Now or never: why Sunday’s 49ers game against the Giants will determine the rest of the season

Usually, a playoff berth requires at least a 10-6 record and starting 1-3 means that now is the time to play mistake-free football. Can you win 3 out of every 4 games, Coach Tomsula?

He’ll probably give you the very common cliche of “We will take it a game at a time. Right now our focus is on the New York Giants.”

Great fake interview, Coach! But he’s right and especially considering that the Giants are just middle of the road enough to figure out if we have a serviceable team, or a bottom of the barrel team that should be scouting their draft board already.

Here’s the Play of the Bay scouting report on the New York Football Giants.

NEW YORK RUSHING DEFENSE.

The Giants have allowed a league low 3.1 yards per carry and only 2 touchdowns this season. They accomplished this while facing a Devonta Freeman-less Falcons, a LeSean McCoy-less Bills team, a Redskins team who has a running back by committee situation, and the first start of the year for Joseph Randle.

However, take note that the Redskins lead the league in rushing yards, Buffalo is ranked 6th, Atlanta is at 14th, and Dallas at 17th. Facing four top 20 teams in rushing who are averaging a combined 4.1 yards per carry, they held all four to a combined 3.1 yards per carry.

Meanwhile, the 49ers have averaged 4.4 yards per carry and 3 touchdowns this season. However, those are inflated due to a week one leading rushing performance and two weeks of playing from behind that limited carries.

Offensive Coordinator Geep Chryst has hinted at offensive adjustments. If it is the offensive line adjustment everyone has been waiting for, now is the time to test it against a stout rushing defense like the Giants that’s allowing just 69 yards per game. If the 49ers have a field day against this defense, you can expect the trend to go up or at least average out.

I foresee the Giants deny another 100 yard rusher, but Bush will get 40 yards on draw plays.

NEW YORK PASSING DEFENSE

This is where we will learn whether or not Colin Kaepernick will survive the season and trend up. The New York Giants are ranked 31st in passing defense in terms of yards.

Surprised it’s not the 49ers? They are currently ranked 20th.

At 1,265 yards given up and a 7.2 yards per attempt, you should be interested in starting Colin Kaepernick in your FanDuel or DraftKings if it wasn’t for one problem. The secondary is also very lethal in the interceptions category (5 – tied for 6th) and only has allowed 6 passing touchdowns (tied for 11th).

Good news! The pass rush of the Giants have only gained 5 sacks (tied for 31st) in the league. This should provide some confidence for the offensive line. However, it will shed light on Kaepernick’s read progressions if Kap is sacked due to coverage. I forsee that neither will be a concern as the yards given up by Giants show that we should expect wide receivers to get open and often.

But are those numbers inflated due to facing tough competition?

Tyrod Taylor had 274 yards. Kirk Cousins had 316 yards. Romo had 356 yards and Matt Ryan had 363 yards.

Receivers with at least 70 yards for each: Lance Dunbar (70). Julio Jones (135), Hankerson (77), Tamme (77), Jordan Reed (96), Charles Clay (111).

It appears that the dump pass or the tight end routes are weak areas. This will be important to see about Kaepernick’s read progressions as Hyde or Bush will be his last looks.

Given the ineffectiveness of the passing defense against runningbacks and tight ends which are the 3rd-5th read in teams like the Cowboys, Redskins, Falcons, and Bills, we can expect that this will be the best measurement on how fast Kaepernick is performing his reads and should have enough time to do so with the Giants defense only reaching the quarterback 5 times. Majority of the sacks in this game should be because Kaepernick couldn’t find the open receiver.

If each route is well covered, then the assessment of Tyrann Mathieu is correct. The playbook is way too simplified. Remember that the Giants are ranked 31st in passing defense. There shouldn’t be too much trouble getting the ball to a receiver.

This is the game that you start Celek, McDonald, and Bush on the cheap in one-day fantasy leagues.

NEW YORK GIANTS RUSHING OFFENSE

The Giants with a 3.5 yards per carry and a 25th ranked rushing offense was only able to get 2 rushing touchdowns in four games. It did not matter how many carries McFadden got as he was no better than the starter, Rashad Jennings.

The 49ers have given up 4.1 yards per carry and 6 rushing touchdowns.

Will the Giants trend up with a seemingly favorable matchup on paper?

The answer is no. The rushing touchdowns were mostly by Deangelo Williams who is a bruising back working from 1st and goal situations. On the other hand, the New York Giants are ranked 31st in red zone scoring and only convert those into touchdowns on 30.77% of those red zone trips while Pittsburgh is 2nd with 76.92% of those red zone trips ending in a touchdown.

In case you are wondering, the 49ers red zone trips resulting in a touchdown is 33.33% at a ranking of 30th. Just one spot above the Giants.

The Giants will likely stay right where they are. 3.1 yards a carry and no more than 1 rushing touchdown in this game.

GIANTS PASSING OFFENSE.

The Giants are ranked 18th in passing yards with each attempt going for 6.8 yards and 7 touchdowns (tied for 11th).

Eli has been careful with the ball and only has one interception this season. This is surprising given his propensity to cough up the ball.

Don’t expect him to go back to his old ways in this game as he will not record a single interception in this game.

Despite, his 6.8 passing yards, the 49ers have given up 9.2 yards per attempt and 6 touchdowns.

So who will prevail; the mid-level offense or the weak passing defense?

This will be where we will need to see whether or not this 49ers defense will be serviceable. Meaning, will they be able to handle the mid-level passing attacks and possibly better offenses.

The performance against the Green Bay Packers was a great indicator especially given Green Bay’s offensive prowess.

But don’t expect a repeat performance from Aaron Lynch who had two sacks and multiple QB hits.

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The New York offensive line has only allowed 4 sacks which is ranked 30th in the league.

This will also be the second test for the 49ers a week removed from facing Randall Cobb, they will face Odell Beckham Jr. Jimmie Ward may be the man to face him in the slot. This season has been somewhat disappointing for Odell Beckham Jr. as he has only 2 touchdowns and has only had more than 70 yards receiving twice.

The stats for the Giants are average for the league, but did they face above average defenses?

Buffalo is ranked 28th in yards per game. Giants won that game. Washington is ranked 10th in yards per game. Giants won that game. Dallas is ranked 18th in pass defense. Giants narrowly lost that game. Atlanta is 29th in pass defense and the Giants lost that game.

Facing the bottom tiers of pass defenses and the New York Giants can only muster an average of 243 yards per game.

I see this game as an uptick for the 49ers and they will do even better than they did against Aaron Rodgers where they held him to 224 yards and 1 touchdown pass.

CONCLUSION

Of course, games are not played on math equations and statistics and every player matchup will be important to the outcome of the game.

This game will be instrumental to understanding where the 49ers belong in the standings going forward. If the 49ers can play well and win on the road against this Giants team, they should be able to gain the confidence to win more games.

This is that turning point game. The momentum can shift and we could see the success spill into the Ravens on 10/18.

On the other hand, a poor performance against the Giants could expose Colin Kaepernick as a quarterback who has not progressed when the rest of the league defenses has already caught up with him just like the Packers who have fell victim to Colin on the last 3 appearances.

Win here, and the 49ers have a chance.

Lose in New York, and the career of Kaepernick in San Francisco could be numbered.

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