Prince Amukamara is the Giants' defensive MVP through the first quarter of the season. **
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -Even though Prince has been in the middle of a lot of takeaways, I'm giving the nod to Johnathan Hankins.
The Giants' run defense has been the key to their success this year, and Hankins has been terrific in controlling the line of scrimmage and anchoring the strongest part of the defense. Hankins has been the most consistent and also dominant in the middle. HANK THE TANK! I tried my best to stay away from Hank since I'm pretty sure fellow Ohio State alumni Dan Salomone picked him, but it is so clear I didn't have any other choice.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -Schmeelk hasn't learned what happens when you assume. I'm going with defensive end Kerry Wynn. He's the pro that every coach wants. He works hard, he's quiet and, most importantly, he's producing. Just look at those defensive stands last week in Buffalo.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -The numbers and the eye test back up this statement. Prince Amukamara has a team-high six passes defensed, is second on the team in tackles (26), tied for second with one interception and is the only player on the team with both a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He's been extremely active in the first four games of the season and he's also come through with big plays. In Week 3 against the Redskins, Prince picked off Kirk Cousins on Washington's second drive and that set up an Andre Williams' one-yard rushing touchdown to give the Giants a 9-0 lead. Then, last weekend against the Bills, with the Giants up by two touchdowns and just under seven minutes left in the fourth, Prince stripped Buffalo wide receiver Robert Woods of the football as he was fighting for extra yards and then recovered the fumble to help seal a 24-10 victory. In addition to those plays, the most notable stat, through four games, that Prince has had a major hand in is: with the exception of the Falcons' Julio Jones, number one wideouts have collected 64 receiving yards or less against the Giants this season. It is better to have the No. 1 rush defense than the No. 1 pass defense.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -While it is more important to not have a bad run defense, I would rather have the best pass defense than the best run defense. The NFL is a passing league, and even if a team can't run it, they will happily turn to the passing game and march up and down the field. Passing defense is even more important late in halves and games, when teams are trying to beat the clock. Stopping those drives can be the difference between wins and losses.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - **While the Giants don't exactly want their current No. 1 rush defense to come at the expense of their last-place pass defense, that's the situation they find themselves in through the first quarter of the season. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was asked this same question, and he thinks sometimes "it's more concerning when it's the other way around."
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -If you can stop the run, then you force the opposing offense to be one-dimensional and put additional pressure on the quarterback by setting up third and longs. The more the opposing quarterback has to put the ball in the air, the more likely your defense will have a chance to collect takeaways and give its offense great field position. Case in point, the Giants have the number one run defense in the NFL and they're also tied for seventh in the league with eight takeaways. Those two stats usually go hand-in-hand, especially this season. Of the top five run defenses, three of them (Giants – 1st, Bills – 3rd, Falcons – 5th) rank in the top seven in takeaways. In comparison, just two of the top five pass defenses rank in the top seven in takeaways. Stopping the pass consistently is an important feat, but I'd rather the ball be put in the air against my defense more often than stay on the ground because that can lead to turnovers. Carlos Hyde is one of the top three running backs in the NFL.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -I like Ohio State's Carlos Hyde (as does Dan Salomone, obviously) but he is not a top three back. He has a lot of talent and could potentially develop into that type of player, but he isn't there yet.
Here is a long list of guys I'd take before Hyde: Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, Eddie Lacy, Matt Forte, Arian Foster, Le'Veon Bell and Jamaal Charles. That's just off the top of my head. I'm thinking I should send a trainer up to see Salomone to see if he hurt his arm reaching for this question.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -The potential is definitely there, as is often said about a lot of players. While he did break out with 168 yards in the opener, it was the first and only 100-yard performance of his career. Time will tell on him.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -Regardless of Carlos Hyde's talent, I can't rank a running back in the top three in the league who has only played one full season and wasn't even a full-time starter. Hyde was the 49ers' second round pick in 2014 when he played behind Frank Gore and only had 83 carries for 333 yards and four touchdowns. His resume consists of just 18 games and 145 rushes. That's too small a sample size to put him ahead of more established veterans. The 49ers are the Giants' biggest non-NFC East rival.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -Given their multiple high stakes playoff matchups over the years, there isn't another team that has played more meaningful games against the Giants than the 49ers. The Patriots and their two Super Bowl matchups are up there, as are the Jets with the local rivalry. No other team jumps out as a rival besides those that reside in the NFC East.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -I was really close to going with the Patriots, but then I re-watched this video on the Giants-49ers rivalry. If you haven't seen it, check it out and you'll say "fact," as well. If you already have, watch it again. From the end of the Joe Montana era in San Francisco to the Giants' last NFC Championship Game, the two organizations are forever linked. Meanwhile, the all-time series is tied 19-19, including 4-4 in the postseason. Only eight points in the Giants' favor separate the rivalry.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -Despite not being in the same division, it seems as if the Giants and 49ers meet every season. Since 2007, the teams have met six times, including once in the postseason (2011 NFC Championship Game), and half of those contests have been decided by seven points or less. This weekend's game at MetLife Stadium will mark seven matchups in nine years. When you go beyond the last decade and take into consideration the late 1980s/early 1990s rivalry, you'd be hard-pressed to find a team that would top the 49ers.
Playmakers on 49ers first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike