How SF 49ers still make playoffs with Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa out

Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The SF 49ers can still make the playoffs without some key players, namely Nick Bosa and Jimmy Garoppolo, but it’s going to take a committee to do it.

Admittedly, it looks bleak right now. Despite the SF 49ers defeating the New York Jets for their first win of 2020, playoffs aren’t on anyone’s radar. The Niners are dropping faster than the temperature in Canada.

Against the New York Jets, the Niners lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle) and EDGE Nick Bosa (knee) to potentially lengthy and/or season-ending injuries. Included in this list of injuries is defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (knee) and running back Raheem Mostert (knee).

SF 49ers’ Nick Mullens time

But let’s look forward. The SF 49ers will take on the New York Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium with quarterback Nick Mullens at the helm. The Athletic’s David Lombardi said it best about Mullens:

Mullens has been the starter in San Francisco before. He owns a 3-5 record in eight starts stemming from 2018 when he plugged the gap in the wake of Garoppolo’s ACL tear earlier that year.

Headed into Sunday’s second-half action, he had 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

But the SF 49ers’ next three opponents, with all due respect, are the Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins. Their combined records are 0-6. The Eagles and Dolphins games will be played at Levi’s Stadium.

As Lombardi suggested, Mullens doesn’t have to be a superhero. He just needs to steer the boat in the right direction with little damage. If he can lead the SF 49ers to three wins before a date with the Los Angeles Rams, the Niners will be OK to make the playoffs.

Win by committee: SF 49ers running backs

Mullens won’t face this daunting task alone. He has a great group of running backs behind him with Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman and Jeff Wilson Jr. All three ended Sunday’s game with positive yards, so it’s only fitting to be positive on their production.

It’s exciting to see how McKinnon has played this year: Two touchdowns and 121 total yards. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is going to rely heavily on his production depending on how long Mostert is out.

We know Coleman can be productive but has tapered off recently, while Wilson is used sporadically, but when he needs to be effective, he executes.

Win by committee: SF 49ers wide receivers/tight ends

Eventually, we’ll get to a point in the season where the receivers take over the offense and lead the 49ers to a postseason berth, you know as wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders did against the New Orleans Saints last year?

Until then, we’ll try to figure out this group.

We know receiver Kendrick Bourne is living up this potential. He’s working his tail off, and even if he drops a ball, it’s not from a lack of trying.

Rookie Brandon Aiyuk got his first taste of NFL action and looks like he could be a pivotal piece moving forward when Deebo Samuel (foot) gets off injured reserve.

Slot receiver Trent Taylor, who missed all of 2019, is getting his body and mind back into game form.

We’ve seen the emergence of No. 2 tight end Jordan Reed, and he could be in play for team MVP at the end of the year. Maybe it’s overreacting, but when he and George Kittle are on the field together during the toughest part of the schedule, they’ll create a huge problem for opposing defenses.

Defense wins championships:

The defense might be the only side of the ball who could be OK without their star player. Before you get upset, remember “OK” is the keyword. Bosa is the heart and soul of the defense. He’ll be missed on and off the field, but the defense did well without him.

Niner Noise’s Peter Panacy gives us some replacements for Bosa here.

Besides a garbage-time touchdown, the defense played at the level SF 49ers fans have been accustomed to. They stepped up on third and fourth down conversions and without Bosa and Thomas, they banned together to get the win for their guys.

They need to take the same energy into the rest of the season. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who is filled with energy, will need to figure out how to keep his healthy players focused on the task at hand: make the playoffs.

It’ll be a tall order, but we have to believe he can make it work.

Playoff structure

One of the newest features to the 2020 NFL season is a new playoff structure. ESPN broke down how the new postseason will go.

As it pertains to the SF 49ers right now, there will be three NFC Wild Card teams, which means if the team can come out of the Garoppolo injury period with a winning record, it could be in prime position to take one of those spots.

We’ve already seen how tough the NFC West is going to be. Besides the Niners, every team is undefeated. And until the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco meet again at the end of the season, the Cardinals will hold the tie-breaker.

But if the 49ers start focusing on just doing their job, there should be no issue making the postseason in this new format.

Next. Predicting 49ers' Week 3 starting lineup amid injuries. dark

This is by no means going to be easy. But we’ve seen how well this SF 49ers team can play. Even though they’ve lost their captains on offense and defense, it’ll allow other guys to step up and prove the doubters wrong.