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49ers vs Giants: Five Keys to Victory and Score Prediction

Matt Andruscavage
Sep 25, 2020 at 1:11 PM


Despite a 1-1 record after a blowout win against the Jets and a close loss to the Cardinals, injuries have taken over the discussion as to how the 49ers will finish in 2020. Here is where San Francisco currently stands on the injury front.

Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas both suffered torn ACL injuries and are out for the season. Jimmy Garoppolo has a low grade high-ankle sprain and will not start against the Giants. Raheem Mostert has a mild ACL sprain and will sit this week. Tevin Coleman has a knee injury that will sideline him for about four weeks. Dee Ford is nursing a back issue. Dre Greenlaw has a quad issue that will keep him out of Sunday's game.

In short, it's a M.A.S.H. unit. George Kittle isn't ready to go and now Ahkello Witherspoon is ailing. The depth of the 49ers will definitely be tested on Sunday.


For the Giants, the big injuries aren't listed on the official injury report as wide receiver Sterling Shepard and running back Saquon Barkley are on injured reserve for the season.


It's going to be a challenge for the 49ers to overcome their injuries, but there is plenty of reason to believe San Francisco can get out of New York with a 2-1 record.

Here are five keys to winning this game for the 49ers:

Where and When: Sunday September 27th at 10:00 AM PT at MetLife Stadium

1) Don't be afraid to let the offense carry the day


Usually, one of the first keys to victory is not allowing the opponent to dictate the tempo. While that is a good thing, on Sunday it will be up to the offense to set the tone as it did against the Jets by scoring early. Nick Mullens needs to be able to move the chains and build his confidence. In his words, "This is my fourth year. There's really no excuses why I shouldn't perform." He's right. He's a savant when it comes to Kyle Shanahan's scheme. He is more than capable of playing well and leading the 49ers to a win.

The offensive line is healthy. There are enough weapons for Mullens to utilize, despite the absences of George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, who will both likely return next week. The ground game can still wear down a team like the Giants. The offense needs to be able to control the clock, take care of the football, and score twice in the red zone. If San Francisco can do these things on offense, there should be enough points on the scoreboard to get a victory.

2) Stop the run


It doesn't seem like the Giants have a ground game without Saquon Barkley, but that would not be accurate. Dion Lewis is the starter and Devonta Freeman has been added. It is vital for the defense to be able to bottle up the run and it will be a little more difficult without linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Greenlaw is an excellent tackler and very good in pass coverage, something that Kwon Alexander has struggled with since his pectoral injury last season.

It all starts up front with D.J. Jones, Javon Kinlaw, and Arik Armstead. If the defensive line can penetrate, allowing Fred Warner, Alexander, and last year's surprise starter Azeez Al-Shaair to clean things up in the middle, San Francisco should be able to make the Giants one-dimensional, which is always the goal of a defensive scheme. Jaquiski Tartt will also be able to provide run support, which bodes well for the Niners.

3) Establish a ground game and offensive rhythm


Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson Jr. probably did not think it would be up to them to carry the load on the ground, but here we are. McKinnon has provided explosive plays and has scored in both games this season. He is also very good out of the backfield. Wilson has been here before and is a capable running back. If the ground game can keep the Giants from "tee'ing" off on Mullens, expect the offense to produce well.

Kyle Shanahan knows his scheme is most effective when it can play action off aggressive defenders, so do not expect him to abandon the run. I would think this week is a great time to see what rookie Brandon Aiyuk can do on end-arounds and jet sweeps, like a certain number 19 did last season.

If the ground game is effective, there are plenty of receivers who can catch short, high percentage throws to keep the chains moving. Trent Taylor and Kendrick Bourne are the likely targets in those scenarios, but Mohamed Sanu will be in the mix, as will tight end Jordan Reed and also Aiyuk. I would also expect a big play or two from Kyle Juszczyk off a play-action. Lastly, I think we would all like to see a Dante Pettis sighting. At this point, it's all hands on deck. The 49ers should use every personnel grouping possible to gain a matchup edge and come away with a win.

4) No turnovers


This is not a game the 49ers can take for granted, nor do I think they will. This is a conference game and if San Francisco can grab a win, it leaves this nightmare road trip 2-1, which, considering everything, is huge. A major key in achieving a win is taking care of the football. If the 49ers are able to hang on to the football and win the time of possession, there is a very good chance they can score 24-28 points, which should be enough.

5) Coaching


This is probably one of the games this season where Shanahan out-coaches his opponent to achieve a win. There's every reason to trust in the scheme as well as halftime adjustments that will be needed. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will be tested as he will likely have to scheme some pressure out of a unit that is missing Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, and Dre Greenlaw.

Prediction


Sunday's game will be difficult at times, but this is a very winnable game. Nick Mullens will play well, the ground game will be effective, there will be at least one big play on the offense, and the defense, including newly acquired Ziggy Ansah, will get to Daniel Jones, forcing at least one big turnover. Kyle Shanahan will get the credit for out-coaching Joe Judge.

49ers 24, Giants 13
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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