I’ve been waiting all week for Sunday Night! The New York Giants (2-2) will be in action versus their rivals to the West, the San Francisco 49ers (1-3), in primetime on NBC. With the Giants coming off of two straight wins and the Niners reeling, it’s imperative for the Giants to win this game on the home turf. Overtime’s got you covered with everything you need to know come Sunday Night.
Oh how times have changed. After thinking they had struck gold with Colin Kaepernick and locking him up to a $100-plus million contract, Kaep has been terrible this year for the Niners. While it’s not all his fault, the Niners definitely deserve blame for ruining such a fantastic young talent. Kaepernick has a 62.1% completion rate, but has an ugly 2-5 TD-INT ratio and a 67.7 QBR. On the other hand, Eli Manning has been steady as usual. His 62.9% completion rate is in line with his career marks, and his excellent 7-1 TD-INT ratio and 96.4 QBR leave Kaepernick in the dust. However, Manning’s penchant for the boneheaded play has cost Big Blue two easy wins this season. Despite this, it’s easy to award the quarterbacking edge to the Giants this time around.
After letting longtime 49er Frank Gore move on to greener Indianapolis Colts pastures, San Francisco has turned to second-year back Carlos Hyde and veteran Reggie Bush. Hyde had a tremendous first week versus the Vikings, and has a 4.5 average and two touchdowns. His bullish style sets him apart, making him tough to tackle. Bush is a stellar pass catcher out of the backfield, and ex-rugby player Jarryd Hayne is an interesting project. Also don’t forget about Kaepernick; he has the 49ers’ second most rushing yards. Still, I am hesitant to give San Francisco the edge here even with Hyde due to the Giants’ depth. While Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Shane Vereen have been contained in terms of long runs, they pound and stiff arm and truck their way to relevance. Jennings and Vereen in particular have been quality options as receivers out of the backfield too; each have big play potential on screens. Let’s call it an even matchup between these two rivals in regards to the running backs.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
While the G-Men have been decimated at the receiver position this year, how can you go wrong with starting Odell Beckham Jr. and Reuben Randle? Each have two touchdowns and multiple big plays this year. With Victor Cruz still sidelined with a calf injury, Dwayne Harris has looked explosive as slot receiver and young Myles White and Geremy Davis have sure hands. Daniel Fells’ MRSA infection really dampens the Giants’ tight end group, and puts a huge responsibility on Larry Donnell to have a big game receiving and fullback Nikita Whitlock blocking. Even still, I like the Giants’ wideouts more than the 49ers’ flawed group. Anquan Boldin has looked more like Anquan “Oldin” in his age-35 season. Torrey Smith is a stellar deep threat but goes completely missing in the short game, and reliable tight end Vernon Davis will miss a second game with a knee injury. Garrett Celek will start in his place. The Niners have a so-so receiving corps, one that can’t beat the Giants’ dependable bunch.
For once, the Giants may actually have the edge on the Offensive Line this week! With Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh forming a rock-solid left side, center Weston Richburg performing so well yet so under the radar, and veterans Geoff Schwartz and Marshall Newhouse outperforming their low expectations, Big Blue has only allowed 4 sacks in 4 games. While their run blocking could use work, it pales in comparison to the 49ers’ inability to create holes for the impressive Carlos Hyde. Hyde is so talented but his line is just the polar opposite. While Joe Staley (questionable for Sunday Night) and Alex Boone are exceptional on the left side, their right side is a mess. Center Marcus Martin and right guard Jordan Devey have come under scrutiny for their poor play, and 6’8″ 316 pound Erik Pears has been just okay at 33. From center to right tackle, the Niners’ line has given up a combined 27 hurries, hits, and sacks (CREDIT: Big Blue View). I never thought I’d say this, but let’s give the edge to the Giants’ offensive line for once.
Edge: Giants (!)
What has happened to the Giants and 49ers pass rushes of the past? Back in the day, the pass rushers made Giants-Niners games what they were! The Giants will be missing starter Robert Ayers Jr. again due to a hamstring injury, and substitute starter George Selvie has a calf issue. Therefore, impressive Kerry Wynn will start opposite veteran Cullen Jenkins. Wynn and Jenkins are stellar run defenders, but struggle at generating pressure towards the QB. Jonathan “Big Hank” Hankins is always dependable at DT, while the merely average Markus Kuhn will return to a starting DT job beside him. The 49ers get pressure mainly from the linebackers, as evidenced by their starting D-Line, ends Glenn Dorsey, Quinton Dial, and nose tackle Ian Williams accumulating exactly zero sacks. They are solid run defenders, though. Rookie Arik Armstead does have a sack, but has received little playing time. Both of these teams’ D-Line’s are poor at generating pressure, leading to a stalemate.
While San Francisco gets no pressure from their D-Line, linebackers Aaron Lynch, Navarro Bowman, and Ahmad Brooks are a threesome of trouble for an Offensive Line. Brooks is questionable for Sunday Night; he is dealing with a death in the family. Bowman has made an amazing recovery from a devastating knee injury. His comeback and the emergence of Lynch has made the retirement of Patrick Willis more bearable. It’s not like the Giants were going to ever have the edge here anyway, but Devon Kennard’s hamstring injury has made a so-so unit weak. Kennard was the Giants’ only playmaker at linebacker. In his stead, Mark Herzlich will start and Jonathan Casillas will take his place on passing downs. A similar timeshare occurs at middle linebacker, where captain Jon Beason is still a bit gimpy. Leading tackler Uani’ Unga plays nickel and dime MIKE. Speedy J.T. Thomas could be counted on for a greater impact with the absence of Kennard. The injuries have left the Giants shorthanded versus the 49ers’ resolute core.
Few teams boast a 1-2 punch as great as the Giants do at cornerback with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara. DRC has been his usual self, and the emergence of Amukamara has been a welcome story for the G-Men. Trumaine McBride and Jayron Hosley are both questionable, but expect at least one of them to be available come game time. Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather have again been a solid safety combination, quite surprisingly. On certain drives, Collins’ speed and sure tackling makes it impossible for the opposition to pass his way. And oh by the way, the Niners’ secondary is a hot mess. Trumaine Brock and Kenneth Acker each have a pick on the season, but are hardly big names. Keith Reaser is the nickel back. Veteran Antoine Bethea is the leader of the secondary, he has 24 tackles and a sack on the season. His opposite, Eric Reid, is solid as well. The Niners are the opposite of the Giants in that they have good safeties but weak corners. Knowing that, I feel comfortable giving the Giants the edge.
The Giants’ special teams have improved tenfold from last season. Kicker Josh Brown, punter Brad Wing, and snapper Zak DeOssie are as reliable as they come, and Dwayne Harris is a dangerous returner. With the coverage units actually a strength, it’s difficult to better Big Blue’s special teams. The Niners have good special teams in their own right, however. Kicker Phil Dawson is 4-5 (the miss was within the 30 yard line!) but is usually quite dependable, rookie punter Bradley Pinion has a big leg and 7 punts inside the 20 yard line, and snapper Kyle Nelson recently signed a 4-year extension, something all snappers dream of. Return-wise, the Niners are dangerous. Reggie Bush could still be an option back deep, but DeAndrew White, Bruce Ellington, and Jarryd Hayne have surpassed him on the depth chart; each has at least one big return on the year. Special teams make or break a game, and the Giants have a slight advantage this time.
It’s hard not to feel good about this game for the Giants. They have the edge over the 49ers in most major categories, are coming off of two straight wins, and are playing at home. It’s important to not take anything in the NFL for granted, meaning the Giants will have to be careful versus the Niners. While things haven’t bounced their way yet, Kaepernick, Hyde, and Boldin beg enough respect to keep this game reasonably close.
Prediction: 30-20 Giants