EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will begin the second half of their season on Monday night when they face the San Francisco 49ers in Levi's Stadium. Neither team enjoyed the year's first half. The Giants are 1-7 and will take the field with a five-game losing streak.
The 49ers routed the Oakland Raiders last week, but that raised their record to a slightly superior 2-7. This is the second year in a row the Giants will visit the Niners on Nov. 12. Last season, a pair of rookies - quarterback C.J. Beathard and running back Matt Breida – ran for touchdowns less than six minutes apart in the fourth quarter to help lead San Francisco to a 31-21 victory. Both the teams' regular season (16-16) and postseason series (4-4) are tied. The Giants have won six of their last nine games against the Niners since 2005, including a 20-17 overtime victory in the 2011 NFC Championship Game.
What is the 49ers' biggest strength?
Their offensive creativity. Head coach Kyle Shanahan calls the plays and uses numerous alignments and much pre-snap motion to confuse the defense. San Francisco has been more dependent on its rushing attack since losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a season-ending knee injury. But Shanahan has been able to tailor his passing game to backup quarterbacks C.J. Beathard and, last week, Nick Mullens, who had one of the best debuts in NFL history in the Niners' 34-3 beatdown of Oakland. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Mullens' passer rating of 151.9 was the second-highest in a debut since the rating was implemented in 1973 (Tennessee's Marcus Mariota had a perfect 158.3 rating in 2015).
Which player is key to the 49ers' offense?
We don't say this much in today's NFL, but it's their versatile fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He is a running back/tight end hybrid who does a little of everything for San Francisco. Juszczyk lines up as a traditional fullback, a third-down back, on the wing, or split out wide. Juszczyk is third on the team with 21 receptions, including a 56-yarder, he has five rushing attempts, and he is an outstanding blocker. Another player to watch is tight end George Kittle, whose 41 catches are 17 more than anyone else on the team. He had a 71-yard reception last week vs. the Raiders and an 82-yard touchdown against the Chargers on Sept. 30.
What is the strength of the 49ers' offense?
A rushing attack that ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per game (134.7) and seventh in yard per carry (4.8). The Niners have a good run-blocking offensive line that includes six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, former Giant Weston Richburg at center, and this year's first-round draft choice, Mike McGlinchey, at right tackle. Breida, who joined the team last year as an undrafted rookie, has a good combination of speed and power. He has run for 531 yards and five touchdowns and is averaging 5.5 yards an attempt. Backup Raheem Mostert was placed on injured reserve this week with a fractured forearm. The new No. 2 is Alfred Morris, who rushed for 639 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games against the Giants when he played for Washington.
Which player is key to the 49ers' defense?
DeForest Buckner, who has developed into a dominant defensive tackle after being selected seventh overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. An uncommonly strong 6-7, 300-pounder, Buckner leads the 49ers in sacks (5.5), quarterback pressures (27.5) and tackles for loss (eight). Buckner usually lines up on the offense's strong side, where he is an immovable run-stopper and productive pass rusher.
What is the strength of the 49ers' defense?
Stopping the run. San Francisco is 12th in the NFL, allowing 102.8 yards a game. The Niners give up few long runs. Rookie Fred Warner (team-high 72 tackles) and fellow linebacker Reuben Foster are every-snap, athletic players who run to the ball and hit the player carrying it. Jaquiski Tartt is a big and active box safety who covers a lot of ground as a productive run defender.
Which player is key to the 49ers' special teams?
Kicker Robbie Gould, who held the same position with the Giants in the second half of the 2016 season. Gould has made 18 of 19 field goal attempts and 17 of 18 PATs this season. He has missed just three of 60 field goal tries in his two seasons with the Niners. Punter Bradley Pinion handles the kickoffs.
Here is a closer look at the starters of the San Francisco 49ers
Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?
Defensively, the Giants must stay disciplined and not get caught in all of the 49ers' pre-snap window dressing. They must stop the rushing attack upon which San Francisco is so reliant, and – despite last week's performance - put the ball and the game in the inexperienced Mullens' hands. The Raiders seldom pressured him last week (it was the first game this season in which the Niners did not allow a sack); the Giants must find a way to do so. Offensively, the Giants might need to air it out to take advantage of the young new faces in the 49ers' secondary.
The two players the 49ers expected to lead their offense this season – Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon, an offseason acquisition, are on injured reserve with knee injuries.
Statistics you should know:
*The Giants and 49ers have met 40 times combined in the regular season and postseason. Each team has 20 victories. In those 40 games, they are separated by only one point (Giants 816, 49ers 815).
*The Giants will play their first Monday night game in San Francisco 18 days shy of exactly 20 years since their last such game. On Nov. 30, 1998, they lost to the 49ers in Candlestick Park, 31-7.
*Mullens last week became just the third player in NFL history with 250 or more passing yards, three touchdown passes and no interceptions in their NFL debut, joining Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton in 1961 and Jim Kelly in 1986.
*The 49ers have NFL-low totals of two interceptions and five takeaways, and their minu-13 turnover differential places them behind every team but Tampa Bay (minus-15).
*San Francisco's top four wide receivers have missed a combined nine games due to injury this season. The leading wideout is veteran Pierre Garcon, who has 24 catches for 286 yards and a touchdown.