The San Francisco 49ers have looked scary lately, as they have run up a nine-game winning streak while building arguably the best defense in the NFL.
They have also locked up the best record in the NFC West at 12-4, and the fact they have done all this despite being hit by the injury bug makes it all the more impressive.
Perhaps no 49ers player has been hit by the injury bug worse this season than running back Elijah Mitchell, who has suffered not one but two sprained MCLs that have limited him to just four games so far.
But he seems to be nearing a return, as the team opened up his practice window this week, allowing him to return to the practice field.
In fact, head coach Kyle Shanahan said he expects him to get some playing time on Sunday when San Francisco hosts the Arizona Cardinals.
— Adam Copeland (@Adamcopes) January 5, 2023
Perhaps there may be a snap limit for Mitchell on Sunday, but this game will matter a lot for the team.
For one, it can clinch the top seed in the NFC if it wins and the Philadelphia Eagles lose to the New York Giants.
If the Eagles win, the Niners can still gain the second seed if they win or if the Minnesota Vikings lose to the Chicago Bears.
For another, it is important to maintain and further entrench winning habits going into the playoffs, not to mention maintain an active winning streak.
Beyond that, since Mitchell hasn’t played Week 12, he will likely be a bit out of rhythm and game shape, and the 49ers will want to get him back up to speed before their first postseason contest.