The San Francisco 49ers have a unique opportunity with four games to go in the NFL season.
Despite their many injuries, they can not only finish first in the NFC West, but many feel they still have a puncher’s chance at getting to the Super Bowl and possibly even winning it, even without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
For San Francisco to finish with the second seed in the conference (it is very unlikely to catche the Philadelphia Eagles at this point), two of their men will need to play at a higher level.
1. Deebo Samuel
Right now, Deebo Samuel will be sidelined for what the 49ers hope will be just a few weeks, but when he returns, he needs to play better.
Last year, he blossomed as one of the NFL’s very best wide receivers, finishing with 1,405 receiving yards, six receiving touchdowns, and eight more on the ground.
This season, Samuel is at just 612 receiving yards and five total touchdowns through 12 games.
One stat is very telling: he is averaging 11.3 yards per reception this year, which is down from a league-high 18.2 in 2021.
2. Jordan Mason
With Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco’s second running back behind Christian McCaffrey, out with another sprained MCL, the team needs ground production from someone other than McCaffrey, and that someone is Jordan Mason.
A few weeks ago, the 49ers traded Jeff Wilson Jr., who was a solid tailback for them earlier in the year before McCaffrey arrived and when Mitchell was out with his first knee injury, to the Miami Dolphins, opening things up for Mason.
The rookie has just 153 rushing yards in 12 games, but 107 of them have come in the team’s last two games.
I've been so impressed with Jordan Mason in the run game. He's been getting more carries each week and has gotten consistently better.
Look at the change of direction in the backfield, ability to break tackles and turn this into a 13-yard gain. pic.twitter.com/Vg87iNceod
— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) December 13, 2022
It’s important for the Niners to preserve McCaffrey a bit, especially given his injury history.