The San Francisco 49ers are starting to get ready for what they hope will be a triumphant playoff run, and it starts with their Week 17 contest at the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Raiders may be playing out the string after a disastrous season, as head coach Mike McDaniel has just benched starting quarterback Derek Carr, but they are still a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
There is no excuse for the 49ers getting complacent, as they need to continue and even build on the momentum their eight-game winning streak has given them.
They may be about to get some help towards accomplishing that goal.
Deebo Samuel, their versatile star wide receiver, hasn’t played since Week 14 when he suffered a sprained MCL, but he was back on the practice field on Thursday.
Here’s Deebo Samuel back at 49ers practice on Thursday with a sleeve over his left leg pic.twitter.com/EetzLBsbxe
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) December 29, 2022
More #49ers Deebo Samuel content for you filthy animals.
— Jennifer Lee Chan (@jenniferleechan) December 29, 2022
Samuel is a big cog in a Niners offense that has shown massive improvement since October.
Last year, he put up 1,405 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns, as well as 365 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, which earned him Pro Bowl and All-Pro First Team honors.
In 12 games this season, he’s down to 612 yards and two touchdowns in the air and 228 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
A big factor in the drop in his production has been the fact that he’s averaging just 11.3 yards per catch this year, which is down from an NFL-high 18.2 yards in 2021.
But make no mistake: San Francisco needs Samuel back in order to fulfill its Super Bowl hopes.
Samuel Still May Not Play On Sunday
Given the nature of his injury and given the fact that the 49ers have been playing well and have the NFC West title sewn up, they may choose to play it safe with Samuel and hold him out of Sunday’s contest.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said at the time of Samuel’s injury that he expected the wideout to miss about three weeks, which would mean he would return for the team’s regular season finale versus the Arizona Cardinals.
The most important thing as far as San Francisco is concerned is making sure Samuel is healthy and productive for the start of the playoffs.