By Sam McPherson
The Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4) are closing in on the the AFC South Division championship, and they come to Levi’s Stadium on Sunday to face the suddenly hot San Francisco 49ers (4-10), winners of three straight now. The 49ers are playing their final home game of the 2017 regular season, and there is a lot of buzz and excitement around the team thanks to the consecutive victories and a new quarterback yet to lose as an NFL starter.
In addition to the winning streak, the San Francisco organization also is riding a healthy run on the injury front, with just two players on the official league report Friday. It cannot be just a coincidence that the 49ers’ healthiest stretch of the season is happening in concert with the three consecutive victories.
Tight end Garrett Celek is questionable
With multiple injuries (knee, ribs), Celek was limited all week in workouts. He’s played in all 14 games this year, including 12 starts, and with a 15.4 yards-per-catch average with four touchdowns, Celek has been a key component of the 49ers’ passing game. He could be a game-time decision on Sunday, but Celek will probably see the field of play for the 15th time this year.
He played in all 16 games last year, catching a career-best 29 passes and scoring three TDs. Overall, in 69 NFL games, all with the 49ers, Celek has 76 receptions for 986 yards and ten touchdowns. At age 29 this season, he’s also played a little fullback for San Francisco under Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. Against a dynamic defense like Jacksonville’s unit, Celek’s presence on the field would be a plus for QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who is 5-0 in his NFL career as a starter—including the last three games for the 49ers.
Cornerback Greg Mabin is doubtful
He missed last week’s win against the Tennessee Titans, and then Mabin missed practice entirely on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Although he was able to work out on a limited basis Friday, he is doubtful to play on Sunday. Mabin is a depth player in the S.F. secondary, and without him last Sunday against Tennessee, the 49ers still held the Titans to just 238 passing yards in the 25-23 victory.
The Jags have a more-potent passing game with QB Blake Bortles at the helm, although the strength of Jacksonville’s offense is its No. 1-ranked running game. If the 49ers are going to load up the box defensively against the Jags, they’ll only need secondary depth in an extreme emergency, so Mabin’s expected absence should not be too costly for the S.F. defense this weekend—he actually hasn’t made a tackle all season, playing in six games total.
Jacksonville’s WR corps is hurting
Of the four players listed on the Jags’ official injury report, three of them are wide receivers: Marquise Lee (ankle) and Larry Pinkard (concussion) are out, while Allen Hurns (ankle) is questionable. After missing the last five games, Hurns is expected to play against the 49ers despite being limited all week in practice. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy since his breakout 2015 season, but Hurns has the potential to burn any secondary in the NFL.
The fourth injured player for the Jags is linebacker Lerentee McCray (neck): He wasn’t able to workout on Wednesday or Thursday, and on Friday, McCray was just limited in practice. He should be a game-time decision for Jacksonville on Sunday. The Jags have the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL this season, but McCray hasn’t seen the field much despite playing in 11 games. He has just three tackles this season, although he does have 1.5 sacks among them.
- (TE) Garrett Celek (Knee, Ribs) — Limited Participation In Practice
- (CB) Greg Mabin (Calf) — Limited Participation In Practice