49ers playoff hopes still alive

49ers Levis Stadium (Photo: Creative Commons)

by Jonathan Giron, staff writer

The San Francisco 49ers, after a terrible 2020-2021 season where they ended fourth in the NFC West with a record of 6-10, continued to struggle early on this season. However, against all odds, there’s still hope for the 49ers to be a playoff contender.

With only five games left, the team is 6-6, and after their four game losing streak, they have now gone on a three game winning streak that ended on Sunday with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Their window for the postseason is not over yet, though. ESPN’s Football Power Index gave the 49ers a 68.4% chance of making the playoffs going into the season, and after their losing streak, it dropped all the way down to 21%. Currently, their chances of clinching a playoff spot is 68.1%, but with the loss to their rivals, the 49er’s momentum has taken a hit and now they fall two games behind the Los Angeles Rams, currently second in the NFC West. 

Although the 49ers are doing better than where they started, they continue to struggle in some aspects. San Francisco’s secondary has a hard time holding their weight. Maria Carrillo High School junior Matt Anderson said, “We need to improve our defense. Our corners and safeties get burnt, and also commit too many fouls.” Penalties have been a big part of the 49er’s downfall, with them leading the NFL with 16 defensive pass interference penalties. When asked how the 49ers could improve their defense, Anderson said, “Hire better coaching.” The team lacks discipline, and after previous defensive coordinator Robert Saleh left to pursue his career with the New York Jets as their new head coach, the team has been lacking a formidable leader. Although new defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans replaced Saleh, Ryans has not yet proven to be the best replacement. 

49er fans online are also questioning Kyle Shanahan’s head-coaching abilities after failing to fix these problems. However, MCHS junior Sebastian Mccarthy said, “I think we should keep Shanahan, he’s a good playmaker.” Anderson agreed: “We should give Shanahan one more year with [Quarterback] Trey Lance, but if it doesn’t work the 49ers should think about firing him.” 

A looming decision the organization will have to make is whether they want to stick with Jimmy Garoppolo as the lead quarterback or whether it is time for the newly drafted Trey Lance to make an entrance. So far in the season, Garoppolo has been the primary quarterback; with some of Garoppolo’s inconsistency, more fans want Lance to step in. Both McCarthy and Anderson agreed Lance was a much better quarterback, pointing out his mobility, athleticism and stronger arm. Fans online have been criticizing Garoppolo’s sloppy playmaking after he had two interceptions and failed to make a crucial touchdown that could’ve tied the game. The organization should begin to incorporate Lance to make sure he reaches his full potential.   

Things had been looking up for the team in the past few weeks, after coming off some of their best games in the season. The 49er’s offense had improved, and much of the credit was due to Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell. Samuel, who is usually a wide receiver, stepped in as running back while their main running back Raheem Mostert is out for the season with an injury. Samuel now has 203 rushing yards for the season and picked up 66 rushing yards in the game against the Vikings. Samuel has also played amazing at wide receiver, being fourth in the NFL for receiving yards with 1,006. Mitchell has also played well, picking up 759 rushing yards this season while also being injured for a few games. However, bad luck struck the 49ers after it was notified to the team that Samuel would be out for one to two weeks with a groin injury. With Samuel out for the important Seahawks game, the 49ers lost some crucial receiving and rushing yards that could’ve won the game for the 49ers.

With some tough opponents ahead of them in their last six games, the 49er’s postseason chances are looking much slimmer. The 49ers have a lot to prove Sunday against the Bengals if they want one of the last playoff spots in the NFC West.

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