49ers

Five 49ers to watch in Week 10: Jimmy Garoppolo has chance to shine

Five 49ers to watch in Week 10: Jimmy Garoppolo has chance to shine

The 49ers on Monday night have a chance to make it nearly impossible for the rest of the NFC West to catch them this season.

And, if they want to set their sights even higher, a victory over the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium would give them a two-game lead in the loss column for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with seven games remaining.

But it does not figure to be easy.

The 49ers (8-0) face the second-place Seahawks (7-2) in a game that could shift the pendulum of momentum in the NFC West.

The 49ers likely will be without their best player in George Kittle, so here are five 49ers who will play important roles on Monday night against Pete Carroll's team:

5. DE Dee Ford

Dee Ford is the 49ers’ fleetest pass-rusher. He has an explosive first step, and he will need that kind of quickness to close the gap on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who is incredible at avoiding the rush and delivering the ball down the field.

Ford has 5.5 sacks through the first half of the season, and he must get pressure on Wilson while going against right tackle Germain Ifedi or left tackle Duane Brown.

Ford has to be able to use his teammates on the front four to his advantage, too. Nick Bosa will generate heat on the other side, and defensive tackles DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead will be entrusted to collapse the pocket.

Ford must be controlled and not allow Wilson to escape into open space, allowing him to keep the play alive and throw the ball down the field to generate big plays.

4. WR Deebo Samuel

The 49ers do not expect Kittle to play, which means someone has to step up and provide a reliable target in the passing game on third downs.

Although Samuel had a blatant drop in the end zone for what should have been a touchdown last week in Arizona, the 49ers believe the rookie is putting things together and has a chance to make some big plays. They will find different ways to get the ball in his hands.

It did not take long for veteran Emmanuel Sanders to become the 49ers’ top wide receiver after his arrival via a trade with the Denver Broncos. The 49ers are expected to activate Marquise Goodwin, and his speed will give the Seattle defense something with which to contend.

Samuel is the 49ers’ second-leading receiver with 22 receptions for 227 yards. He should have some opportunities against a Seahawks defense that allows 278.1 yards passing per game.

3. LB Dre Greenlaw

The season-ending injury to linebacker Kwon Alexander is a big blow to the 49ers’ defense.

Now, the 49ers turn to rookie Dre Greenlaw, a fifth-round pick from Arkansas.

The 49ers’ defense has been vulnerable against the run. Opponents are averaging 4.7 yards per rushing attempt. Seattle running back Chris Carson is a load. He can make the 49ers pay with his ability to pick up yards between the tackles.

Carson has gained 764 yards on 175 rushing attempts, so the Seahawks are not shy about using him. One of the big keys to this game is how the Seahawks run the ball on first and second downs. If Wilson is faced with a lot of third-and-long situations, the 49ers will be able to unleash their pass rush and control the game.

Greenlaw will be tested repeatedly as Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will look to exploit the young player.

2. CB Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman did not want to leave Seattle. (In fact, he still makes his offseason home there.) But the Seahawks pushed him out in March 2018 after he tore his Achilles in November 2017.

Sherman has been all-in with the 49ers, as he is motivated to prove the Seahawks made a poor decision.

The shift in power in the NFC West could be completed Monday night, and Sherman has a chance to play a major role in the 49ers’ rise and the Seahawks’ fall.

After limping through last season without an interception, Sherman is back to being the playmaker he was known to be during his seven seasons in Seattle. Sherman has three interceptions and has provided invaluable leadership with the 49ers.

He would love nothing more than to pick off Wilson, who has thrown 22 touchdown passes with just one interception through nine games. The 49ers’ secondary face a stiff challenge against receivers Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and newly acquired Josh Gordon, so Sherman figures to be tested throughout the game.

[RELATED: Healthy Witherspoon ready to help 49ers vs. Seahawks]

1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Matt Schaub, yes, Matt Schaub, threw for 460 yards against the Seahawks two weeks ago. Last week, Jameis Winston went for 335 vs.  Seattle.

Jimmy Garoppolo is not expected to have his most-reliable target, Kittle, for Monday’s game. Kittle is doubtful with knee and ankle issues. But Garoppolo still has the capabilities of having a big night on the big stage.

“We always have the scheme in that gives us the option to go that way,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.

“And depending what they do, it will dictate how he plays, who he goes to with the ball and how much we throw. Every time Jimmy steps out there, he has that opportunity.”

Garoppolo is having a solid season, completing 70.8 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Garoppolo has been particularly efficient on third downs. He leads the NFL with 55.4 percent of his third-down attempts (36 of 65) completed for first down.

49ers Mailbag: How will Kyle Shanahan deploy running backs vs. Saints?

49ers Mailbag: How will Kyle Shanahan deploy running backs vs. Saints?

NEW ORLEANS – It’s a good problem for the 49ers to figure out who among their running backs they are going to feature.

Leading rusher Matt Breida is scheduled to return to action on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints after missing three games with an ankle sprain. Raheem Mostert is coming off a 146-yard day, the best game from a 49ers running back in three years. But what kind of role will he play on Sunday?

That question leads off this edition of the 49ers Mailbag:

Coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff put a lot of discussion into how they are going to use their backs. Shanahan talks to his entire offensive staff, as well as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, about which plays are best fits for which players.

Then, Shanahan’s in-game decisions are also influenced by which running back is having the most success.

“None of them are bad at anything, so whatever we end up going with, all of them have a chance, whatever play it is,” Shanahan said on 49ers Game Plan, which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area and 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We definitely try to decide which one we prefer during the week. We go into the game with a plan, but then we always stick with what’s hot.”

Tevin Coleman has been getting the starting assignments. It remains to be seen if that will continue, but Breida and Mostert should get their opportunities, too. 

I don’t know about using Daniel Brunskill for any trick plays, but it might not be a bad idea to mix him in for a series here and there to ease Joe Staley back into the action.

Staley has missed nine games this season, and Brunskill has shown to be a very effective player. It could be something along the lines of how the 49ers got Ahkello Witherspoon back into his starting role. At first, they had Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley sharing the playing time before Witherspoon was all the way back.

Richard Sherman will play despite hobbled last week with a knee injury. He appeared to be moving well during 49ers practices this week in Florida.

The only 49ers starter who will not play on Sunday is strong safety Jaquiski Tartt, who may miss multiple games with fractured ribs. Marcell Harris will start at strong safety. But everybody else is good to go, including Breida, Staley and Dee Ford.

My hunch is that if the 49ers do not place the franchise tag on Arik Armstead, he will end up signing a lucrative multi-year contract with another team as an unrestricted free agent. The 49ers' top priorities to sign to multi-year extensions are defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and tight end George Kittle.

[RELATED: Kittle on pace for best PFF season]

Neither Jalen Hurd nor Trent Taylor will play this season. Hurd will miss his entire rookie season due to a stress reaction in his back, while Taylor is out for the season from complications after undergoing surgery on a Jones fracture in his right foot.

The 49ers elevated defensive lineman Kentavius Street to practice this week. The 49ers might use their final injured reserve/designated to return spot on cornerback Jason Verrett, who has been out with a knee injury. He could return to practice as early as Wednesday.

The odds are very slim that Marquise Goodwin will be back on the team next season. He is scheduled to make $4.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2020, and that is not a price the 49ers are going to pay for what he gives them.

The 49ers are not giving up on Dante Pettis, though. They want him to put in the work during the offseason to have a big bounce-back season.

Pettis experienced the same kind of second season as Ahkello Witherspoon. Both players experienced success to ends their rookie seasons and thought they had it figured out.

[RELATED: How to watch 49ers-Saints]

Witherspoon struggled in Year 2, and realized what he had to do in order to perform at a high level. He came back focused for a strong third season.

The 49ers hope Pettis will make the same kinds of adjustments to his work ethic and mindset to become a reliable receiver in 2020.

49ers-Saints odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 14 game

49ers-Saints odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 14 game

For the third straight week, the 49ers will play in a potential playoff preview Sunday. 

The Niners (10-2) visit the NFC-leading New Orleans Saints (10-2) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, as San Francisco concludes a brutal three-week stretch that included games against the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens. Facing Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson and Saints quarterback Drew Brees in back-to-back-to-back weeks is no small feat, and it's clear 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is taking a matchup with Brees seriously. 

"Everyone knows he's one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and I still will say he's underrated," Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco earlier this week. "I mean, he's unbelievable. Any time he's on your team, you've got a chance to be a Super Bowl team every year, and I think that's why they've had a chance over the last 10 years."

The 40-year-old is by no means the first -- or last -- elite QB the 49ers have faced this season, but he might be the best. Among qualifying quarterbacks, Brees ranks eighth in passer rating (104.4), ninth in QBR (60.9) and first in completion percentage (73.8 percent).

[RELATED: 49ers' Kittle on pace for best tight end season in PFF era]

Can the 49ers stop Brees and pick up a much-needed win in the Big Easy? Here's how Las Vegas and experts around the country see the game playing out.

Line

Caesars: Saints -2
Consensus: Saints -2
Westgate: Saints -2
Wynn: Saints -2.5

Predictions

Nick Wagoner, ESPN: 49ers 27, Saints 20
Mike Triplett, ESPN: Saints 19, 49ers 17
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: 49ers 27, Saints 23
Michael David Smith: Saints 21, 49ers 20
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL Media: 49ers 24, Saints 20