The last time the 49ers faced off against the Packers, San Francisco dominated Aaron Rodgers and company from the opening whistle to punch its ticket to the Super Bowl. The 49ers just had a far superior roster. Plain and simple.
That won’t exactly be the case when the two teams meet again this Thursday night. The 49ers have been ravaged by injuries all season, and numerous COVID-19 issues this week have decimated San Francisco’s offense. So, who’s even left to take the field Thursday night and what will the 49ers offense look like?
The 49ers have been brutalized by injuries and COVID-19
When the 49ers take the field on Thursday night, not even the biggest San Francisco fans will recognize most of the roster.
Let’s start at quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo left last Sunday’s game against the Seahawks with an ankle injury. He’ll miss at least six weeks of action, and he might even be out for the season.
Ok, let’s try running back. Raheem Mostert remains on Injured Reserve with an ankle injury of his own, as does Jeff Wilson Jr. Tevin Coleman also hurt his knee against the Seahawks, and he’ll miss Thursday’s game, too.
The wide receiver position is just as mangled. Kendrick Bourne started a domino effect when he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel were later placed on reserve/COVID-19 list as well, and all three will miss Thursday’s game.
Tight ends? At least they still have George Kittle, right? Wrong. Kittle suffered a fracture in his foot against the Seahawks, and he’ll be out multiple weeks. Jordan Reed has a chance to play Thursday, but we’ll know more by 4 p.m. ET.
The offensive line might be the healthiest group of them all, but they’ll be missing Pro Bowler Trent Williams because he was in close contact with Bourne throughout the week.
Get all that?
The 49ers’ offense will look unrecognizable on Thursday night
OK, so we covered who WON’T be playing for the 49ers Thursday night. So, what about the players who will actually be on the field.
Nick Mullens will get the start at QB, which isn’t much of a downgrade from Garoppolo. Mullens has been solid in relief this season with 852 yards on 70.4% passing. C.J. Beathard will serve as the backup.
Jerick McKinnon will start at running back with rookie JaMycal Hasty set to see plenty of touches behind him.
Wide receiver is where it gets interesting. Richie James and Trent Taylor will be the two primary pass-catchers. Both WRs are in their third season with the 49ers, so at least they’re familiar with the offense. Former Chicago Bear Kevin White and former Denver Bronco River Cracraft were elevated from the practice squad and could even see some targets Thursday night.
Ross Dwelley will handle tight end duties if Jordan Reed can’t go. Justin Skule will take over for Trent Williams at left tackle, and Laken Tomlinson will line up next to him at left guard. Hroniss Grasu will handle snapping duties, and Daniel Brunskill and Mike McGlinchey will guard the right side of the offensive line.
Do the battered 49ers have a chance against the Packers?
The 49ers rolled over the Packers in last year’s NFC Championship game, but they’ll be relying on an entirely new roster to do the same on Thursday night. San Francisco won’t have a single player available who touched the ball in that title game last season.
The 49ers are currently 7.5-point home underdogs against the Packers. They’ll need some miraculous performances from mostly unknown players if they want to hang with Aaron Rodgers on Thursday night.