San Francisco was eliminated from playoff contention last week in their loss to their loathed rivals, the Seahawks, but their issues have been brewing for a while now. This is a team stocked with talented players (the benefit of solid drafting while they were bottom-feeders) but execution and discipline (both on and off the field) have doomed them to mediocrity this year. Jim Harbaugh remains, for now, the HC, and refuses to discuss the Michigan rumors, but there has been chatter about a difficult relationship between him and GM Trent Baalke for over a year now, with Jed York reportedly having to mediate between the two.
When your IR list is as big as your Practice Squad, PUP, and NFI List combined, you're in for a world of hurt on the field. The 49ers go as their defense goes. Unfortunately, that vaunted 49ers defense has missed NaVorro Bowman all season, and lost Patrick Willis and Chris Borland (On Wisconsin!) to injuries, as well as losing Aldon Smith to suspension and addiction problems. You have a defense that's unable to carry along an offense "led" by underdeveloped Colin Kaepernick, who is showing why he was given his unique contract structure.
The team's all-time leading rusher, Frank Gore, is a FA after the season and needs a total of 196 yards to reach 1,000 yards for the 8th time in his 11-year career. Even though they are 6-0 when Gore has 15 or more rushing attempts, Gore last got that number of carries in Week 11 against the Giants. Since then, his team is 1-3, with a win against Washington, but losses to Seattle (twice) and the Raiders. Also, Justin Smith might not be under contract for a 15th season next year, but his DC, Vic Fangio, has stated that he'll do what he needs to do to convince the linchpin of his defense to return next year.
At this point, the 49ers are playing for one another, for pride, and to spoil the Chargers' hopes. They're at home, where they hope to make Philip Rivers and company uncomfortable. Unfortunately for the Bolts, they've lost Keenan Allen to a broken collarbone, so Rivers will be looking to Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, and Eddie Royal to handle receiving duties. The Chargers' defense will be looking to contain Kaepernick (might I suggest engulfing him in Eric Weddle's beard?), forcing him to rely on his backs and receivers, and they know that they'll be getting the 49ers' best effort. San Diego needs to win this game and the next, against the Chiefs at Arrowhead, to have a shot at the playoffs.
The game will be carried on NFL Network and your local CBS affiliate, called by Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts.
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