GAME SNAPSHOTKICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Bill Maas, Chris Myers; DirecTV, 715
SERIES: 110th meeting. Rams lead 57-50-2. The Rams won earlier this season in San Francisco, 24-14, and have won consecutive games against the 49ers in St. Louis. How close is this series? In the 109 games, the Rams have outscored the 49ers 2,446 to 2,426.
2004 RANKINGS: Rams: offense 6th (22nd rush, 4th pass); defense 25th (28th rush, 16th pass). Panthers: offense 17th (26th rush, 14th pass); defense 19th (19th rush, 20th pass) KEYS TO THE GAME: Problems on the right side of the offensive line led to QB Marc Bulger getting injured last Sunday and sitting out this game. That's exactly where Panthers DE Julius Peppers, who has 7.0 sacks in his past five games, will be trying to get to backup QB Chris Chandler from. RB Marshall Faulk should play after missing the last game with a knee injury and will team with rookie Steven Jackson as the Rams are likely to rely more on their ground game. The Panthers' offense has struck a balance with RB Nick Goings running well and QB Jake Delhomme has been red-hot. The Rams allow 4.9 yards per carry, so Carolina wants to use Goings to set up the play-action pass.
FAST FACTS: Rams: Chandler's 150 career starts are fourth-most among active quarterbacks. ... Coach Mike Martz is 13-6 (.684) in December. Panthers: WR Muhsin Muhammad has 566 receiving yards in the past five games. ... WR Keary Colbert's 38 receptions is seven shy of Rae Carruth's rookie record set in 1997.
--DL Tyoka Jackson was added to the injury report on Thursday as probable with the stomach flu, but he is expected to be recovered in time to play Sunday against Carolina.
--RB Steven Jackson did not practice again Thursday, but might do some work Friday and will be available Sunday.
--RB Aveion Cason is expected to be used as the primary kickoff returner Sunday after being signed Tuesday. "That's why we brought him in," coach Mike Martz said. "He's a home-run threat."
--OT Grant Williams practiced with the scout team Thursday although he has a shoulder problem that might be in his rotator cuff. Williams is expected to be available as the backup to RT Blaine Saipaia Sunday.
--RB Arlen Harris took most of the snaps with the first unit in practice Wednesday and Thursday, and might start Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
--LB Will Witherspoon has 43 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks in the past five games.
--RB Nick Goings is coming off back-to-back 100-yard games and should find success against a lame Saints run defense.
--DE Mike Rucker finally got his first full sack for the Panthers in Week 12.
--TE Kris Mangum is seeing a bigger role in Carolina's offense in recent weeks.
--LB Mark Fields has four quarterback pressures in the past two games and is getting more pressure on the quarterback.
--QB Jake Delhomme has 13 interceptions and just three interceptions in the last six games for the Panthers.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:Rams:
It's known that Chris Chandler will be the Rams' starting quarterback in Sunday's key game against the Carolina Panthers. However, who the starting running back will be is another question.
With Marshall Faulk nursing a bruised knee, it was expected to be rookie Steven Jackson after his 119-yard performance against the 49ers Sunday. But Jackson also injured his knee, there was significant swelling the day after the game and he then had it drained. Both Wednesday and Thursday, Jackson did not practice, while Faulk had some limited snaps with the first team. Taking most of the snaps was Arlen Harris.
"I wish he didn't practice," coach Mike Martz said of Faulk. "Especially this time of week. I'd rather he do a little more work (Thursday), and then back off on Friday. He will be ready to go, but I'd prefer not to play him unless we had to."
Martz is confident Jackson will be ready Sunday.
"Steven will be ready to go," Martz said. "He feels a whole lot better. I hope to get a look at him tomorrow (Friday), but he may not practice. However, that doesn't mean he wouldn't play. We're going to do the right thing by him physically."
Jackson left no doubt that he would be ready to play.
"It's all right. I'll be there. You have things going in the right direction, and I had a pretty good game on the ground (against San Francisco). We're going to need a physical kind of running style this weekend because they're a physical defense."
One thing Jackson definitely knows is that he likes the surface the next games are on after taking a pounding on the Rams' artificial turf surface.
"That surface there is unforgiving," Jackson said. "You're basically taking two hits on the play. Not only are you getting hit by the defender, but you're taking quite a blow hitting that turf. These next two weeks, I'm happy we're on grass."
Panthers middle linebacker Dan Morgan is expected to return to starting lineup this week after missing the last three games with a concussion.
Morgan has suffered two concussions this season and has missed all of four games and the large majority of another this season.
Vinny Ciurciu has been playing in place of Morgan and while he has filled in admirably, he hasn't made many big plays.
Morgan has 25 tackles in last year's Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.
Morgan started off strong this season with 59 tackles in his first six games along with two sacks.