The San Francisco 49ers were 4-6 going into their bye week. Before they played last week against the Los Angeles Rams, they found out they were being forced from their home base in Santa Clara, without knowing when they’d be able to play or practice there again.
It’s OK if you chalked up the 49ers’ season to the Super Bowl hangover already. We knew some teams would catch some bad breaks in a weird 2020, and it’s arguable nobody has had worse luck than the 49ers. They have had a ton of injuries, multiple players go on the reserve/COVID-19 list (they have used a team-record 74 players this season) and now they’re the first team this season displaced from its home stadium.
Yet, the 49ers are not out of the playoff race. The 49ers beat the Rams last week, sweeping the season series, and all of a sudden at 5-6 they’re back in the mix. The 49ers will try to keep it going against the Buffalo Bills on Monday night, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
It’ll be a home game for the 49ers ... in Glendale, Arizona, at the home of the Arizona Cardinals. It’s not like the 49ers aren’t used to some adversity.
49ers still in the playoff race
The roughest night of the 49ers season was probably a Thursday night game in Week 9. Due to injuries and other absences related to COVID-19, the 49ers had a lineup against the Green Bay Packers that looked like something you’d see in the fourth week of the preseason. They lost 34-17 and the game wasn’t that close. A loss to the Saints a week later seemed to finish the 49ers’ chances.
But with five weeks to go there’s still hope. The Cardinals’ surprising loss at the New England Patriots dropped them to 6-5, a game ahead of the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and 49ers at 5-6. The Rams are 7-4, and even though they lead the 49ers by two games, San Francisco owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over them.
The 49ers are starting to get players back. Cornerback Richard Sherman, running back Raheem Mostert and receiver Deebo Samuel returned last week. Rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk should return this week. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle could be back by the end of the season.
The 49ers aren’t in great shape. They dug themselves a big hole this season but the roster is starting to look a lot better, they played well last week and the NFC wild-card race hasn’t gotten away from them. They have little margin for error, and beating the Bills would probably be a good idea if they want to stay in the hunt.
49ers adjusting to new home
It’s tough enough to need to win at least four and maybe all five of your remaining games to make the playoffs. But moving operations with five weeks to go adds a unique challenge.
"Hopefully we can get down there for a week and kind of figure it out – what we can do, what we can't do, what the situation is – and then we'll spend the next two weeks trying to make adjustments to make it as good as we can for whatever problems we can figure out,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.
Sometimes adversity can rally a team. It’s not ideal for anyone to have to relocate to Arizona at a moment’s notice, but these are professionals and they’ll handle it the best they can.
If the 49ers beat the Bills and then go on to make the playoffs, it will be one of the most impressive stories of the NFL season. It wouldn’t be as grand as making a Super Bowl, like San Francisco did last season, but it would still be a proud moment given all the 49ers have been through.
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