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The San Francisco 49ers host the one-win New York Giants on Monday Night Football in Week 10, and the first possible Niners winning streak this season could happen based off these three X-factors in the contest.


It's hard to think the San Francisco 49ers are actually in a position to pull off back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018. And given their opponent for Week 10 on Monday Night Football, the one-win New York Giants, there's a real possibility that happens for head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co.

Coming off an impressive, one-sided 34-3 win over the Oakland Raiders well over a week ago, the Niners should be pretty rested and prepared for the contest. Granted, New York is coming off its own bye. But the Giants traveled out west, while San Francisco stayed put after its Week 9 win.

The 49ers are three-point favorites for the game, according to Odds Shark. While that bodes well, one can recall the Niners were also favored against the Arizona Cardinals earlier this season. And San Francisco lost both games.

To avoid such a pitfall against a bad, bad Giants team, the 49ers will have to rely upon winning these three crucial X-factors when these two teams square off Monday night.

Nick Mullens' Maturation Process


Fans probably shouldn't expect second-year quarterback Nick Mullens to pick up where he left off after such a dominant performance against the Raiders. Sure, the Giants defense isn't great, allowing 5.8 yards per play -- tied for 10th worst in the NFL, currently. But it has weapons that can frustrate Mullens. Case in point, Giants safety Landon Collins will likely be the prime guy in coverage against tight end George Kittle.

Despite the G-Men's defensive shortcomings, Collins is still having a Pro Bowl-caliber year. One would expect Shanahan to scheme Kittle to get open against a suspect Giants secondary. But Mullens will have to replicate his understanding of the offense that was on display in Week 9.

And we probably shouldn't expect the massive defensive lapses quite as often as were seen by the Raiders.

Mullens doesn't have to be dominant in this contest, fortunately. He might not even have to be good. Performing just OK would adequately do the trick, especially if he avoids turnovers and remains competent getting the ball out quickly against a pass rush that has just 10 sacks on the season -- only three more than the seven the Raiders had on the year entering Week 9.

49ers Pass Rush vs. Eli Manning


Prior to their Week bout with the Raiders, the 49ers only had 16 sacks. Tack on eight more during that particular game, and the 24 quarterback takedowns now put San Francisco's pass-rushers tied for 16th most sacks in the league right now.

This isn't to say the Niners' pass rush has been solved. Far from it. But there are a few points to consider here.

First, SAM linebacker Dekoda Watson's return from injured reserve made a huge difference. He added 1.5 of those eight sacks in Week 9, helping free up other pass-rushers to make a serious impact. And EDGE Cassius Marsh arguably had his best game in a 49ers uniform too.

Granted, the Raiders offensive line was both banged up and isn't particularly great. But the Giants O-line is arguably worse, having surrendered 31 sacks of veteran quarterback Eli Manning -- the most out of any team in the league entering Week 10. And according to Football Outsiders, this unit is ranked 26th overall in pass protection.

So if you're looking for yet another opportunity for the 49ers pass rush to get home, Week 10 is it.

Stopping Giants Running Back Saquon Barkley


Despite the pass-protection woes Manning and the Giants have faced all year, New York's offense still boasts two prolific weapons on the offensive side of the ball: wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Saquon Barkley.

Beckham versus cornerback Richard Sherman should be an enticing matchup to watch, yes. But that's not the one that will ultimately decide the outcome of the game. No, the one San Francisco should be most concerned about is how to contain Barkley.

Barkley is averaging 4.7 yards per carry on the season, tied for 13th best among all runners, which is notably impressive with the Giants O-line ranking dead last in run blocking, per Football Outsiders. What this means is Barkley has proven to be a difficult tackle out of the backfield. In addition, his 58 receptions for 497 yards and two touchdowns means he's more than capable acting as a pass-catching safety valve for Manning when needed.

For a 49ers team struggling with missed tackles for much of the year, this is a potential problem.

San Francisco will be shorthanded against the run Monday night, missing safety Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) and linebacker Reuben Foster (shoulder). Foster, who leads the team with 12 missed tackles on the season, has been affected by that shoulder injury for much of the year. Him being absent might actually be a blessing in disguise, as it allows the better run-stopping linebacker, Malcolm Smith, to slide over to that weak-side (WILL) linebacking spot.

Regardless, bottling up Barkley as much as possible will be a necessity to prevent the Giants offense from gaining any sort of momentum.

The 49ers and Giants kick off on Monday, Nov. 12 at 8:15 p.m. ET from Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to @PeterPanacy on Twitter.