The 49ers Are Taking a Foolish, yet Crucial Gamble to Ensure They Don’t Lose Ground in the Hyper-Competitive NFC West

The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a frustrating Week 3 loss at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. However, they’re still very much in the thick of things regarding the hyper-competitive NFC West.

Heading into their Week 4 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers are currently third in the division. They trail the Arizona Cardinals (3-0) and the Los Angeles Rams (3-0) by a game. With the Cardinals and Rams playing each other this weekend, the 49ers can easily get themselves tied for second place.

Such a golden opportunity is cause for risks to be taken.

49ers TE George Kittle is dealing with a calf injury

George Kittle during the 49ers' Week 3 loss.
George Kittle | Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Unless you’re all the way in on Trey Lance blossoming into the second-coming of Joe Montana or Steve Young, most would agree that George Kittle is the 49ers’ most valuable offensive weapon.

The two-time Pro Bowler recorded back-to-back 1,000-plus yard seasons in 2018 and 2019 and still managed to log 634 yards in 2020 despite only appearing in eight games. Kittle’s dominance in 2019 is a huge reason the 49ers were able to crack the Super Bowl.

However, Kittle’s 2021 campaign has gotten off to a limp. The star tight end is dealing with a calf injury, and early practice reports suggested he would be unavailable for the 49ers’ massive Week 4 showdown against Seattle.

“Dealing with some swelling, little pain, and doing what we can to make sure I’m available Sunday,” Kittle said. “I’m going to do everything I can to be on the field Sunday. If my body says I can go, I’ll be out there” (San Jose Mercury News).

Kittle is going to play through the pain

While Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers may have been quietly planning for life without Kittle this weekend, it appears he will attempt to play through the pain instead.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the star tight end will be taking the field in an attempt to guide the 49ers to their third win of the season.

If this were any other week (or if the 49ers were in any other division), there’s a pretty good chance Kittle would be asked to sit out. However, with the NFC West being an absolute gauntlet at the moment, Kittle and the 49ers’ coaching staff clearly understand the importance of beating Seattle.

Dropping to a 2-2 record while simultaneously elevating the Seahawks to 2-2 is less than ideal.

The 49ers have more than one question to answer moving forward

Managing Kittle’s health moving forward is at the top of the 49ers’ priority list. However, they have more than one significant roster question to answer.

The quarterback position, for example, continues to be a point of debate week after week. Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been bad by any stretch of the imagination, but first-round rookie Trey Lance continues to be mentioned as a player with more upside.

There’s plenty for Shanahan to sift through over the next few weeks. First things first, they have to take care of business against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

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