“Sunday’s corner group could be Norman, Lenoir, Thomas and slot corner K’Waun Williams.... The running back room, too, is thin. Elijah Mitchell and Trenton Cannon have both been ruled out, leaving Jeff Wilson Jr. and JaMycal Hasty as the two viable options....Crucially, though, Deebo Samuel has a chance to play, having participated in practice on Friday for the first time this week.”
The San Francisco 49ers are preparing to play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke with reporters after today’s practice. Here is everything he had to say.
“Samuel missed this past weekend’s game against the Seattle Seahawks due to a groin strain. The third-year wideout did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday but got a good amount of work on Friday. After Friday’s practice, he spoke with reporters and was asked how he felt.”
“Both teams have won enough to be inside the playoff picture if the regular season ended today, but both have also lost enough to put fans and prognosticators on one of those rough wooden roller coasters that jars the bones and turns the stomach.”
“We’re usually hard on the quarterback. We don’t try to give it to him all the time, since they’re the ones not running around quite as much as all the other guys, but he definitely had the best week,” Shanahan told reporters after Friday’s practice. “He was sharp throwing the ball. Did a really good job emulating their offense, doing what we asked and where you go with the ball to try to do what (Bengals QB Joe) Burrow does. But when it wasn’t there, he did a good job making his own plays.”
Fortunately, the Bengals’ defense looks to be getting some help this week. The second biggest signing of the 2020 offseason, cornerback Trae Waynes, could be ready to play on Sunday after successful recovery from a hamstring injury back in October.
Waynes could very well be what Cincinnati needs to slow down San Francisco’s rushing attack, as the corner is one of the best at his position against the run.
The rest of the defense will have to step up as well, as Logan Wilson is out for a while, and the Bengals are coming off a game in which they allowed far too many big plays.
Of the 300,000 simulations I ran for every game this week, this tilt between San Francisco and Cincinnati is the closest matchup, with the Bengals topping the 49ers in just 51.9 percent of simulations. This could also easily swing to the Niners winning in 52.3 percent of simulations based on who’s active (Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel’s game-day status are both in question, for example).
Schatz: The Bengals have the better win-loss record this season, but there’s a big gap between these teams in advanced analytics. The 49ers are seventh overall in DVOA despite being just 6-6. They rank in the top 10 for both offense and defense. The Bengals, on the other hand, are just 19th in DVOA. ESPN FPI has a similar gap; San Francisco is ninth, and Cincinnati 20th. Part of the gap between win-loss record and analytics is that San Francisco has played one of the league’s hardest schedules and Cincinnati has played the easiest based on average DVOA of opponent. The Bengals have two particular weaknesses that are very bad to have against the San Francisco offense: They rank 24th in DVOA against tight ends, and they rank 29th against passes in the middle of the field.
Pick: 49ers -1.5