Giants vs. 49ers: Preview, predictions, what to watch for

Paul’s Pick

Is this the week? If not now, when? The offense could not move the ball on the ground the first two games with Saquon Barkley, and now they have to learn how to move it without him. Not easy. If this (semi-) improved defense cannot hang with the injury-depleted 49ers attack, something is wrong.

Giants 24, 49ers 17

Marquee Matchup

49ers TD Jordan Reed vs. Giants S Jabrill Peppers

Reed’s role has changed from his days as a pass-catching demon with Washington. He arrived this year as the backup to star George Kittle. When Kittle was sidelined Week 1 with a knee issue, however, Reed rekindled his previous form, with seven receptions and two touchdowns against the Jets last week. Reed, 30, was often banged up in Washington and was out of football in 2019. He will be a focal point with Kittle sidelined. This is the sort of duel Peppers needs to win. Dealing with tight ends is a longstanding Giants problem; Peppers was brought in to solve it, though Logan Ryan will also get a chance to contain Reed.

4 Downs

Hold It! In his first six quarters this season, Daniel Jones committed four turnovers — three interceptions and one lost fumble. This is a losing formula. The turnovers overshadow much of the good the second-year quarterback does on the field.

“Those things are part of the game and those are the things we’re trying to get rid of,’’ said quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski, who worked with Tom Brady on the Patriots for six years. “We all hope we don’t have to wait too long, but it is part of the process and it is part of the growing pains sometimes. Some of the younger quarterbacks that I’ve coached, we’ve had the luxury of letting those guys sit and learn in the meeting room and learn on the practice field. Those mistakes have shown up there as opposed to on the field.’’

They Do Run-Run: The 49ers are primarily a running team, though because their backfield is decimated with injuries to Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, they will have to rely on Jerick McKinnon, who missed the past two years with knee problems. The supposed strength of the Giants’ defense was thought to be its ability to stop the run. Through two games, they are allowing 138 yards per game, which is unacceptable. Of the 276 yards given up, 180 have come after halftime. That is poor.

“I don’t like your choice of word, ‘poor,’ ’’ defensive line coach Sean Spencer said. How would Spencer describe this? “We haven’t responded in the second half when they have run the football and we have to tighten that up.”

Different Challenge: This does not look to be the bloodletting it might have been, as the Niners are ravaged up front on defense. The Giants thus far have been terrible blocking for their running backs (1.9 yards per attempt) and now there’s no Saquon Barkley.

“But the big thing is, we made an improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, keep coming back to that, but that’s what you want from these guys,’’ offensive line coach Marc Colombo said. “They never stopped fighting. They fought all the way through that Chicago game. Wish we could’ve pulled that one out, but, you could see this group grow.’’

Nick of Time: This is not entirely new for Nick Mullens. He started eight games in 2018, including a 27-23 loss to the Giants, when Jimmy Garoppolo was injured. Undrafted out of Southern Mississippi, Mullens, 25, has 13 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in his career. He went 8-of-11 for 71 yards and an interception mopping up last week versus the Jets. He will get the ball out of his hand quickly.

“He’s a guy who turns two, as we say,’’ Giants coach Joe Judge said. “The ball hits his hand, ball is coming out and he’s getting it to the receiver. He’s a tough, gritty dude.’’

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