The Houston Texans take on the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17 at Levi’s Stadium.
The Texans are 4-11 and riding a two-game winning streak with rookie quarterback Davis Mills. However, the 49ers are a desperate team in possession of the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs. Unlike the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16, the 49ers can’t afford to play with their food; they need to dispatch Houston and clinch a playoff berth.
Kyle Madson from the Niners Wire drops by to give a preview of the tilt with San Francisco.
Here is what to expect as the two sides meet for a 3:05 p.m. Central Time kickoff on Sunday.
What is at stake for San Francisco in Week 17
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KM — The 49ers need to win Sunday. They can clinch a playoff spot with two wins to close the season, but they can clinch this weekend if they win Sunday and the Saints lose or tie vs. the Panthers. A loss to Houston would be catastrophic though since they’d need to win at the Rams next week and get help.
What is the plan for Trey Lance this week?
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KM — It’s hard to imagine Jimmy Garoppolo with a torn thumb ligament will be able to play. My guess as of Thursday is that Lance will start and play the whole game with Nate Sudfeld working in as the backup QB. With Lance under center I think we’ll see a more creative rushing attack than the one we saw in Week 5 when the 49ers faced the Cardinals. It was a pretty vanilla offense for the rookie, but 12 weeks later we should see a more expansive playbook that takes more advantage of his skill set.
Are the 49ers meeting expectations or have they underachieved?
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KM — They’ve underachieved pretty dramatically. This team was the betting favorite to win the NFC West and they stuck with Garoppolo in hopes of contending for a Super Bowl. Now they’re entering Week 17 just fighting for a playoff spot and the division they were supposed to win for has been off the table since Week 9 or so. This isn’t a very good 49ers team, and that’s a fairly massive disappointment.
How is Charles Omenihu working out for you?
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KM — He’s been fine. Omenihu plays about 25% of the snaps and plays both on the outside and on the interior. His production isn’t super consistent, but he’s had a couple splash plays which the 49ers needed from their defensive line that fell short of expectations this season.
Who are some 49ers players Houston fans should keep an eye on?
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KM — Offensively keep an eye on WR Jauan Jennings. He’s starting to see his role grow in the offense thanks to his ability to make contested catches and produce in the red zone. It feels like there’s a breakout type of game coming from him eventually and with Lance under center it could be this week if the 49ers stretch out their passing game some.
On defense keep an eye on DE Arden Key. He’s been a little disappointing as a pro, but this year San Francisco has started moving him inside some and he’s responded with some really nice plays. Key is quick and strong enough to flat out beat guards, but he’s athletic enough to run stunts with Nick Bosa and create havoc for offensive fronts. It feels like he’s in the backfield wrecking a play a couple times a game.
What did John Madden mean to you?
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KM — I work in radio and I’ve always been obsessed with audio as a medium, and John Madden was the soundtrack to my early football fandom. Every big game he was there with his cool, excited style that made it impossible to not be excited about the game. His love of football was infectious and was certainly one of the reasons I became so obsessed with the sport as a kid. I’d probably not be writing/podcasting about football for a living if not for John Madden.
What is your prediction?
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KM — The 49ers really need this game. They’ve had a few extra days off, they’re getting healthier, and Lance under center should give them some wrinkles to throw at Houston. I don’t expect the Texans to lay down, but if San Francisco is serious about making the playoffs and potentially making noise, they have to roll this team. 49ers 26, Texans 13