Saquon out? 3 Big Things to Watch for when Giants face 49ers on Thursday Night Football

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Daniel Jones Giants
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

After a dramatic come-from-behind win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, the Giants stayed out west for a quick turnaround against a San Francisco 49ers team that is expected to be one of the best in the NFC this season.

Here are three major things to keep an eye on on Thursday night.

A Giant hole at running back

Saquon Barkley injury Giants
Arizona Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson (34) tackles New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The San Francisco 49ers had the second-best run defense in the NFL last year, allowing 3.4 yards per carry and giving up less than 74 total rushing yards per game.  It’s been a similar script this year for Kyle Shanahan’s team as they’ve allowed 130 rushing yards through the first two games of the season. As the status of Saquon Barkley remains unknown, it will be paramount for the Giants to establish the run early and take the load off of Daniel Jones.

The G-Men are 4-21 when Jones attempts 35 or more passes in a game, although one of those four wins came last Sunday against the Cardinals where Jones went 26-of-37 with 321 yards and two touchdowns. No matter who is in the backfield, establishing the run and staying out of third-and-long situations where the 49ers can blitz heavily will be paramount to the success of the Giants offense. For a team that has not scored in three out of four halves this year, early offensive success is essential to staying competitive in the game. With Barkley questionable, it could be the Matt Breida revenge game as the seasoned vet squares off against his former team. 


No slow starts

Purdy McCaffrey 49ers
(AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

It’s no secret that the Giants have had trouble starting games this year. New York has been outscored 46-0 in the first half, which will be a problem against an electrifying 49ers offense. Brock Purdy and Co. have scored 30 points in back-to-back weeks and show no signs of slowing down now.

The Giants will need a full team effort to slow down Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and the rest of the Niners’ offense. Even if the Giants are able to control the tempo of the game, they cannot take a play off. In last week’s matchup against the Rams, the 49ers had less time of possession (26:49) and ran fewer plays (54) compared to the Rams (33:11 TOP, 78 plays). Yet, San Francisco still found themselves on top as they averaged a staggering 6.8 yards per play.

The Giants’ defense will most certainly have its hands full against this dual-threat Shanahan offense. New York has been a top-10 pass defense to start the year, but a bottom-10 team in terms of stopping the run. A heavy McCaffrey workload could spell trouble for the Giants front seven.


A battle in the trenches

Nick Bosa 49ers
Nick Bosa (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

While the likes of Samuel, McCaffrey, Aiyuk, and tight end George Kittle get most of the attention, the dominance of the front seven on both sides of the ball for the Niners is their calling card. Trent Williams is the No. 3 graded tackle in all of football, according to PFF.

Shanahan will often design pitches and outside runs to get Williams to block in space and clear massive holes for whoever is carrying the ball. On the other side of the ball, Nick Bosa wreaks havoc on the opposing team’s game plan. While he has yet to record a sack this year, the attention he draws from the offensive line often opens up chances for others to do the dirty work.

San Francisco has 10 tackles for loss and six sacks through the first two weeks of the season. Evan Neal, ranked right behind Trent Williams amongst tackles in PFF, will have his hands full on Sunday. Similar to the Micah Parsons problem the Giants encountered in Week 1 against the Cowboys, the offensive line must be up for the test in what will most definitely be a physical game. 


Giants vs. 49ers Week 3 odds

  • Spread: 49ers -10
  • Over/Under: 44.5
  • Giants Moneyline: +425
  • 49ers Moneyline: -575

For more on the Giants, visit AMNY.com