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San Francisco 49ers

Six things we’d like to see from the Niners over the final two games

Jon Chik

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49ers Running Back Jeff Wilson

The 49ers provided the first gift of the holiday season on Sunday when they edged the Seahawks 26-23 in overtime after going 0-10 against their hated division rival starting with the 2013 NFC Championship. With Niner fans feeling good after what was undoubtedly the signature win of the campaign, here are six other items we’ve added to our Christmas list over the final two games of the season.

Twenty-plus targets for Dante Pettis

Pepper the rookie. After a disappointing start to the season that was due in part to a foot injury, Pettis has stepped up in recent weeks, hauling in 17 receptions for 338 yards and four scores in his last four games.

Pettis has joined the ranks of the offense’s ever-growing list of players who are a threat to take it to the house every time they touch the ball, as he’s shown explosive speed and nifty maneuvers on nearly all of his five touchdown receptions.

With the 49ers looking toward 2019, there’s no reason not to continue unleashing the Washington product and give him every opportunity to continue his late-season surge.

Tackle eligible to Joe Staley for a touchdown

Why not? With San Francisco’s playoff chances having long since evaporated, the Niners might as well open the playbook, have a little fun and attempt to reward the franchise cornerstone with his second career touchdown (he recovered a fumble for a score in 2008). Staley played tight end during his freshman year at Central Michigan, and he logged his third career reception this season, so it’s not like he won’t know what he’s doing if a pass heads his way.

DeForest Buckner being added to the Pro Bowl

No Niner was snubbed quite like DeForest Buckner when this year’s Pro Bowl rosters were announced, but that doesn’t mean the door has shut for the third-year defensive tackle when it comes to a trip to Orlando.

Buckner, who has a career high 11 sacks and 60 tackles, was left off the Pro Bowl squad in favor of Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox and Akiem Hicks, but if one of them goes to the Super Bowl or if someone is too banged up at the end of the campaign to participate in the game, then Buckner’s name could easily be called. He’s got Cox and Hicks beat across the board, and there’s no reason either of them should be on the roster over Buckner.

We certainly don’t want Buckner to get to Orlando by way of someone else suffering an injury, but players drop out of the Pro Bowl for various reasons every season, and if one of the current defensive tackles doesn’t make the trip, then Buckner should be the next man up.

Less Matt Breida

This isn’t a knock on Breida, who has turned in an exceptional season and has already achieved more in the NFL than most pro scouts ever thought he would when he went undrafted prior to the 2017 season. Sometimes, however, you have to save a player from himself, and while Breida has been gutting it out with his ankle injury all season, there isn’t much to be gained for running him back onto the gridiron for another 25 or so carries in the last two games.

Breida can play in this league; that much we know. He has nothing left to prove in 2018, so it would be prudent to limit the 190-pounder’s touches over the last two games and start the process of getting him healthy for 2019.

More Jeff Wilson

Yet another undrafted running back, Wilson has turned some heads over the past four weeks, not just for his impressive stat line (52 carries for 230 yards; 10 receptions for 82 yards), but for his hard-charging style. The North Texas product is simply a hard-nosed, north-and-south runner who always seems to fall forward at the end of his carries.

He’s lost a pair of fumbles, so more carries will give him the opportunity to prove that he can be trusted to hang onto the ball. Of course, if he continues to fumble, then at least San Francisco is aware of a serious red flag (better to find out now than at the start of next season in the fourth quarter of a tight game).

Two more wins!

Draft pick position be damned; last week’s dramatic overtime win was just too much fun, and it can’t go down as the last win of the season.

San Francisco will be tested against a pair of division champions – Chicago and Los Angeles – and those games will serve as great late-season tests (Los Angeles is one game behind the Saints and one game ahead of the Bears, so it’s likely that it won’t be meaningless game for the Rams). If San Francisco somehow knocks off the Bears and Rams without its franchise quarterback and with a plethora of other injuries, the Niners are sure to enter next season beaming with confidence and could easily be in the postseason picture at this time next year.

After all, who doesn’t want to see more of this?

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San Francisco 49ers

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© Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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