The drama and uncertainty are at all-time highs for the 49ers as they enter the final two games of the regular season.
A victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday, coupled with a New Orleans Saints loss to the Carolina Panthers would clinch a playoff spot for the 49ers entering Week 18.
That’s the easy way in.
The other, simple way, for the 49ers to advance to the playoffs is for them to win their final two games, including the Jan. 9 matchup at the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams.
There appears to be a strong possibility rookie quarterback Trey Lance will be forced into action for the rest of the way after Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a right thumb injury Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans.
And that leads us into this week’s edition of 49ers Overreactions. . .
Overreaction? Yes, but . . .
We’re a stickler for words over here in the overreactions oversight department. The word “officially” places this in the overreaction category, but not by much.
That said, we do not envision a scenario in which Jimmy Garoppolo remains with the 49ers for the 2022 season.
After all, when the 49ers traded up to No. 3 and signaled their intent to move on from Garoppolo, they cited his history of injuries. Nothing has changed this season.
He missed 1 1/2 games due to a calf injury. Now, there’s this thumb injury that places the remainder of his season in question.
The 49ers are going to have some contract situations at the end of this season. A new deal for Deebo Samuel rates as No. 1 on the list of priorities. They will also want to re-sign Laken Tomlinson, D.J. Jones and others. Moving on from Garoppolo’s $25 million is necessary for the team to keep the rest of its roster together.
So, yes, this figures to be it for Garoppolo’s time with the 49ers. The team remains confident it will be able to trade Garoppolo, a source recently told NBC Sports Bay Area. Garoppolo is seen as a player who is capable of starting for a handful of other teams around the league.
The only question is whether Garoppolo will be able to get back on the field before the season ends.
There are no absolutes. Unless things are irreparably broken inside the structure of the organization, there should never be that kind of pre-set condition at the start of the season.
Granted, there is a chance the 49ers do not make the playoffs this season. And if the 49ers are home for the postseason, that would come a major disappointment to ownership, front office, coaches, players and fans.
Some perspective is in order:
There are few coaches (and none currently not employed as an NFL head coach) who would be considered upgrades over Kyle Shanahan; and under John Lynch, the 49ers have added such superstars as George Kittle, Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner and Trent Williams. They invested heavily in Trey Lance, so they will certainly be given plenty of time to see how the QB of the future develops.
Shanahan and Lynch came to the team on six-year contracts because the roster was in such disrepair. They made it to the Super Bowl in their third season together. The 49ers should be building continuity rather than planning for a complete tear down.
Rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas has gotten better every game, and had his best showing last week against the Titans.
It was not perfect, as he gave up the deep pass play on a third-and-23 play on which Samson Ebukam jumped offside to give Ryan Tannehill a free shot down the field.
The Titans targeted Thomas five times, and they connected on just two of those passes for 46 yards. Thomas broke up two passes.
There appears to be an outside shot that Emmanuel Moseley will be available for Week 18 against the Rams. The 49ers are hopeful Moseley will be healthy and ready for the playoffs — if the 49ers make it.
And if Thomas continues to hang with receivers, the 49ers will have to make a decision whether to stick with him go with Josh Norman on the other side. Although this will generate some conversation, my guess is the 49ers would roll with the veteran.
The 49ers’ pass defense has been surprisingly good this season despite losing their best corner, Jason Verrett, in the first game of the season. The 49ers rank seventh in the league, allowing just 211.5 passing yards per game.
The 49ers are going to need a strong pass rush and a mixture of coverages for them to contain any passing attack they face in the most-important games of the season.
Fred Warner did not have his best game against the Titans.
Then, again, nobody who was on the field as part of the team’s third-down defense played at an acceptable level.
Warner will be fine. He's among the least of the 49ers’ concerns at this stage.
Mitch Wishnowsky is signed through the 2022 season, and I do not envision any scenario in which he is not back.
Wishnowsky is going through a rough patch, including becoming the first 49ers player during the season to land on the reserve/COVID-19 list. His status for the 49ers’ Week 17 game is in doubt.
Overall, Wishnowsky is having a good season. His net punting average is still a very strong 41.7 yards. Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower recently cited a statistic that 16 of Wishnowsky’s punts have been muffed for bobbled since 2019.
He’s going nowhere.