When it comes to previewing the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants matchup, there’s really only one place to start.
After dominating the New York Jets in Week 2, what technically was a 31-13 win, turned out to be a major loss. Coming into that matchup, the 49ers (1-1) were banged up, battling injuries to numerous key players. It got unimaginably worse last Sunday.
The ugly, the devastating, the heartbreaking. Whatever you want to call it — it’s accurate.
Odds are that you’re already familiar with what happened Sunday. If not, here is who the 49ers lost to injury:
- Nick Bosa – Torn ACL (out for season)
- Solomon Thomas – Torn ACL (out for eason)
- Jimmy Garoppolo – High ankle sprain (week-to-week)
- Raheem Mostert – Mild MCL sprain (week-to-week)
- Tevin Coleman – Knee sprain (placed on IR)
- Dre Greenlaw – Quadricep (day-to-day)
That all happened in one game. The remainder of the 49ers season could very well be in doubt.
The biggest blow was the torn ACL of Bosa. The 49ers defense was as good as it was last season because of the defensive line, and now they will be without their best player on defense for the remainder of the season. Not to mention that the DE opposite Bosa, Dee Ford, is dealing with a back issue and doesn’t seem to be soon making a return.
When asked about the crushing injury to Bosa, 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan said that the team has a next-man-up mentality, the same way they approached losing Garoppolo in 2018:
“You can’t do it with one guy. Everyone’s got to step it up. Everyone knows how great of a player Nick is. Teams do go through this. We lost our quarterback at the beginning of the year two years ago…The thing that makes you excited about that is that we do have a lot of good players on our team. Players that people know about, who I think can still get better, and I also think there’s a lot of people that people don’t know about who this opens up opportunities for, who can get better.”
All of those injuries are in addition to the previous injuries to TE George Kittle, CB Richard Sherman, and WR Deebo Samuel. It is probable that a total of seven starters will not play Sunday against the Giants (0-2).
Even with all of those injuries, the 49ers will still be favored in Sunday’s road matchup, and there’s a good chance that they win. But now more than ever, they are vulnerable pretty much everywhere.
The most important position on the football field is the quarterback, and the 49ers will likely be without theirs on Sunday. Backup QB Nick Mullens played the entire second half last Sunday and didn’t look great, probably due to the fact that he was thrown into the mix in an emergency situation.
With a full week of practice with the first team, Shanahan said he expects a much better Mullens against the Giants:
“I think it’ll be good for Nick to get in there with the first O a little bit more. I thought our cadence was a little bit off when we switched in the second half, just the rhythm wasn’t the exact same. It took a little bit for the center, the O-Line and Nick to get used to. So, I think that’ll be good for the whole group just to work together a little bit more because if that is the case on Sunday, it’s a lot easier working together than just starting in the third quarter.”
How the 49ers and Giants stack up
Amidst all of the injuries, the 49ers still have healthy, talented players on both sides of the ball. The Giants roster is not nearly as bad as the Jets, but it’s still a tier below this injury-riddled 49ers team.
So which players on the Giants could have an impact on Sunday?
Without much of a pass-rush, QB Daniel Jones faces a much more favorable 49ers defense. The struggling quarterback is playing behind a below-average offensive line, and without Bosa and Ford on the opposite side of the ball, that should make his day much easier.
49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh gave his scouting report on Jones:
“He’s very deliberate in his approach. He’s a tough son of a gun. He sits in that pocket. He stands tall. The rush doesn’t bother him. He’ll step up. He moves in and out of traffic very, very well. He delivers the ball on time.
When he gets rolling, he gets very accurate and he’s actually a lot more mobile than people give him credit for.”
Coming into this season, the Giants offense had a lot of weapons. Unfortunately, the Giants lost star RB Saquon Barkley to a torn ACL last week, a huge blow to their offense. WR Sterling Shepard is battling turf toe and was placed on IR this week.
That leaves the Giants with two good WRs in Darius Slayton and Golden Tate, as well as TE Evan Engram. Jones should have plenty of receiving threats at his disposal Sunday, and without Sherman, the 49ers are vulnerable through the air.
Saleh said this about one particular Giants pass catcher:
“Engram is special. He’s dynamic. You can see that [New York Giants offensive coordinator] coach [Jason] Garrett is trying to find ways to get him involved. He’s a matchup problem, whether you’re a linebacker, safety, or a corner. He’s dynamic in the way he plays. They’re not afraid to run the ball at him, because normally you get a tight end of his caliber, he’s off somewhere else doing something and you just kind of count him as a receiver, but he’s kind of putting together his entire showing that he’s not just a receiver. I’m really excited about the opportunity to go against him and see our guys compete.”
Without Barkley, the Giants were forced to sign former Pro Bowl RB Devonta Freeman, who will likely split time with Dion Lewis. Neither of these names are all that impressive, especially with Freeman still learning the offense. This might be where the 49ers defense stands tall Sunday.
On defense, the Giants have a few players that could give the 49ers offense trouble Sunday. Their defensive line is bookended by two highly drafted defensive ends in Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. Neither of them has really lived up to expectations, but they certainly must be accounted for against the 49ers offensive line.
At linebacker, they will deploy Blake Martinez, who has been one of the leading tacklers in all of the NFL the past few seasons.
If last Sunday’s decimation of the 49ers roster hadn’t taken place, this would be another slam dunk game to predict. With how the team looks in its current state, this will be no walk in the park like it was last week.
- 49ers: 24, Giants 17
I’m predicting a 49ers win here because of the overwhelming struggles the Giants offense has had, even before losing Barkley and Shepard. I have a feeling that the 49ers will be attacked through the air because of the Giants inability to run the ball. Jones will likely target the 49ers cornerbacks, and may have some success, but its the 49ers defense that will force a couple of big turnovers.
Mullens will come in and look fine. Not great, but fine. Good enough to get a win. Even without Mostert and Coleman, I believe the 49ers can have success on the ground with just about anyone, and Jerick McKinnon has shown to be explosive through two games.
The 49ers don’t necessarily need Kittle in this game, especially after Reed’s two-TD performance against the Jets, but if he does play it should give Mullens enough options to pair with Kendrick Bourne, Brandon Aiyuk, and Mohamed Sanu.
- The 49ers departure for New York last week might have been a bad omen for what was to come.
- C’mon Ref!
- Kyle Shanahan had a rough week: