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Fact or Fiction: Thursday Night Football Edition


The crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

Daniel Jones will lead the Giants in rushing yards on Thursday night.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Even with Barkley healthy until the second-to-last play, Jones was just about equal to the running back on the ground last week. The Giants might have to rely on Jones' legs again because 1) it's a major strength of his and 2) the 49ers have Nick Bosa.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Interestingly, in the previous seven games in which Saquon Barkley has been sidelined due to injury, Daniel Jones has never led the team in rushing. It happened three times in 2019 and four times in 2021, and in each instance, another running back topped the list. If Barkley is out of the equation, this gives the 49ers more reason to focus on Jones as a runner, and San Francisco has displayed one of the stingiest run defenses in the NFL in recent history.

Matt Citak: Fact – The 49ers rank third in the league in rushing yards allowed this season, and this comes after finishing the 2022 campaign second in the same category. The Giants are going to have to find creative ways to run the football, and this will likely involve a good amount of quarterback runs. Going into Week 3, Jones leads all quarterbacks with 102 yards on the ground this season.

The Giants and 49ers will combine for at least 60 rushing attempts.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Last season, the 49ers and Giants were seventh and eighth in in the NFL in run-to-pass play selection, respectively. These teams want to run the ball, setting up what could be grinding game on the short week.

Lance Medow: Fiction – The 49ers have a very effective run game led by Christian McCaffrey, but they also use short passes as an extension of it. So, it doesn't always have to come through the rushing attack. Players like Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are elusive, and once they get in open space, if you can't tackle, it can be a major problem. In each of San Francisco's first two games, the 49ers and their opponents have combined for 50 rushing attempts or fewer.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Sixty is a large number. In each of San Francisco's first two games, they combined with their opponent for a total of 44 and 50 carries. The Giants got a lot closer in their first two games, combining with the Cowboys and Cardinals for 58 and 56 rush attempts, respectively. Add in the fact that Saquon Barkley might not play and that the 49ers' defense is a lot more susceptible through the air than on the ground, and I can't see the two teams reaching 60 total rush attempts, even with Jones' possible increased rushing.

View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.

Christian McCaffrey is the toughest individual matchup for the Giants' defense this season.

Dan Salomone: Fact – McCaffrey is the only player with at least 1,200 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns since making his first start for the 49ers in Week 8 of last season. San Francisco is 12-0 in games that McCaffrey has started.

Lance Medow: Fact – The Giants will see several versatile receivers down the road, but what makes Christian McCaffrey unique is he's just as dangerous catching the ball out of the backfield as he is as a conventional runner. He leads the NFL in rushing through two games and has already posted a pair of 100-yard contests, plus he's averaging six yards per reception. Although the sample size this season is small, he's more than capable of going off as a receiver.

Matt Citak: Fiction – This was a tough one, as Christian McCaffrey is right up there with the best in the NFL when it comes to dual-threat running backs. However, I have to go with Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who was named first-team All-Pro in three of his first six seasons, in addition to making the Pro Bowl all six years. While most of that production came with Kansas City, Hill picked up right where he left off as soon as he landed in Miami. Keeping up with Hill's speed will be a daunting challenge for the Giants defense in Week 5.

The 49ers' defense is more of a challenge than their offense.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The 49ers lead the NFL in scoring and total defense since 2022. They also have multiple takeaways in each of their last five games.

Lance Medow: Fiction – You can easily make a case for both. The 49ers' defense showcases the likes of Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave and Fred Warner, just to name a few, and has play-makers at every level. On the flip side, you have to deal with speed, athleticism and huge play-making ability given the presence of Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle as well as an offensive line built to aid those unique players. San Francisco's offense is tough to contain because you can't afford to have an off day when it comes to tackling. If you struggle with fundamentals, you don't give yourself much of a chance against Kyle Shanahan and company.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Picking between the San Francisco offense and defense is basically having to decide between the lesser of two evils. Both units are elite and among the best in the NFL, as each one boasts numerous All-Pros. But I have to give the very slight edge to the offense, due mostly to the presence of Kyle Shanahan. The head coach is among the top offensive-minded coaches in the entire NFL. The fact that they lost their top two quarterbacks last year, handed the offense over to a rookie QB that was the last pick in the draft with two weeks left in the regular season, and still made it to the NFC Championship Game was remarkable. And if Purdy hadn't gotten hurt in that game, they might have even made it to the Super Bowl. Of course, the defense played a crucial role in last year's success, but I'm still giving the nod to Shanahan's offense.


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