The San Francisco 49ers (6-4) are struggling. Losers of two straight, they need a lift from a few of their most inconsistent players.
It's not that stars like Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Frank Gore aren't important to the Niners' efforts on Monday night against the Washington Redskins. It's just that those guys, for the most part, bring it every game.
The following four players could dominate or struggle at FedEx Field and the game's outcome could turn on their performances.
They are San Francisco's X-factors.
What's wrong with Anthony Davis?
In 2012, he placed 10th in Pro Football Focus' offensive tackle rankings (subscription required), spearheaded by his run-blocking score.
This year, he's ranked 41st. The right tackle has posted a negative run-blocking score in seven of 10 games.
With left guard Mike Iupati to miss the Redskins game, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, the 49ers are going to need a better performance from the right side of their offensive line.
Davis, who allowed a sack against the New Orleans Saints last week, will face off against a very tough pass-rusher in Ryan Kerrigan on most downs. If he dominates his matchup, the 49ers should have more success in the running and passing games.
Carlos Rogers will mostly cover slot receiver Santana Moss in three-receiver sets, which leaves speedsters Aldrick Robinson and Garcon for Brock and Wright.
My guess is Brock, the much longer-tenured 49er, will get the majority of the snaps against Washington's No. 1 receiver. Brock has had an up-and-down season. The ups include his four interceptions, but the downs include giving up big plays due to his overaggressive style of play.
As Bleacher Report featured columnist James Dudko explains, the Redskins like to use misdirection to get Garcon open. So, it will be up to Brock to stay disciplined and keep Garcon in front of him.
If not, the explosive receiver could have his fourth 100-yard game of the season.
As mentioned above, the 49ers are going to be shorthanded in the secondary. It wouldn't be surprising if Robert Griffin III tests the San Francisco defensive backfield with deep throws early and often.
It'll be up to Smith to return to his All-Pro form and pressure the Washington quarterback.
Smith, who had 19.5 sacks a year ago, played 44 snaps against New Orleans and had two quarterback hurries. He'll be going up against left tackle Trent Williams, who is one of the best in the league.
In the last two games in which Griffin has been sacked fewer than three times, he's thrown for at least 290 yards, and the Redskins have reigned victorious.
If the 49ers, who average 2.1 sacks per game, don't get a vintage performance from Smith, Griffin could once again flirt with 300 passing yards.
Who is San Francisco's biggest X-factor against Washington?
Head coach Jim Harbaugh defended Colin Kaepernick in a 49ers press conference on Thursday.
"He’s doing a heck of a job," Harbaugh said in response to a question about his recent struggles, per Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News. "I would be puzzled why people would think that. What’s more important is what we see."
Kaepernick's stats in the last two games make Harbaugh's comments most puzzling.
The third-year quarterback is 28-of-53 passing for 218 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in losses to the Saints and Carolina Panthers. He hasn't had much help from the offensive line, but to absolve him of all blame would be irrational.
Facing the Redskins defense might be just what he needs to get back on track.
Washington is 28th in total defense, 26th in pass defense and 30th in scoring defense. The Redskins have allowed the opposing starting quarterback to throw for at least 298 passing yards in three of their last four games.
With the 49ers' playoff bid slipping from their fingers, Monday really is put-up-or-shut-up time for Kap. San Francisco is 6-0 when Kaepernick averages at least seven yards per pass attempt and 0-4 when he's under that mark.
Pressure's on. It's time for S.F.'s franchise signal-caller to deliver.