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Rams seek retribution against hapless 49ers

LOS ANGELES -- If nothing else, this Week 16 Christmas Eve matchup against the San Francisco 49ers is a reminder of the first sign that the Rams' return to Los Angeles would not get off to a very good start.

You remember, right?

It was Sept. 12, on Monday Night Football from Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The Rams were embarrassed on national television, losing by a 28-0 score. Think about what has transpired since then.

They amazingly won their next three games, but then lost nine of their next 10. Todd Gurley still hasn't done anything on the ground. Jared Goff finally became the starting quarterback, but has yet to play well. And the Rams' longtime head coach, Jeff Fisher, has been fired.

The Niners, meanwhile, have yet to win a single game.

Now the two meet at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, trying to reignite a once-heated rivalry with two teams that are a combined 5-23. The Rams will be in their throwback blue-and-yellow uniforms that the locals love so much, but that probably won't be enough to drum up much interest.

Here are six opposing players to watch, courtesy of ESPN 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner:

OFFENSE

QB Colin Kaepernick: Kaepernick wasn't in the starting lineup when these teams met in Week 1. He took over in Week 6 and has started nine straight games, but has yet to be at the controls of a victory. His accuracy remains an issue as he's completed just 55.5 percent of his passes, but he does have a strong 13-to-3 touchdown-to-interception rate. Kaepernick's propensity for being much better in the first half than the second has contributed to San Francisco's struggles to close out games and get a second victory.

RB Carlos Hyde: On Tuesday, Niners offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said Hyde has been "growing as a runner" over the course of the season and he's more decisive than he was earlier in the year. Since Week 11, Hyde is averaging 101.4 yards per game on 6.18 yards per carry.

OL Zane Beadles: The 49ers have been decimated by injury, including on the offensive line, where they've been without left tackle Joe Staley (hamstring) for the past couple of weeks and center Daniel Kilgore is out for the season. Then center Marcus Martin hurt his ankle last week. All of those moving parts have left Beadles to pick up the slack. He's played left guard, left tackle and center over the past three weeks. It's unclear where he'll be against the Rams, but it's safe to assume he'll be out there somewhere come Saturday.

DEFENSE

DL DeForest Buckner: Buckner has played more snaps than just about every defensive lineman in the NFL despite missing a game because of a foot injury. He's also been one of the few healthy and reliable defensive players the Niners have been able to count on all season. Buckner has 69 tackles with five sacks and two fumble recoveries on the season.

S Antoine Bethea: Injuries actually have hit the defense harder than the offense this season, and it was especially evident against Atlanta last week. Things got so bleak at inside linebacker that Bethea volunteered to step in after Nick Bellore went out with a shoulder ailment. Bethea is one of the team's leaders and also has been dependable and durable. He has 96 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery this year.

LB Gerald Hodges: Hodges missed last week's game for violation of team rules and it's unclear if he'll play this week. Coach Chip Kelly has said that decision will be made as the week goes on. The Niners clearly need Hodges, but they are comfortable not playing him if he's not doing the right thing throughout the week. If he doesn't play, the Niners will have to scramble at inside linebacker again as only Michael Wilhoite and recently acquired Carl Bradford remain at the position on the roster.