All eyes on the QB as 49ers dip in USA TODAY NFL power rankings

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  • San Francisco 49ers
    San Francisco 49ers
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  • Trey Lance
    Trey Lance
    American football player

The 49ers’ loss to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night wasn’t especially damaging for San Francisco given the way the rest of the week shook out. They fell only one spot in the USA TODAY NFL power rankings to No. 12, which is a fitting spot for an up-and-down team on the brink of clinching a playoff berth. However, where San Francisco ranks in the NFL hierarchy with two games left is now a sizable question mark given the thumb injury starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sustained in the team’s Week 16 loss in Tennessee.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan on Monday told reporters Garoppolo was dealing with a thumb sprain. Reporting from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN’s Adam Schefter indicated the injury is a UCL tear and fracture in the thumb that could end Garoppolo’s season. That thrusts rookie QB Trey Lance into his first real starting job with the 49ers needing at least one win to make the postseason.

It’ll be fascinating to see how the 49ers offense looks with Lance under center. In his lone start in Week 5 it wasn’t very imaginative and the offense only scored 10 points. Lance ran it 16 times for 89 yards with 11 of those carries coming by design. The other five were scrambles. Tight end George Kittle didn’t play in that game and WR Deebo Samuel hadn’t gotten a ton of carries at that point. WR Brandon Aiyuk was still working through some early-season struggles as well.

There’s a chance Lance actually elevates the 49ers’ offense if he’s developed the way the team wanted him to this season. San Francisco is 12th in the power rankings for now, but if Lance comes out and plays well over the next two weeks, they might be in the top 10 going into the playoffs.

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