SAN FRANCISCO -- Imagine rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III coming to face the 49ers on Sunday with an electrified St. Louis Rams offense.
Instead, here is the Rams' reality: They're bringing a still-suspect Sam Bradford, a 28th-ranked offense and a last-place record (3-5).
Rather than select Griffin with the No. 2 overall pick, the Rams preferred a war chest of other draft picks and let the Washington Redskins move up to select "RGIII."
Jeff Fisher earned his first win as Rams coach by defeating the Redskins on Sept. 16. After back-to-back home wins over division rivals Arizona and Seattle, the Rams held a 3-2 mark and were one game out of the NFC West lead. Then came a three-game losing streak, dropping the Rams into their familiar territory.
"One of our biggest problems is shooting ourselves in the foot, killing ourselves with mental mistakes and things that we can control," Bradford told St. Louis reporters last week.
Such issues often accompany the Rams' visits to Candlestick Park, where they've lost in their past four trips and eight of their last 10. Both the Rams and first-place 49ers (6-2) are coming off byes.
"We have a lot of respect for the Rams," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We had two tough ballgames with them last year. You see a very tough, aggressive, hard-hitting team. Really, really good everywhere you look."
Really good? Everywhere?
Fisher is trying to turn around that franchise by, somewhat, following the 49ers' path.
Committed to a quarterback who was a No. 1 overall draft pick, the Rams are aided in large part by a two-back rushing attack (Steven Jackson, Daryl Richardson) with an unheralded receiving corps. Defensively, the Rams have a talented front, and they've added a well-known cornerback through free agency in Cortland Finnegan.
The 49ers' blueprint: Turn Alex Smith into a winner, run Frank Gore with occasional relief from Kendall Hunter, and support a staunch defensive front with a secondary that includes last season's free-agent additions of cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Donte Whitner.
Fisher particularly marveled at the 49ers' league-leading rushing attack and how everyone is contributing to it, including the blocks of fullbacks, tight ends and receivers.
"I can't remember having to prepare for an offense that was so well coached and so diversified in the run game and so talented," Fisher said. "Add the multiplicity in passing game and (Alex Smith's) decision making ability, it's no surprise to me they were able to accomplish what they did last year and what's ahead of them this year."
Healthier than last season, the Rams continues to sputter, especially on the road (0-3) and on offense as they rank 28th in scoring (17.1 points per game) and yards (316.5 per game). Bradford hasn't been helped by the offensive line's constant shuffling, not to mention the annual change in systems.
Vic Fangio, the 49ers defensive coordinator, called Bradford a "pretty polished quarterback" who can throw deep but also run with deceiving speed. An ankle injury kept Bradford from facing the 49ers last season in Fangio's first season.
"Although he's been hurt and been through a couple systems there, he's doing well for where he's at in his development," Fangio said.
Awaiting Bradford & Co. is a 49ers defense that not only leads the league in fewest points allowed but also is especially dominant at home, particularly against division foes.
The Rams' long-shot chances against the 49ers might be helped by the return of leading receiver Danny Amendola. Their three-game losing streak has coincided with Amendola's absence because of a separated collarbone.
Also on a three-game losing streak: the Redskins and their rookie quarterback, Griffin. In return for the No. 2 overall pick, the Rams received the Redskins' first-round draft picks in 2012 (traded to Dallas), '13 and '14, along with a 2012 second-round choice they used on cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who's struggled.
Asked his impression of that trade, Harbaugh initially declined to comment, then stated: "That seems like it was a very good deal for both teams."
Time will tell. The Rams are counting on it to become a perennial contender, a status now enjoyed by the 49ers.