Both of San Francisco's top 2 running backs are nursing injuries ahead of tomorrow's NFC Championship, but all injury designations are not equal. Christian McCaffrey (calf) is playing. Elijah Mitchell (groin) seems less likely.
Mitchell didn't practice at all last week, while McCaffrey was able get in limited practices early in the week and then practice fully on Friday -- he was removed from the injury report. Playing through a calf injury always seemed a little more plausible for a running back than a groin injury, although I'll concede I'm no doctor. But it feels like Mitchell would have at least done enough to earn a limited tag if the team held out much hope of him suiting up.
That raises the question of whether Jordan Mason will be viable in deeper or salary cap playoff contests, or ones where you can only start each player once. (If Mason were to put up decent production, you could use him and save a bigger-name running back for the Super Bowl.) Mason was the only other San Francisco back to step on the field against Dallas, though he only played special teams. Unfortunately, a leap of faith is required to imagine Mason doing much, even if Mitchell sits.
Mason touched the ball at least 4 times in six games this season (so, a minimal role even with Mitchell missing a lot of time). All carries; he wasn't targeted as a receiver in any of them. He also didn't score in any of them. He averaged 40 rushing yards.
His three best games were in lopsided home wins (two blowouts and a 16-point game) against Arizona, Tampa Bay and Miami). Nobody expects that that's how the game at Philadelphia will go. Mason scored in the shootout with Las Vegas, but barely played i that game -- just 2 carries.
|MASON WITH 4-PLUS CARRIES|
|at Ari.||W 38-10||4||14||0|
|at Sea.||W 21-13||4||64||0|
I wouldn't be particularly interested in starting Mitchell, either, even if he were fully healthy. His best games during the season were against a terrible Chargers run defense, and in a pair of blowout wins against Arizona.
San Francisco has to be hoping McCaffrey is ready for a featured workload, because that's their best chance to advance to the Super Bowl. Their 2nd-best runner might be Deebo Samuel, rather than either Mitchell or Mason; seems to have more potential for a big play. Samuel's also nursing an ankle injury, but he also practiced fully on Friday and is good to go.