8:15 PM EST, Prime Video – Line: 49ers -10.0, Over/Under: 44.5
Week Three kicks off from Santa Clara, as the sluggish New York Giants hope to have finally found their rhythm as they face the surging San Francisco 49ers, who have picked up where they left off last season. One of our favorite sayings about the NFL is that it is really an acronym that stands for “Not For Long” which is relevant when you consider the Giants (1-1, 4th in NFC East), who after last year’s pleasant renaissance have experienced the exact opposite through the first few weeks of the current campaign. Indeed, after suffering through EIGHT losing seasons in nine years, New York finally appeared to have gotten it right in hiring the tandem of (Head Coach) Brian Daboll and (General Manager) Joe Schoen, who together ironed out the team’s many wrinkles en route to a surprise 9-7-1 finish, culminating in not only a trip to the playoffs, but an upset of the higher-seeded Vikings to boot. What made this group such as good story was how they managed to turn so many of the team’s longstanding weaknesses into veritable strengths, including the play of (veteran Quarterback) Daniel Jones and turning around their persistent injury woes. To his credit, Jones (pictured below) turned in a career campaign, setting career-bests in a slew of categories including completion percentage (67.2%), interceptions (5), yards per attempt (6.8), QBR (62.9), game-winning drives (5) and fourth quarter comebacks (4). Furthermore, Daboll made good use of his underrated mobility, rushing for a personal-best 708 yards and seven touchdowns. That improvement was all that management needed to see, as they signed the 26-year-old to a lucrative 4-year, $160 million contract, including $92 million in total guarantees. However, in true NFL fashion, all of those good vibes promptly went right out the damn door in the Giants’ putrid season opener, a 0-40 blowout loss at the hands of their bitter rivals, the Cowboys. How bad was this one, folks? Well, the hosts mustered just 171 total yards with three turnovers and a blocked field goal attempt that was returned for a score, while Jones saw one of his two interceptions taken to the house as well. Granted, Dallas is REALLY good and that affair was played partially during a driving rainstorm, so there was plenty of reason to believe that that outcome was simply an aberration, particularly with a readymade “get-right” game on deck against the lowly Cardinals within the roomy confines of State Farm Stadium. Things couldn’t possibly get worse, right? Well, for one half of football, it sure did; the Giants were shutout 0-20 in the first half, thanks to a completely inept offense and a defense that was making Josh Dobbs look like the second coming of Kurt Warner, becoming the first team in over thirty years to be outscored 0-60 through the first six quarters of a campaign. Fortunately, somebody lit a fire under their asses as they went on to outscore the hosts 31-8 post intermission, thanks in large part to the heroics of Jones and (Pro-Bowl Tailback) Saquon Barkley. After stinking up in the first half, the Duke product really got going, completing 26-of-37 passes for 321 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while rushing for another fifty-nine yards and a score on nine carries, including the go-ahead 11-yard strike to (young Wideout) Isaiah Hodgins before setting up (veteran Kicker) Graham Gano’s 34-yard game-winner. Barkley turned up in the second half too, totaling ninety-two yards from scrimmage and a pair of touchdowns on twenty-four touches, though scared everyone in a blue helmet when he went down with what many feared would be a serious injury. Fortunately, the malady is much more short term than initially thought (we’ll cover that in more detail shortly). In the end, it may sound ridiculous to state that a team saved their season just two games into their schedule, but after last Sunday’s miraculous comeback in the desert, it is hard to feel otherwise.
From a betting perspective, the Giants may have split their first two games of the campaign, but they are winless against the spread thus far, failing to cover that ugly loss in the opener to the Cowboys in which they were 3.5-point home dogs, before coming up short in last weekend’s rally in the desert where they were favored by 4.5 points. Dating back to last season, New York is 6-4 versus the spread in their last ten games overall, though have been better away from the Meadowlands, covering all but three of their last ten road outings. Daboll’s troops are 6-4 in their last ten contests as an underdog, while matching that figure in both their last ten trips to San Francisco and in their past ten meetings when receiving points from the oddsmakers. Looking at this particular matchup, these teams haven’t faced each other since 2020, in which the G-Men were hammered 36-9 at MetLife Stadium, an affair that was dominated by field goals (six between them), until the visiting Niners ended the afternoon on a 20-0 run. Needless to say, it was a miserable performance for Big Blue’s offense, amassing just 231 total yards on thirteen first downs, including sixty-six rushing yards with three turnovers, possessing the football for a scant 20:16 of game time. Jones had a particularly hard day at the office, completing a poor 17-of-32 passes for 179 yards and an interception, while losing a fumble and enduring eleven pressures, six hurries and hits apiece, and a pair of sacks, in what was his lone career encounter with San Francisco. On the injury front, the biggest news is the prolonged absence of Barkley, who is expected to miss roughly a month with a sprained ankle and given his lengthy injury history (19 games missed since 2020), you can expect that Daboll & Co will take every precaution before they get him back on the gridiron. In addition to the playmaker, the Offensive Line has suffered its share of bumps and bruises, with (Left Tackle) Andrew Thomas missing last weekend’s game with a tender hamstring, while (Guard) Ben Brederson is listed as day-to-day with a concussion. On defense, (Linebacker) Azeez Ojulari missed the rally over Arizona with a sore hamstring of his own and is also day-to-day, while (fellow Linebacker) Jarrad Davis has been placed on injured reserve after undergoing knee surgery. Looking ahead, things don’t let up for these Giants, as they return to the east coast for a home date opposite the Seahawks, before hitting the road once more for what figures to be tough battles against the Dolphins and Bills.
Meanwhile, through two weeks of action, it is awfully difficult to believe that the 49ers (2-0, 1st in NFC West) aren’t the favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVIII. Dating back to last season, the Niners have won all of the ten games that (Sophomore Quarterback) Brock Purdy has handled the majority of the snaps in, with their lone defeat during that stretch coming at the hands of the Eagles in last January’s NFC Championship Game, in which the young passer was knocked out of action with an elbow injury early on. In his last eight regular season games, Purdy (pictured below) has completed an efficient 67.9% of his passes for an average of 216.8 yards on 7.5 net yards per attempt, with fifteen touchdowns opposed to just three interceptions, while rushing for two more scores to boot. It really has been an inspiring story for the 23-year-old, who was the very last player to hear his name called in the 2022 NFL Draft, which earned him the moniker of Mr. Irrelevant by the media. However, when you are as successful as he has been out of the gate, those opinions have changed quickly, with the franchise itself shifting their future plans to accommodate the unheralded Iowa State product. To put this into proper perspective, (Head Coach) Kyle Shanahan and (General Manager) John Lynch moved heaven and earth to move up and draft (former Quarterback) Trey Lance third overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, which for all intents and purposes translates to “He’s our guy.” However, injuries and inexperience stunted Lance’s development, leaving an opportunity for Purdy to come in and not only earn the starting job, but thrive in it. Simply put, even coming off what was initially feared to be a significant elbow injury, the Niners opted to put their trust in Purdy, so much so that they traded Lance away despite their still being three years left on his contract at reasonable price. Indeed, Shanahan and Lynch are all in on this kid, who is making the most of arguably the best situation as player of his stature could find himself in. It goes without saying, but this 49ers roster is absolutely LOADED, folks, with Pro-Bowlers littered across both sides of the football, with a coaching staff that has routinely churned out Head Coaches, led by Shanahan, who is proving to be just as much of an offensive genius as his father was. After going to Pittsburgh and hammering the Steelers in the season opener (30-7), San Francisco found themselves in a competitive matchup against division rival, Los Angeles, whom they outlasted in a 30-23 victory at SoFi Stadium last weekend. Against his former colleague, Sean McVay, Shanahan’s charges eventually wrestled control of the contest in the second half, taking a 10-point lead on two occasions in the fourth quarter, before the Rams made it look more respectable with a late field goal. In the end, the visitors logged 365 total yards on twenty-one first downs in comparison to 386 on twenty-eight for the hosts, though that disparity is attributed to McVay’s intimate knowledge of Shanahan’s system and the skipper being an elite offensive mind in his own right. With that being said, the Niners still managed to beat LA for an eighth consecutive time in the regular season, as Purdy completed 17-of-25 passes for 206 yards with a rushing touchdown, while (All-Pro Tailback) Christian McCaffrey totaled 135 yards from scrimmage and a score of his own on twenty-three touches. Furthermore, (new Defensive Coordinator) Steve Wilks’ unit bent without breaking throughout the evening, picking off Matthew Stafford twice, and hitting him on six occasions.
From a betting perspective, the 49ers may be 2-0 straight-up thus far, but they are 1-1 against the spread, falling victim to the dreaded backdoor cover in last weekend’s victory over the Rams, who settled for a meaningless field goal in the game’s waning moments despite trailing by ten points. Dating back to last season, San Francisco is 7-2-1 versus the spread in their last ten games overall, while covering all but two of their last ten contests in that regard at Levi’s Stadium. Furthermore, Shanahan’s troops have proven dominant at home, covering six consecutive games in Santa Clara when favored by 3.5-10.0 points, while riding a four-game winning streak against the spread immediately after a game that they failed to cover, with both trends proving relevant tonight. Though these teams have alternated the last six encounters dating back to 2012, the Niners are looking to snap that streak after blowing the doors off of the Giants in that aforementioned 2020 affair. San Fran stormed into the Meadowlands and had their way with Big Blue, thrashing them in what was coincidentally also a week three meeting; the visitors owned significant advantages in a slew of categories, including total yards (420-231), first downs (29-13), passing yards (343-179), turnovers (0-3), and time of possession (39:44), despite starting a backup QB (Nick Mullins) in place of their starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, who had suffered a high ankle sprain along with a knee injury in the previous game against the Jets, which was also contested at MetLife Stadium. Few coaches have proven better at putting together a stellar gameplan despite so many injuries, as Shanahan managed to coax such a performance with (Pro-Bowlers) Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Deebo Smauel, and Garoppolo all sidelined with various ailments. Hell, Mullins completed 25-of-36 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown on that day, which bodes well for the aforementioned Purdy, who will be facing New York for the first time in his young career. On the injury front, (emerging Wideout) Brandon Aiyuk is listed as day-to-day after taking a hard blow to his shoulder last weekend, while (Cornerbacks) Ambry Thomas and Samuel Womack are dealing with their own issues, with the former listed as day-to-day due to a sore knee and the latter out indefinitely with an MCL sprain. Looking ahead, the 49ers will continue this three-game homestand, welcoming the winless Cardinals before a seismic encounter with the undefeated Cowboys, a matchup that could very well be a preview of January’s NFC Championship Game.