49ers getting healthy as they look to prevent Chargers making it six in a row

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The San Francisco 49ers are getting healthy at the right time as they bid to kick-start a second-half surge towards the postseason and get a rare win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

San Francisco had their bye in Week 9, having got to 4-4 in emphatic fashion a week earlier, routing the Los Angeles Rams 31-14 at SoFi Stadium.

They return home to Levi's Stadium to face the Chargers in primetime and, while they have beaten the Rams eight times in a row in the regular season, they have not had such fortune against the other Los Angeles team in the NFL.

Indeed, the Chargers are looking to win their sixth straight game against the 49ers, which would make them the first team to do so since the Seattle Seahawks (who nine games from 2014 to 2018).

However, the two teams have not met since Los Angeles' home win in Week 4 of the 2018 season.

The 49ers, who have once again battled the injury bug in a recurring theme of head coach Kyle Shanahan's tenure, are set to get eight players back from absences.

Versatile star wide receiver Deebo Samuel (hamstring), Jauan Jennings (hamstring), fullback Kyle Juszczyk (finger) and linebacker Dre Greenlaw (calf) are all set to return after missing the win over the Rams.

Running back Elijah Mitchell, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, backup tackle Colton McKivitz and defensive end Jordan Willis will also make their comebacks from injuries that saw them placed on the injured reserve list.

Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 1, and it is his and Samuel's infusion back into the lineup that will be most intriguing to watch from an offensive standpoint for San Francisco.

Neither Samuel nor Mitchell has had the chance to play with 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey, whom San Francisco acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Panthers last month.

In his second game against the Rams, McCaffrey threw for, rushed for and caught a touchdown. He was the first player to do so in the same game since the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson completed the feat in Week 6 of the 2005 season and only the fourth since the 1970 merger.

Adding Samuel, whose ability to excel as a receiver and a running back propelled the Niners to the NFC Championship Game last season, and 2021 leading rusher Mitchell into the mix alongside another dual running and receiving threat in McCaffrey opens an array of options for Shanahan, especially against a Charger run defense allowing the most yards play (5.7) on the ground in the NFL.

In contrast to the 49ers' improving injury report, the Chargers will again be without top wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, while right tackle Trey Pipkins is out with a knee injury. Practice squad lineman Foster Sarell could get the nod in his stead ahead of much-maligned backup Storm Norton.

Despite losing left tackle Rashawn Slater to a torn ACL earlier in the season, the Chargers' offensive line has held up well. Quarterback Justin Herbert was not sacked in the win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9, and the Chargers have allowed the fewest sacks in the league this season (10). They have not given up 10 or fewer sacks through eight games since the 2008 season (also 10).

That could change against a fearsome 49ers defensive front. The Niners are third in the NFL with a sack rate of 8.9 per cent, though they are once again missing their best interior pass rusher, Arik Armstead, with a foot injury.

The lack of receiving weapons and injuries up front would appear to put Herbert and the 5-3 Chargers in a tough spot. However, the 49ers will be wary of Herbert's ability to overcome adversity, as he has continued to thrive even as the Chargers have failed to deliver since he entered the league in 2020.

Through 40 career starts, Herbert has accounted for 90 touchdowns (82 passing, 8 rushing). Only Patrick Mahomes (107), Dan Marino (95) and Kurt Warner (91) accounted for more scores in their first 40 starts.