When the New York Giants’ schedule was released in May, it would’ve been easy to mark an “L” in ink next to their Week 3 matchup against the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. Now, thanks to the 49ers’ almost unfathomable rash of injuries, this game seems eminently winnable. Last week against the New York Jets, San Francisco lost defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas to season-ending injuries. Add them to a host of other players who will or could be out for Sunday’s game, and the 49ers might be missing nine starters when they face off against Big Blue.
The Giants have their own injury woes, having lost superstar running back Saquon Barkley for the year and receiver Sterling Shepard for multiple weeks during last weeks game in Chicago. They’ve since signed ex-Atlanta Falcon Devonta Freeman to help replace Barkley, but he won’t be ready to contribute much immediately. Wayne Gallman, who was a healthy scratch last Sunday, will likely get the lion’s share of carries against the 49ers.
New York’s casualties still pale in comparison to San Francisco’s decimation. The Giants need to take advantage of an opponent at their most vulnerable to get a win after an 0-2 start. Here’s an overview of everything you need to know ahead of Sunday’s game, followed by a prediction for the final score.
Where and When
MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST/10:00 a.m. PST
San Francisco: DE Nick Bosa (Out), DL Solomon Thomas (Out), CB Richard Sherman (Out), C Weston Richburg (Out), WR Deebo Samuel (Out), RB Tevin Coleman (Doubtful), RB Raheem Mostert (Doubtful), DE Dee Ford (Doubtful), LB Dre Greenlaw (Questionable), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (Questionable), TE George Kittle (Questionable)
Most Concerning Matchup: TE Jordan Reed vs. S Jabrill Peppers
The 49ers’ injuries made finding a concerning matchup tougher than you’d expect. If Bosa were still healthy, poor Cam Fleming would’ve been picked on here for the third straight week. As it stands, the Giants need to be most worried about Reed getting loose in the middle of their defense. The former Washington tight end stepped up last week in Kittle’s absence, catching seven passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns. Reed was a pro bowler in Washington, but injuries and concussions the last couple seasons had derailed his career. When healthy and on the field, he’s still a dangerous weapon in the passing game. Plus, with Garoppolo possibly out, the 49ers will be relying on their tight end to get easy completions over the middle of the field for backup quarterback Nick Mullens.
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As the strong safety and frequent nickel linebacker, Peppers will be most responsible for guarding the tight end. At 5’11, he’ll be at a size disadvantage, and is more adept at run defense than coverage anyways. If Kittle is healthy enough to go, plug him in here instead of Reed. Either way, look for 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan to get his tight end one-on-one matchups against Peppers.
Most Promising Matchup: DT Dalvin Tomlinson vs. C Ben Garland
For all the injuries the 49ers have suffered so far, the one the Giants are in best position to exploit was known before the season even began. The ex-Giant Richburg, San Francisco’s starting center, is still recovering from a torn patellar tendon. Garland played in his stead last week to mediocre results, earning a 61.1 grade per Pro Football Focus. He’s a seven-year veteran backup, although he did start all of San Francisco’s playoff games last year.
Tomlinson was arguably New York’s best defender last year, but he’s gotten off to a somewhat slow start. As the Giants’ nose tackle, he’ll be lined up over Garland for much of the afternoon. If he can consistently defeat Garland and command double teams, that should create one-on-ones for Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams on either side of him to get penetration and disrupt the 49ers dynamic rushing attack.
Keys to Victory
It might seem too obvious to even mention, but the Giants can not afford to give the ball away this game. Turnovers have killed them through the first two weeks, and quarterback Daniel Jones needs to avoid those bad decisions that have plagued him so far. If New York can play a safe, controlled offensive game, they can squeeze out a win over a battered San Francisco team.
Defensively, coordinator Patrick Graham is wont to play five or six defensive backs to guard against the pass. In this game, however, the Giants should use plenty of base formation and sell out to stop the run. Whether Mullens or Garoppolo starts at quarterback, New York should not be afraid of this 49ers downfield passing attack. Slowing down San Francisco’s run game means slowing down their offense.
Final Score Prediction: 49ers 17 – Giants 16
San Francisco’s scourge of injuries gives New York a real chance to take this one. But the 49ers are still a well-coached team with a strong offensive line. Linebacker Fred Warner and lineman Arik Armstead are still high-end defenders capable of giving Big Blue’s offense headaches. The Giants have shown so far they can at least keep games competitive, but they don’t deserve to be picked to win until they prove they can do so.