If the 49ers don’t win today, finishing the season 0-16 will be more likely than not.
The New York Giants are in Santa Clara with less to play for than anybody in the league. They’re practically disqualified from the playoffs already. Reports indicate their players want head coach Ben McAdoo fired. And with their best player (Odell Beckham Jr.) done for the season, they’re also a franchise already waiting for the 2018 season.
On the other sideline, the Niners need to show some progress under first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan. The days of being content tanking for a high draft pick are over. The most conservative projections have them comfortably in the top 10. If general manager John Lynch (and personnel gurus Adam Peters and Martin Mayhew) can’t turn that into an effective player, this whole experiment is doomed.
So, the time is now to instill some hope in the locker room. Besides, CEO Jed York can’t like the dwindling attendance at Levi’s Stadium every week. One win against the Giants won’t fix that deeply entrenched problem, but wins lead to people in the seats (just ask the local Giants team).
Yes, there are injuries limiting the 49ers’ ability to compete. Serious injuries. Injuries that have forced 23 players to the IR.
But they’re playing a team that was embarrassed last week. They allowed the Los Angeles Rams to score 57 points. On their home field.
They were playing without star defensive back Janoris Jenkins, who was suspended by McAdoo — a move that caused a deeper rift between the head coach and his players. (Jenkins swears McAdoo hasn’t lost the locker room, as ESPN reported by citing anonymous sources. It was a savvy public-relations move by a veteran looking to stay in the league after this season is over.)
But the Niners are getting an even more important piece back as Joe Staley confirmed to reporters on Friday that he’ll be returning after a one-game absence due to a broken orbital bone under his right eye.
Having two above-average offensive tackles in the game can only help CJ Beathard, who has to be ecstatic that he should be able to decrease the number of hits he’s going to take in what appears to be his last scheduled start of the season.
It’s going to take a full-team effort to get the win — regardless of how disinterested the Giants are — because the Niners simply aren’t good enough to overpower any team in the NFL. But this is the last clearly winnable home game on the schedule, and losing by a couple points to this team won’t cut it.
The “if only a couple of plays had bounced the other way” line has a very short shelf life, and the 49ers used that all up already.
It’s time for Shanahan’s bunch to show the home crowd something while they can. And then we can start talking about getting win
No. 2 (road games in Chicago and Houston in Weeks 13 and 14 look semi promising).
Because the sweet spot for the Niners is 2 wins. The dreams of them being the team that turns it around are dead and buried. But they can build off of not losing ground from the Chip Kelly season.
“I hope everyone on our team is thinking about one thing, that’s how we get a win on Sunday,” Shanahan said on Friday.
Because if the 49ers don’t win today, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to believe this franchise is actually trending in the right direction.
Contact Examiner Sports Editor Jacob C. Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.