NBCSBA Spotlight: Five 49ers Players to Watch vs. Washington

The 49ers margin for error has been completely eliminated.

And with one more loss, the 49ers will be eliminated from NFC playoff contention, too.

The 49ers and Washington have identical 5-7 records entering their Week 14 game Sunday in Glendale, Arizona.

But one 5-7 looks a lot different than the other.

The 49ers' record has them mired in last place in the NFC West and No. 11 in the conference pecking order with seven teams ticketed for playoff spots at the end of the regular season.

Meanwhile, Washington is surging with Alex Smith at quarterback. Washington has won three in a row. The New York Giants lead the NFC East with a 5-7 record but hold the tie-breaker over Washington due to their two head-to-head victories. Ron Rivera's team still is very much alive in the playoff picture.

This is not the gimme for the 49ers that it appeared to be when the schedule came out. The 49ers are going to have to bring a high-level game to their temporary home stadium to keep their hopes alive.

Here are five to watch, including one former 49ers player.

5. Alex Smith

Smith said it feels like a lifetime ago.

He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 49ers in the 2005 draft. He had seven offensive coordinators in his first seven seasons. He was playing the best football of his life when he sustained a concussion and coach Jim Harbaugh benched him for Colin Kaepernick in 2012.

Smith went through football adversity. But that was nothing compared to his journey to get back to football after nearly losing his right leg -- and life -- to a compound fracture and ensuring infection.

Fans of the 49ers still have an affinity for Smith, who is one of the great comeback stories the NFL has ever witnessed. If Smith plays like we all have come to expect, he will make all the smart decisions and keep his team in this game from start to finish.

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