By Dan Stack | Featured Columnist
As expected, the New York Giants (3-6) saw their losing streak extend to four games after getting rolled by the Seattle Seahawks last weekend. At least the Giants came in and give a good effort, only to let old habits reappear and lay down late in the game, losing 38-17.
Well, the Giants will now try to end their losing streak against another NFC West team in the San Francisco 49ers (5-4). The 49ers have had an up-and-down season, tossing in some great wins (like their 27-24 OT win at New Orleans last weekend), with some duds (against Chicago and St. Louis).
Here then are five things to watch for in Sunday’s game.
Will the Giants still show fight?
The Giants (from the players to the coaches) will tell you they are still playing with fight and will not mail it in. After all, this is basically the same team that started 0-6 last season and finished the year 7-3. So anything is possible.
With the game being at home and the 49ers having to travel across the country for a 1PM ET start, the Giants could catch the 49ers napping. The Giants definitely want to finish the season strong and not let down their fans.
So, expect a good effort. However, execution, well, that could be a whole different story.
How will the return of Rashad Jennings impact the team?
Well, the Giants running game could only get better with the return of Jennings (who is likely to make his return from a sprained knee), as Andre Williams has failed to give the team any spark in his run as starter in the last four games, rushing for only 160 in those contests.
Jennings was fantastic early on in the season, rushing for 396 yards and two touchdowns is his first five games. Hopefully the addition of Jennings can jump start the offense. With Williams in more of a secondary role, he can perhaps thrive there and give the Giants a nice one-two punch again.
However, it will be no easy task, as the 49ers rank fifth in the league in rushing defense, allowing only 821 rushing yards on the year and just 91.2 YPG (seventh in the NFL).
Can the Giants stop the 49ers’ run game?
This is the aspect of the game the Giants simply must have to improve upon. Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks absolutely shredded the Giants to the tune of an absurd 350 rushing yards!
Tackling for the Giants has been abysmal and this is something defensive coordinator Perry Fewell must be drilling into the brains of Giants players. They now rank dead last in rushing defense, allowing 1,320 rushing yards on the year and a league-worst 144.7 yards per game and 5.0 YPC. Yuck.
Now the 49ers, led by Frank Gore, will put them to the test. Gore along with stud rookie Carlos Hyde are coming off a solid game in which they combined to rush for 117 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints.
So, expect a lot of handoffs in this game. The onus is on the Giants to play with a better effort. Until they can stop the run, they will consistently be tested on the ground.
Will Eli Manning attempt to air it out?
With the the 49ers stout up front, the Giants best attempt at a win maybe to air it out.
Look for Manning to go to the well once again and target the emerging Odell Beckham Jr. a ton in this matchup. Beckham Jr. did not let Richard Sherman slow him down, racking up 108 receiving yards on seven catches in last week’s game against Seattle.
Beckham Jr. is just finding his way in the NFL and he will only get better in time. With him hitting his stride, Manning and the Giants may quickly abandon the running game while trying to get the passing game more involved. Expect Rueben Randle, Preston Parker and Larry Donnell to get more looks this week.
Can the Giants contain Colin Kaepernick when he runs with the ball?
While you expect a guy like Lynch to run amok, you certainly hope you can contain the quarterback in the running game, but yet there was Russell Wilson absolutely tearing up the Giants on the zone read last week. Wilson was magnificent in extending drives with his legs, rushing for 107 yards on 14 carries.
That being said, the Giants will be facing another quarterback with a similar set of skills in Kaepernick. If you give him space, Kaepernick can burn you with his legs, as he has has rushed for 298 yards on 58 attempts this season.
Although, with the Giants banged up in the secondary, Kaepernick may perhaps also look to exploit that Giants’ weakness as well. If you harass, hit and get Kaepernick off his rhythm, the Giants will have a good shot at winning this game.
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