SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The unbeaten 49ers are expecting a trio of offensive starters back from injury for Monday's game against the Seattle Seahawks.
However, San Francisco could be without three other key players, creating a new set of challenges as the team looks to extend its record to 9-0.
The returning players include two of their best offensive linemen, tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, and their Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk. The players expected to be shuffled out of the lineup are tight end George Kittle (knee/ankle), linebacker Kwon Alexander (pectoral) and kicker Robbie Gould (quadriceps).
Kittle on Saturday was officially tabbed "doubtful" to play, but coach Kyle Shanahan is keeping the door open, given Kittle's high pain tolerance.
"Just because it's George," Shanahan said. "If it was any other player, I would probably say he's out. If it goes like this, he will be out."
Kittle is undoubtedly the team's best player on offense. His blocking is crucial to the league's second-best running game and he's been the team's top pass catcher on pace for his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. He's been paramount to the team's success on third down, catching 19 of 20 targets from Jimmy Garoppolo for 14 conversions as the team ranks second in the league in conversion rate (49 percent).
Even without Kittle, the team believes it has the players and versatility on offense to make up for his absence. Reserve Ross Dwelley made the game-sealing third-down conversion in the Halloween win over the Arizona Cardinals while playing a career-high 49 snaps played.
"Ross has proven it the last couple weeks," McGlinchey said. "But we've known Ross is a player since he got here. He's one of the best true pass catchers on our team. He's gritty as all hell, he does whatever the coaches tell him to do."
The 49ers know they won't have Alexander, who had season-ending surgery this week to repair a torn pectoral. Alexander was San Francisco's second-leading tackler and he's one of its two defenders with a forced fumble and interception, joining rookie Nick Bosa.
Asked about what the team will miss without Alexander, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said, "His energy, his juice, obviously his play-making ability. There's going to be a lot to miss, but we've got tremendous faith in Dre Greenlaw and the guys that are going to step up in his place."