San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at New York Giants (0-2)
Going into the season, I noted that the 49ers didn’t have the usual risk factors for a team that has a big decline after an impressive season, as they didn’t have an unsustainably high turnover margin, they didn’t win an unsustainably high percentage of their close games, they didn’t stay unsustainably healthy, and they didn’t have significant personnel or coaching staff losses this off-season. What couldn’t have been foreseen was the devastation that injuries would have on this team early in the season. I can’t remember a team that entered the season with this much promise losing this many key players to injury before the third week of the season.
In total, the 49ers are without their starting quarterback Jimmy Garroppolo, their top-two running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, their top-two pass catchers George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, their top-two edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw, and their top cornerback Richard Sherman. A team that entered the season as an obvious contender has fallen all the way to 24th in my roster rankings. This line has shifted from favoring the 49ers by 6.5 last week on the early line to 3.5 this week, with many of those players going down just last week, but I don’t think this line has shifted nearly enough. In fact, I actually have the Giants better than the 49ers right now, so I have this line calculated at Giants -3.
The Giants are 0-2 and just lost their best offensive player Saquon Barkley, but what’s lost in all that is that they’ve played pretty well so far this season, particularly on defense. They’ve allowed tied for the second fewest first downs in the league with 37, with only Indianapolis, who has been on the field 34 fewer plays, having allowed fewer first downs than the Giants, and they’ve done that despite allowing a 54.84% conversion rate on third down. 17 of their 37 allowed first downs.came on third down and, conversely, their 20 first downs allowed on first and second down are the fewest in the league.
How well a defense performs on third down tends to match how well a defense performs on first and second down in the long run, which is a good sign for the Giants going forward. Overall, they’ve allowed just a 32.81% first down rate on the season, 2nd lowest in the league, giving them a positive first down rate differential at +2.90%, despite the Giants 0-2 record, which is primarily driven by a disparity in third down performance. That’s a good indicator that they should be better going forward.
The Barkley injury obviously hurts, but running back is one of the more replaceable positions and the Giants have to be happy with the process of quarterback Daniel Jones and their young defense. They may not win a lot of games, but they should at least be competitive in most of their games and they’re actually slightly more talented than this beaten up 49ers team right now, so they should be able to get the win here at home. Getting the extra 3.5 points as protection is just a bonus. This is my top pick this week.
New York Giants 24 San Francisco 49ers 20 Upset Pick +155
Pick against the spread: NY Giants +3.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week