“Throw out the records” is an overused cliche in the sporting world, but it will be a necessary part of advertising Sunday Night Football come Week 5, when two probably sub-.500 teams – the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers – meet in Primetime on NBC (8:30 PM Eastern).
Both sitting at 1-2 headed into this weekend, neither team is favored to win their next matchup. That will make their showdown on October 11th all the more important; one team will wake up Monday morning with hopes of salvaging the season, while the other will have to start scrutinizing the draft boards.
At this point, the Giants still have high hopes of claiming a weak NFC East. They’ve played nine quarters of good football this season, but have let up in the fourth quarter of every game so far. Eli Manning has done a good job protecting the football and is yet to throw an interception this season, but the offense has lacked punch, especially in the red zone.
The return of speedy receiver Victor Cruz from a leg injury is expected to help the Giants find more points, but it’s unclear if he’ll be good to go for this game after suffering a setback this week. Next Sunday’s game will be a year to the day since Cruz tore his patellar tendon against the Eagles.
The Giants D was projected to be the team’s weakness this season, but they’ve held up reasonably well despite a very poor pass rush. The unit ranks second-last in yards allowed, but is middle of the pack in points allowed (24 points against per game) and third in the league in points generated off turnovers (30 points off five takeaways).
San Francisco, on the other hand, has been giving away points, with opposing teams scoring 29 points off 49er giveaways. The team suffered back-to-back blowouts on the road and have bared little resemblance to the team that won a decisive 20-3 Monday nighter to open the year. Against the Cardinals “no fly zone” defense last week, quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s threw four interceptions, including two first-quarter pick-sixes. Three years removed from playing in a Super Bowl, Kaepernick’s future will be in doubt if he can’t begin to protect the football better.
The Niner defense hasn’t looked very fearsome in the early going either. But they should be able to keep the Giants’ 22nd-ranked run game under wraps and force Manning to win another game for Big Blue.
These two have combined for some classic games in the past, including the 2011 NFC Championship Game, which saw Kyle Williams fumble away the game for San Fran. While it should be a close one, expect the 49ers to fumble away another road game as this season slips away early.
Straight-up pick: Giants.
(Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck (originally posted to Flickr as Eli Manning) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)