The 49ers remain mathematically alive in the NFC playoff picture.
Realistically, the club heads into its Week 15 game at the Dallas Cowboys looking for a victory while also looking for answers to serve as a road map to the future.
The 49ers enter the game with a 5-8 record. They currently are 11th in the NFC. With seven teams slated for playoff spots, the 49ers must win their three remaining games and hope things break their way with other contending teams.
The first order or business is clawing back to the .500 mark. In order for that to happen, they must get big performances against Dallas from these players to watch:
1. QB Nick Mullens
If coach Kyle Shanahan was going to make a switch at quarterback, it would've happened at halftime of the Washington game ...
Or at the end or the third quarter after Nick Mullens threw a pick-six ...
Or, certainly, on Wednesday as the 49ers began preparations to face the Cowboys.
Shanahan is sticking with Mullens, which is a clear indication of what he thinks about Mullens in comparison to C.J. Beathard. But in announcing Mullens would make his seventh start of the season, Shanahan did not exactly give Mullens a resounding vote of confidence, either.
"Nick's the guy who we'll start out with and we'll see how it goes," Shanahan said.
The 49ers should be able to run the ball effectively against Dallas, which owns the NFL's worst run defense. The Cowboys allow 162.7 yards rushing per game with a 5.1 average yards per attempt.
Mullens must be able to use the 49ers' threat of the running game to make plays through the air. He must see things clearly and be decisive as the 49ers' offensive line will have neither Tom Compton nor Colton McKivitz available at right guard.
Mullens is scheduled to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and if he finishes the season on an up-tick he would be a clear favorite to return next season in a backup role.