49ers, Jets look to end struggles on Sunday

The bad news for fans planning to watch Sunday’s game that pits the 49ers (1-11) against the Jets (3-9) is that two really bad football teams will come together in what’s sure to be an ugly, forgettable affair.

The good news is that there’s only a few teams in the NFL currently playing so poorly that the 49ers stand a chance of beating them — and the Jets are one of them.

Unless of course you’re all about draft positioning, in which case Sunday may just be a game that you’d like to skip entirely.

Not often do the 49ers meet an opponent whose laundry list of issues is similar to theirs.

Lengthy losing streaks, underperforming defenses, shaky quarterbacks, coming off a blowout loss — those factors will linger over both sidelines Sunday in the battle of the bottom feeders, where both teams are probably more invested in April than any game in December.

The negative intangibles for both teams make it hard to predict who has the upper hand in this game.

The Jets have a bona fide, high-quality receiver in Brandon Marshall they can throw too. A luxury unbeknownst to the 49ers.

Yet again, that bona fide, high-quality receiver will be attempting to haul in passes from the unproven, erratic second-year quarterback Bryce Petty, who threw two interceptions in 25 attempts last Sunday while completing just 44 percent of his passes.

Surely any former-Super-Bowl-starting-quarterback should be able to best that. Except the 49ers own former-Super-Bowl-starting-quarterback is coming off the worst game of his career, where he completed just 1 of 5 passes for four yards before being benched.

The loss of center Nick Mangold for the Jets is sure to have ramifications both in the run game and in pass protection. But the 49ers have shown an inability to disrupt both all year-long, which means they may not necessarily have an advantage in Mangold’s absence, they may simply have a fighting chance now.

As you can see, for every potential advantage either team has, there is an equally distressing negative to counteract it, which results in a combined four wins in 24 games taking the field Sunday.

But if I had to approach this game analytically, which is what SFBay pays me for, I’d say that the game’s biggest X-factor will be 49ers running back Carlos Hyde.

After his measly performance on last Sunday in Chicago, it’s hard to imagine Chip Kelly is going to want Colin Kaepernick to go out there and try to sling the ball as often as possible.

Hyde secured 20 handoffs in a game where the 49ers trailed by a large deficit last week. The weather certainly had a lot to do with Hyde’s first 20-touch game since Week 5, but so did the 49ers inefficiency in the passing game.

With no clear fix, and probably a lack of confidence in his quarterback, Kelly could easily decide to top that number of touches for Hyde this week. The only problem is the third-year back will be running into Jets clear-cut strength– their fourth-ranked rush defense.

Things look even more grim for Hyde’s chances when you consider that Pro Bowl tackle Joe Staley popped up on Thursday’s practice report with a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined.

But if Hyde can do the heavy lifting for San Francisco’s offense, the team may just be able to pull out their second win of the season to snap their 11 game losing streak.

But we can breakdown matchups all we want with teams like the 49ers and Jets. What Sunday’s game will likely come down to is simple-who wants it more?

The phrase “tanking” is taboo in the NFL. Whether you think team’s do it, or don’t do it, is subjective

My opinion on the matter is that these athletes are prideful people who would never lose a game on purpose.

But my view is also that this 11 game losing streak has taken its toll on the 49ers locker room, and while they may not be losing games on purpose, they certainly are lacking in the motivation department to give their all every Sunday.

The quietness and frustration grows in the locker room after every loss. The inability of the players to conceptualize what’s going on get worse every week. A run defense that gets pushed around like this, in an obvious run-situation, isn’t just bad, they’re demoralized.

And after a pair of embarrassing losses for each team, it will be interesting to see who shakes off the mental cobwebs. Who actually wants to win. That, more than any analysis, will likely determine Sunday’s game.


Shawn Whelchel is SFBay’s San Francisco 49ers beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShawnWhelchel on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of 49ers football.