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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Trent Williams identifies 49ers’ biggest challenge heading into the playoffs

Dec 30, 2022 at 10:59 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers are treating their New Year's Day matchup against Las Vegas Raiders like a playoff game. Even though the Niners have had the division wrapped up since Week 15, and clinched a playoff spot, now is not the time to take your foot off the gas.

San Francisco is currently a 9.5-point favorite. This week, that number rose as high as 10 points following the announcement that the Raiders were benching quarterback Derek Carr in favor of Jarrett Stidham.

The 49ers shouldn't be marching into a hostile environment, either. Over 60 percent of the Allegiant Stadium crowd is expected to be comprised of Niner fans, based on third-party ticket sales. No one inside the 49ers' building is taking the Raiders lightly, though. There is still a lot of talent on Las Vegas' roster, and any stumble heading into the postseason could be costly.

What is the biggest challenge for the 49ers and their continued success down the stretch?

"Just playing Forty-Niner football, continuing to play complementary football," tackle Trent Williams told reporters on Thursday. "I think that's the biggest challenge every week because that's more about you than it is about the team you're playing. I think when you can avoid self-inflicted wounds, I think it allows you to play pretty good football, and I think that's what we need to do."

The Raiders may be 6-9 and limping toward the finish line, but that guarantees nothing.

"If we don't play complementary football and cut down on the self-inflicted wounds, we can lose to anybody," Williams noted.

San Francisco wants to keep things rolling. They remain within striking distance of the No. 2 seed, currently owned by the Minnesota Vikings. As the NFC West champions, the third-seeded 49ers are guaranteed to open the playoffs at Levi's Stadium. However, the No. 2 seed would guarantee two games at home. That's meaningful for a team that had to play three playoff games on the road last season.

"That's one of the things we can [work toward] at this point in the season," Williams explained. "And that keeps us on the straight and narrow, too, knowing how important these last two games are, because, obviously, any game that we can get in front of The Faithful, I feel like we are at a big advantage.

"We're definitely paying attention to that, and that's the reason why we're approaching these last two games just like they are the playoffs, because I think having home-field advantage, or at least home-field for two games, would be a big help for us."

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