Around the NFC West: Road to Superdome
January, 10, 2013
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
Good morning. We'll kick off this Thursday with a video discussion featuring Dan Graziano and me discussing where the San Francisco 49ers stand heading into their divisional-round playoff game against Green Bay.
This one is part of the "Road to the Superdome" series. It runs longer than most of the ones we produce and gives my general feel for the 49ers as the week was progressing.
The 49ers were the NFL's healthiest team this season by at least one measure, but it doesn't feel that way, at least to me. Among the reasons I feel that way:
- All injuries not equal: Justin Smith's triceps situation carries more weight than the typical injury. It's unclear how much the Pro Bowl defensive end will be able to play, or at what level. Big variable there.
- Injury concentration: The 49ers ran out of wide receivers in the playoffs last season. They're better off now, but injuries have again hit the position hard. Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are out for the season. Manningham was supposed to make a difference come playoff time.
- Hunter had value: While Kendall Hunter was not a starter, the second-year running back was an important part of the offense. He's out for the season. Rookie LaMichael James has looked good so far, so perhaps this injury doesn't hurt as much. That remains to be seen in the playoffs.
The 49ers have the shortest injured-reserve list among remaining playoff teams. They are relatively healthy. But because they rely on fewer defensive players than other teams rely upon, the loss of a single key contributor hurts them more. That is especially true in the case of Smith, a dominant player at a position where the team is not overflowing with rotational depth.