SF 49ers: 5 players who must step up over final six games

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 5
Arik Armstead, SF 49ers
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead (91) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers have six games left to determine how 2020 finishes, meaning these five players need to be on their A-game.

Despite a 4-6 record and three-game losing streak, the SF 49ers are still very much in the thick of the playoff hunt entering their Week 11 bye.

Yes, the Niners are sitting at the very bottom of the NFC West. But with the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams all knotted up at 6-3, and with each conference getting one extra playoff berth, a mini “hot streak” of sorts could ultimately propel head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad right back into the playoff picture.

Especially with San Francisco scheduled to play each of those teams one more time.

For a good run to happen, though, Shanahan will need a number of his players to exceed their current playing levels. Some key contributors have been performing at a decent level, but a would-be playoff push is going to require a lot more than just OK efforts.

Simply put, these five Niners have to become key difference-makers over the SF 49ers’ final six regular-season games if the team hopes to make the postseason.

No. 5: SF 49ers Defensive End Arik Armstead

OK, so the argument San Francisco should have kept defensive tackle DeForest Buckner over defensive end Arik Armstead last offseason isn’t going away.

Especially after Armstead, who had a team-high and career-best 10 sacks last year, has managed just 1.5 through 10 weeks in 2020.

Granted, Armstead hasn’t exactly benefited from the top-tier defensive line he enjoyed a season ago. Generally viewed by opposing blockers as the SF 49ers’ best D-lineman at this point in his career, Armstead has been a focus to keep away from other teams’ quarterbacks.

He’s still managed 16 pressures this season, however, so it isn’t the case of Armstead not getting through his blocks.

Instead, if anything, it’s turning those pressures into sacks.

San Francisco, which is struggling for sack production this season, needs Armstead to get that sack total up over these final six games. Perhaps the recent addition of former Atlanta Falcons EDGE Takkarist McKinley, should he pass his physical, helps take some pressure off Armstead.

Nevertheless, Armstead needs to be the kind of force he was a season ago for the Niners to make a run.