The Chargers will look to continue their road success in Week 10.
The Bolts are 5-3 and have won three of four on the road, while the 49ers are 4-4. Kickoff is Sunday at 5:20 p.m. (PT).
We chatted with Matt Maiocco, who covers the 49ers for NBC Sports Bay Area, to get a preview of the game.
What's the vibe around the 49ers as they come off the bye week?
MM: All in all, there seems to be a lot of optimism in the building and among the fan base for the second half of the season. The 49ers did not play consistently in the first half of the season. They lost some games they should have won, and wrapped up the pre-bye portion of their schedule with a 4-4 record. The trade for Christian McCaffrey and the expectations that several key players will return to action seems to have the 49ers set up for a second-half surge. It does not hurt that of their final nine games, six are at home, one is in Mexico City and just two are on the road.
Check out the best photos of the Bolts Wednesday practice at Hoag Performance Center
Both the Bolts and 49ers have been ravaged by injuries this season. What's the health status of San Francisco entering Week 10?
MM: The 49ers will get some key players back, including receiver Deebo Samuel and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, both of whom sat out the Week 8 game against the Rams due to injuries.
In addition, the 49ers opened the practice windows for four players, including running back Elijah Mitchell and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair.
The big one is defensive tackle Arik Armstead. He is not likely to play this week against the Chargers, but his return is expected fairly soon. The 49ers were hit hard by injuries in the first half, but they appear to be getting healthier.
How has McCaffrey assimilated into the team? Is the expectation that his role continues to increase?
MM: McCaffrey stepped right into the offense and became an immediate factor. Two days after he arrived in a trade with Carolina, he was on the field for 22 snaps against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Then, with a full week to practice he ran for a touchdown, had a receiving touchdown and also threw a scoring pass.
One of the missing pieces of the 49ers' offense under coach Kyle Shanahan has been a running back who can stress a defense as a route-runner and pass-catcher out of the backfield. They now have that kind of versatility with McCaffrey.
He and Samuel should be able to cause matchup problems because they both can do so many different things.
The 49ers have a stingy defense and league the league in a handful of categories. Who is the straw the stirs that success?
MM: The 49ers have two true superstars on defense with defensive end Nick Bosa and middle linebacker Fred Warner.
Bosa is a NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. His presence makes everybody on that defense better. Beside Bosa, the 49ers have a bunch of depth on the D-line, and they rotate players in and out of the lineup to keep them fresh. That is a definite strength.
Warner is a leader in the middle of the defense. He is strong as a run defender and in pass coverage.
Also, the 49ers' best offseason pickup was cornerback Charvarius Ward, coming over from Kansas City. He might be the best cover man to line up for the 49ers in a long time.
Finally, what's your expectation for how San Francisco's season plays out? Is the postseason in the cards for the 49ers?
MM: There are a bunch of mediocre teams in the NFL. Frankly, the 49ers have been one of those mediocre teams, too.
But I see a lot of talent and a lot of room for the 49ers to get better in the second half of the season. That, along with the team getting healthier and the abundance of home games, gives the 49ers an advantage as they make a push toward the playoffs.
I'm not sure if it'll be as NFC West champs or sneaking in as a wild-card, but I do believe the 49ers will be playing postseason football this season.
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