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Eye On the 49ers: Breaking down the matchup

eyeon-49ers-11917.jpg's Michael Eisen breaks down the opposing offense, defense, and special teams:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will make their first-ever visit to Levi's Stadium Sunday when they face the San Francisco 49ers in a game pitting two struggling teams. A 51-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday left the Giants with a 1-7 record at the midway point in their season. The Niners lost to Arizona, 20-10, and fell to 0-9.

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This is one of the NFL's most closely-contested series. The Giants lead in the regular-season, 16-15, while the postseason series is tied, 4-4. Total points: Giants 795, 49ers 784. The teams last faced each other on Oct. 11, 2015, a 30-27 Giants victory in MetLife Stadium.

What is the 49ers' biggest strength?

Their fighting spirit. The Niners are winless, but they've battled hard in every game. From Weeks 2-6, they lost five games by a total of 13 points, including two in overtime. Like the Giants, they've been battered by injuries (each team has 17 players are on injured reserve). They recently lost one of their very best players, five-time Pro Bowl tackle Joe Staley, to an orbital fracture. Their quarterback is rookie third-round selection C.J. Beathard, who started for the first time three weeks ago vs. Dallas. Brian Hoyer, the starting quarterback in the first six games, was released when San Francisco acquired Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade with New England. Despite the adversity and constant roster shuffling, the 49ers have played hard in every game.

A look at the playmakers of the Giants' upcoming opponent

Which player is key to the 49ers' offense?

Running back Carlos Hyde, who leads the team with 494 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and is tied for first with wide receiver Pierre Garcon – now on injured reserve – with 40 catches. When Hyde gathers momentum with the ball in his hands, he is difficult to bring down. Hyde is the 49ers' bellcow on offense, and they will continue to feed him the ball.

What is the strength of the 49ers' offense?

Head coach Kyle Shanahan's schemes, which are creative and multiple and use a lot of formations and window dressing to confuse the defense. San Francisco is 24th in the NFL in yardage (309.4 a game) and 30th in scoring (15.9 points a game), but are fun to watch.

Which player is key to the 49ers' defense?

San Francisco's best overall player is second-year defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. A long-armed, 6-7, 300-pounder, is an outstanding run-stopper who is a persistent pass rusher. He has just 1.5 sacks primarily because opposing offenses consistently use extra resources to slow him down. Buckner is a rising star.

What is the strength of the 49ers' defense?

A very good pass rush unit. In addition to Buckner, the Niners chase quarterbacks with Elvis Dumervil (team-high 3.5 sacks), former Giant Leger Douzable, Aaron Lynch, Dekoda Watson and rookie Solomon Thomas. The Niners had 10 total sacks in back-to-back games at Arizona and Indianapolis (both overtime defeats). They're very good at getting the opposing quarterback off his spot and out of his comfort zone.

Which player is key to the 49ers' special teams?

Third-year pro Bradley Pinion is one of the NFL's best punters. His long, high punts can flip the field in the Niners' favor. Pinion has booted an NFL-high 52 punts, and he leads the league with 22 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. His 43.3-yard net average is sixth. Pinion is a punting weapon.

*Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?     *

Run the ball, control the clock and keep the 49ers' offense off the field. San Francisco is last in the NFL in run defense, allowing an average of 135.7 yards a game. The Giants should have an opportunity to grind them down with their rushing attack.

Statistics you should know:

*The 49ers are last in the NFL with an average time of possession of 26:16.

*Robbie Gould, who was the Giants' kicker for the final 10 games of the 2016 season, has made 18 of 20 field goal attempts and 11 of 12 extra point tries for San Francisco.

*The 49ers have seven touchdowns rushing and six passing. They are one of three teams in the NFL with more of the former than the latter. The others are Tennessee and Indianapolis.

*San Francisco and Miami are tied for the fewest touchdowns with 13.

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