Santa Clara (CBS Local) — Ten weeks into the regular season, the San Francisco 49ers remain one of the league’s best teams. Sporting a 9-1 record, the Niners lead the NFC West division and are currently the number one seed in the NFC playoff race.
However, things could get hairy quickly for Kyle Shanahan’s squad, as the stretch run of their schedule is by no means easy. Of their final six games, they will face five teams that are above .500 on the year, and the combined record of their opponents is currently 41-19. The finish line seems so close with just six weeks left and yet, with a slate like that, so very far away.
It all begins this week when the Green Bay Packers roll into the Bay Area for a Sunday evening clash. The Packers rebounded last week with a 24-16 win over the Carolina Panthers, and they sport one of the league’s most efficient offenses, ranking fifth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been up to his old tricks, completing 64.8 percent of his passes for over 2,700 yards with 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions. But the bigger story has been the running game. Third-year back Aaron Jones is in the midst of his best season to date, with over 580 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. He has been nearly as big of a threat in the passing game, hauling in 35 catches for over 350 yards and three scores.
The matchup between that Green Bay offense and the vaunted Niners defense (second in Defensive DVOA) will be fun to watch. But the concern for Shanahan’s group is the offensive injuries. Wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle and running back Matt Breida all missed practice on Wednesday. Kittle and Breida both missed the Cardinals game last week, while Sanders played but was ineffective, with just three catches for 33 yards.
Shanahan is known for his scheming on offense, and he will surely have options ready to go to if those guys can’t play. But, those are tough players to replace, particularly against a Green Bay team that has proven capable of shutting teams down this season. That is why CBS Denver sports anchor Michael Spencer believes the Packers will come out on top.
“I think the 49ers have been playing with some fool’s gold as of late. The Cardinals obviously played them tough. I could see Green Bay winning that one. And I think the 49ers are going to be a really interesting watch here in the second half of the season, because they’ve had some tough games,” said Spencer. “Yeah, they got off to a really, really good start. But I think that they could kind of come back down to life just a little bit here in the second half of the season. So give me the Packers to win that one.”
Currently, the Niners are listed as a three-point favorite in front of the home fans. Kickoff is slated for 5:20 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday night.