It’s Week 16 of the NFL season and the 7-6-1 Washington Commanders will be facing a 10-4 49ers team in San Francisco.
With last week’s loss to the Giants, every game has serious playoff implications for Washington from here on out. Now the Seahawks and Lions on their heels and they can ill afford to lose anymore games. Facing the best defense in the league - by a substantial measure - Scott Turner will need to pull all the tricks out of his bag for this one. Is Washington capable of taking down another of the best teams in the NFC?
To learn more about these and other issues, I asked Ty Austin of Niners Nation five questions about the state of the 49ers and what to look for in this game.
1) Kyle Shanahan seems to be a wizard with game manager-type QBs, but while healthy, Trey Lance didn’t really seem to live up to the hype. What direction do you think the 49ers go in at QB with Jimmy G. a free agent this offseason? Do you think the 49ers would be where they are in Week 16 if Lance had stayed healthy?
This has been the question on the minds of many a Niner fan as both Jimmy G and now Brock Purdy have managed to captain a top of the line ship without causing much damage or taking them off course. What does the future of the 49ers’ starting quarterback situation look like in 2023?
First of all, I’d recommend living in the moment a little bit here. The Niners have surged into the playoff picture behind a seven game winning streak going into this Saturday’s contest behind an all time great defense and a ultra-dangerous collection of offensive weapons. These two factors combined with the brilliance of Kyle Shanahan has essentially made the quarterback position in afterthought when its value league wide has never been higher or more apparent.
I believe that Brock Purdy’s ability to step up and immediately handle the intricate Shanahan system with the full confidence of his coach has officially and finally sealed Jimmy’s fate in San Francisco. The nearly unnoticeable drop off (and in certain areas a decided uptick) in play between the last pick in the draft and a quarterback with over 100 million dollars career earnings speaks volumes. It’s nearly poetic that on the same day a report came out the Niners were considering another year of Jimmy in 2023 that he would break his foot and clear the path for his obvious replacement. Football is a business and obviously the team will prefer the cheaper option going forward.
As for the Trey Lance question, there’s so much that remains unanswered. We’ve hardly seen a sample size big enough to make any sweeping declarations about his future, yet many people on Twitter try! He only played roughly five quarters this season and four of those were in monsoon conditions. On his first drive against Seattle, he led an efficient march downfield with a couple sharp passes and yards gained on the ground, which resulted in a chip shot field goal. He’s already flashed the promise that made him such an intriguing prospect.
The biggest knock on Lance was his lack of experience as a starting quarterback. He only played one full season at North Dakota State and sat almost his entire rookie season after sitting the previous year due to COVID. With that said, I truly think if he’d played over this whole season that the team would be in a similar position as they are today. I’m nearly certain that he would’ve improved with more reps at the professional level and I’m absolutely certain the obvious talent that has elevated Jimmy Garoppolo and now Brock Purdy would have done the same for Lance.
2) By basically every measure, the 49ers defense is the best in the league. Does it have any weaknesses? It’s amazing to think two of the team’s losses came to Chicago and Denver at this point.
Honestly, I’m struggling to think of one. You could say that Talanoa Hufanga might rely too much on his instincts to make up for a lacking athleticism, which makes him vulnerable to blown coverages. On the other hand, those instincts have resulted in five turnovers on the season, so you take the good with the bad.
After that? Uuuuuuhhhhhhhhh. You could point to a lack of depth on the interior of the defensive line, but the team activated first rounder Javon Kinlaw off the IR for this game just a few weeks after DT Arik Armstead returned from the injured list and wreaked all kinds of havoc for opponents.
As for the linebacking corps? Their biggest problem might be an inability to play their three studs all at the same time. Fred Warner’s knack for disrupting pass lanes means he never leaves the field, while Dre Greenlaw’s jack hammer mentality has cemented himself as a worthy running mate. Unfortunately, Azeez Al-Shaair languishes on the sidelines after finishing last season with 100+ tackles as Greenlaw’s replacement. There’s just too much talent to go around.
So, as far as weaknesses, this team might only have champagne problems.
3) Initial injury reports suggest that Deebo Samuel probably won’t play this Saturday. How does the 49ers offense change without him in the line-up?
The biggest change to the Niners offense without Deebo seems to be a reliance on our other multi-talented superstar Christian McCaffrey. CMC’s first game with a full week of practice as a member of the team coincided with Deebo’s first missed game of the season. The Rams learned how dangerous the running back could be as he became a member of the exclusive Pass-Run-Catch TD Club. Last week in Seattle, the Stanford product had a combined 32 touches for 138 yards and a touchdown.
I’d expect a heavy dose of McCaffrey from the backfield, lined up out wide, and however else Shanahan chooses to deploy him.
4) Like Nick Bosa, Chase Young went down with a serious knee injury in his second season in the league. Bosa rebounded beautifully, eventually. How long did it take for Bosa to look back to “normal” upon his return?
The scariest thing about Nick Bosa might just be that he’s some kind of mutant with healing powers normally reserved for those who possess Adamantium skeletons because he looked like his old self from Week 1, 2021. In his return to the field, Bosa registered four tackles, two stuffs, and a sack. To be fair, he sustained his injury in Week 2 of the previous season on what MetLife Stadium refers to as “turf.”
From that point on Bosa has only continued his upward trajectory to the current DPOY betting favorite, getting stronger and faster in real time as he built his body back with more rehab and each successive game. Teammates, coaches, and his doctors all have gone on the record to say how surprised they were by his ability to rebound from such a devastating injury, but, even Bosa himself has said his final stat line (15.5 sack and 21 TFLs) would’ve been shocking if he’d been told before the season kicked off.
With all that in mind, I’ll speak for all Niners fans in wishing Chase Young a similar return to form… Starting in Week 17 against the Browns.
5) What are you expecting the final score of the game to be this week? DraftKings Sportsbook has the over/under set at 37.5. How many points do you expect to be scored overall?
Given just how good these two defenses have been all season, I tend to agree with the oddsmakers that this one shouldn’t be a high scoring shootout. I’ll go ahead and guess the finale score ends up looking something like this:
49ers 20 Commanders 13
Thanks again to Ty for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the 49ers.
As of right now, Vegas has San Francisco as 7 point favorites. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
San Francisco wins by 8 or more points.
San Francisco wins by 6 or more points, or ties.
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 37.5 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
38 or more total points are scored.
37 or fewer total points are scored.