Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) doubtful; Trey Lance expected to start vs. Texans 

Kyle Shanahan still has hope, but hope might not be enough to fulfill his wish.

Jimmy Garoppolo was listed as doubtful with a thumb injury on Friday's injury report following a week in which Garoppolo did not participate in practice. Rookie backup Trey Lance is expected to start Sunday against the Houston Texans, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

Shanahan told reporters he was still "holding out hope" Garoppolo will be able to go on Sunday. A doubtful status means just that, though: Garoppolo's participation is very much in doubt. Adding further doubt is that the Niners activated quarterback Nate Sudfeld off the practice squad.

Garoppolo is dealing with a grade-three strain of his UCL in his thumb, Shanahan told reporters during the week. The injury will not require surgery, leaving possible a chance for Garoppolo to play in Week 17.

The thumb sprain occurred on his throwing hand, making it difficult to throw the football. A small piece of bone tore away with the ligament when Garoppolo suffered the injury in San Francisco's loss to Tennessee in Week 16, but the sprain is what is causing the main issue for the quarterback.

If Lance is the starter on Sunday, it won't be his first start of his young NFL career. Lance started in Week 5 this season, completing 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards and an interception and rushing 16 times for 89 yards in a 17-10 loss to the Cardinals.

Lance has appeared in five games as a rookie, completing 52.1% of his 48 attempts for three touchdowns and the aforementioned interception.

San Francisco faces a Houston team that seems to set up a favorable matchup on paper, but the Texans cannot be taken lightly. Houston ran away with an upset win over the Los Angeles Chargers last weekend and seems to be improving as rookie quarterback Davis Mills receives more snaps.

The 49ers are currently the sixth seed in the NFC standings, but lead those chasing them by just one game. San Francisco cannot afford to take Houston lightly if it hopes to return to the playoffs, adding pressure to Lance's second career start.

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