The San Francisco 49ers return from their Bye to face the Los Angeles Chargers in primetime at Levi's® Stadium. The Week 10 matchup will mark the first time the Chargers and 49ers play on "Sunday Night Football." In this contest, San Francisco will look to notch their first win over Los Angeles for the first time since 2000.
The Chargers are coming off a close 20-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9. Since that game, Los Angeles has been working through a few notable injuries to their roster. Here's a look at Chargers players injury statuses:
- DL Austin Johnson was placed on Injured Reserve with a fractured left knee and sprained MCL. DL Breiden Fehoko was signed to the Chargers active roster from their practice squad and now joins an interior with Sebastian Joseph-Day, Morgan Fox, Jerry Tillery, Christian Covington and Otito Ogbonnia.
- WR Keenan Allen (hamstring) is day-to-day.
- OT Trey Pipkins III (sprained MCL) is day-to-day and his participation in Sunday's game will be a game-time decision.
- LB Chris Rumph II (sprained MCL) is also day-to-day and his participation in Sunday's game will be a game-time decision.
- WR Mike Williams (high ankle sprain), is week-to-week and will likely not play on Sunday.
- LB Joey Bosa (groin), will not be active against the 49ers and it is too early to determine his return to practice.
Recently, San Francisco has also been working through a handful of injuries. However, thanks to the rest taken during the team's Week 9 Bye, there are a few key players back in action. Running back Elijah Mitchell, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair offensive lineman Colton McKivitz and defensive lineman Jordan Willis were all fully available for Wednesday's practice after having their practice windows opened. Also looking ready to go for Sunday are wide receivers Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings and fullback Kyle Juszczyk who were all sidelined in the team's Week 8 contest against the Los Angeles Rams.
The 49ers are entering the second half of the season with a much healthier roster, which better prepare the team for their upcoming opponents.
"The 49ers, in my opinion, when healthy, have one of the best rosters in the league," Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd said as he ranked San Francisco No. 4 in his list of the 10 best teams in the league this season.
With Samuel back in action after working through a hamstring injury, the Week 10 matchup will be the first time that he and running back Christian McCaffrey will play together for a full game. Head coach Kyle Shanahan will now have two dual-threat offensive weapons at play with a wide receiver who caught the league's attention with his rushing abilities, and a running back who has received NFL accolades for his receiving abilities. So far this season, Samuel has recorded an average of 4.6 receptions per game and 55.3 yards per game, and two touchdowns. McCaffrey is coming off of one of the biggest games in his career, where he scored a touchdown pass, run and reception against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8.
"You've got two guys who are a little bit interchangeable. They're different positions, but they both can play the other one's position, so it just makes it a lot easier to distribute the field," Shanahan said. "It makes a little bit more of a threat on whoever gets ball in their hands."
Halfway through the season, the Chargers pass defense has allowed three touchdowns and a 111.8 rating to opposing running backs. Asante Samuel is the Chargers primary cornerback, and his defense against San Francisco's receivers will be a matchup to look out for. In Week 7, Samuel recorded 26 tackles, a team-high seven passes defended and an interception against the Seattle Seahawks. An area the 49ers could likely take advantage of is in the run game. Los Angeles is ranked last in the league for rush defense, as they've allowed an average of 5.7 yards per carry so far this season.
Without LA's top receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert still managed to pull off a win against the Falcons in Week 9. In that contest, Herbert recorded 245 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His main target was Josh Palmer; the wide receiver notched 106 yards and eight receptions on ten targets. A player that the 49ers defense must contain is the chargers own dual-threat running back, Austin Ekeler, as he is likely to provide the most production to LA's offense. Ekeler has tallied 427 rushing and 381 receiving yards, scoring a total of 10 touchdowns so far this season.
"(Ekeler) can do everything," Shanahan said. "He's one of the better backs in this league. He's a very natural runner, hits the right holes. When a defense makes a mistake, he makes them pay right away. He's extremely efficient and good in the pass game, whether it's screens or running routes or check downs, doesn't seem to fumble, he is as consistent as it gets and does it in all aspects."
This Sunday, Ekeler will be up against a San Francisco defense that has held runners to an average of just 3.4 yards per carry, ranking first overall in the league. The 49ers pass rush will have to find their way through a Chargers offensive line that has given up the least amount of sacks in the league. Nick Bosa and co. will look to take down Herbert in Sunday's contest and add to their list of 26 sacks on the season. As for the 49ers pass defense, the unit has only allowed an average of 87.2 rating and 199.3 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks, ranking eighth overall in the league.