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San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams (+3, 41.5)

Less than eight months removed from a Super Bowl appearance, the San Francisco 49ers are immersed in controversy on and off the field heading into Thursday night's matchup at the St. Louis Rams. San Francisco has dropped two straight, including a stunning 27-7 defeat at home to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. No team played the 49ers tougher last season than the AFC West rival Rams, who battled to a 24-24 tie in San Francisco and beat them in overtime in St. Louis.

The 49ers' issues go beyond back-to-back inept performances - the team is under siege for allowing sack specialist Aldon Smith to play in Sunday's game only two days after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Smith, who has a history of off-field issues, will enter a rehab facility to receive treatment and will miss Thursday's game. St. Louis is seeking a bounce-back effort after it was demolished by the Dallas Cowboys 31-7.

TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network.

LINE: The 49ers opened as a 3.5-point road favorites and have been bet down to -3. The total opened as high as 43.5 and has been moved down to 41.5.


49ers (-2.5) + Rams (+5.0) + home field (-3.0) = St. Louis +4.5

ABOUT THE 49ERS (1-2, 1-2 ATS): Losing in Seattle in Week 2 wasn't a surprise for San Francisco, but getting bulldozed by the Colts on both sides of the ball sent shock waves through the league. Colin Kaepernick turned in a breathtaking performance by throwing for 412 yards in the season opener but has tossed four interceptions and been limited to a combined 277 yards while leading the 49ers to only 10 points in the past two weeks. The absence of tight end Vernon Davis (hamstring) hurt versus the Colts, while the normally stout defense saw All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis exit Sunday's game with a groin injury.

ABOUT THE RAMS (1-2, 0-3 ATS):
St. Louis posted a gritty comeback victory over Arizona in its season opener but has fallen behind by at least 21 points in back-to-back road losses to Atlanta and Dallas. Quarterback Sam Bradford threw for a season-low 240 yards and was sacked six times against the Cowboys while receiving little help from a ground game that saw starting running back Daryl Richardson play only one snap due to a foot injury. Rookie wideout Tavon Austin, the team's first-round draft pick, has six receptions in each of the first three games but is averaging only 6.6 yards per catch.


* Home team is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings.
* Under is 5-2 in the last seven meetings in St. Louis..
* 49ers are 1-5 ATS in their last six meetings.
* Rams are 7-1 ATS in their last eight vs. NFC West.


1. Kaepernick made his third career start at St. Louis last season and had a safety and lost a fumble that was returned for a TD.

2. The Rams tied for the lead league with 52 sacks last season, but have only seven through the first three games.

3. LB Smith was second in the league with 19.5 sacks in 2012 and has registered 37 in 35 games.
Sandy Orellana 49ers Body Paint

How the Actor reportedly cleared close to a million dollars betting on college games for Las Vegas gambling legend Billy Walters.

Ashton Kutcher is a big Sports FanActor Ashton Kutcher at Hawkeye Game next to team mascot
Actor Ashton Kutcher claimed to have been the "front of the largest national sports-betting syndicate in America" in an Esquire Magazine article earlier this year.
Billy Walters, considered to be the most successful professional sport bettor ever and head of the largest syndicate in the nation, had no comment, when reached by phone.

But here is the big surprise. Kutcher's story actually checks out in Vegas.

The 35-year-old actor told Esquire he spent half of a college football season
placing bets for a syndicate. Kutcher came off as knowledgeable about sports
betting in the interview, describing how the syndicate pinpointed statistical
anomalies and took advantage of point-spread movement.

"We were clearing, like, $750,000 in four weeks of college football. It was
pretty fun. Then they caught on," Kutcher said in the Esquire article. "The
hypothesis had been that the house would just assume that I was a dumb actor
with a lot of money who liked football."

A former Las Vegas sports book manager told The Linemakers on Sporting News
that he was very familiar with Kutcher's sports betting in the early 2000s, the
same time frame chronicled by author Michael Konik in "The Smart Money: How the
World's Best Sports Bettors Beat the Bookies out of Millions."

"They thought they had a sucker on the hook, then he won $800,000 in four
weeks," said the ex-bookie, who asked to remain anonymous. "They had to shut him

Many believe Kutcher is one of the characters in Konik's highly-acclaimed
book that details the author's time working for Rick "Big Daddy" Matthews, a
gambler described as, "the world's smartest sports bettor and the mastermind
behind the Brain Trust, a shadowy group of gamblers known for their expertise in
beating the Vegas line."

It's widely believed, but never publicly acknowledged, that "Big Daddy"
Matthews is Walters, a reclusive Las Vegas businessman with a reported net worth
in the hundreds of millions.

"My book 'The Smart Money' is a non-fiction memoir that includes an
explanatory note about honoring privacy," Konik wrote in an email to The
Linemakers. "I have no further comment."

Celebrities like Bruce Willis, Floyd Mayweather, Phil Mickelson and poker pro
Phil Ivey have all been rumored to have been a part of Walters' syndicate at one
time or another. Willis is also rumored to be one of the characters in "Smart
Money," as is current Linemakers' analyst Richie Baccellieri.

Baccellieri was a sports book manager at Caesars Palace in the mid-to late
1990s and is rumored to be the character "Stevie The Pencil" in "Smart

Baccellieri would not comment on his or Kutcher's inclusion in the book.

The idea behind having a celebrity make the wagers is that their high-profile
status and large bankroll tend to give them special treatment in a casino
compared to a regular Joe or someone labeled as a professional bettor.

Kutcher's days in Vegas seem to be curtailed. Norm Clarke, celebrity
columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, told The Linemakers on Sporting News
that he had not heard of any regular sightings of Kutcher in at least the last
"four-to-five years."

"That's somebody that I would hear about," Clarke said. "I would be surprised
if he was coming over that often and we weren't hearing something. I just don't
think of him as much of a regular."

By:  David Purdum                                                                                   

Tags: Ashton Kutcher, Billy Walters, Bruce Willis, Phil Mickelson Floyd Mayweather