contest on the road in a tie.

The Rams are coming off losses to the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys after an opening week victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams have trailed by double-digits in every game.

Betting Odds: San Francisco -3, 42.5

TV Channel: NFL Network

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Prediction: San Francisco 27, St. Louis 16