49ers vs. Giants: Full San Francisco Game Preview
San Francisco is riding a three-game losing streak after being downed 17-3 at the hands of the Green Bay Packers last Sunday. Despite a strong defensive performance, the 49ers' lackluster offense continues to be a problem for head coach Jim Tomsula and Co.
But a questionable Giants defense may provide the exact opportunity San Francisco needs to get back on track. New York ranks dead last in the league in passing defense with 1,265 yards allowed through the air.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been under scrutiny following back-to-back problematic performances, will need to have a strong showing under the national spotlight in order to convince skeptics that he's much better than how he's played in 2015.
Meanwhile, the 49ers defense will look to replicate positives seen from this unit's efforts against the Packers' potent offense a week ago.
The 49ers have a chance to prove to the NFL world they are better than the team seen over the previous three weeks.
Let's break down what will factor into the game and choose some difference-makers.
Location: MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, New Jersey
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Week 4 Results and Recap
San Francisco's 17-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers tells two separate tales.
On the positive side of things, the 49ers defense held quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the high-flying Packers offense to just 362 all-purpose yards. Green Bay had been averaging 32 points per game prior to the contest, so San Francisco's defensive efforts have to be revealed as a positive element given this unit's struggles over the course of the season.
But the 49ers offense was, again, stagnant. San Francisco has managed just 10 points over its last two games—lowly numbers that have contributed to the 49ers' last-place offensive ranking with a mere 48 points on the season.
Running back Carlos Hyde, considered to be the new offensive bell cow, was held to just 20 yards on eight carries.
Yet the biggest storyline was the continued struggles of Kaepernick.
After a four-interception performance against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3, San Francisco's signal-caller managed just 160 yards through the air and had zero touchdowns against one interception.
Kaepernick was also sacked six times, which puts his season total at 14. If that rate continues, opponents will sack Kaepernick 56 times in 2015—four more than the whopping 52 suffered last season.
One of those sacks came from Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who subsequently celebrated by "Kaepernicking" after the play. His reaction drew the ire from numerous 49ers, as discussed in the above B/R video.
But what was even more disturbing was the body language emanating from Kaepernick's receiving corps. San Francisco wideouts Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin were clearly frustrated with their quarterback's efforts during the game.
And that problematic development spells bad things if Kaepernick's struggles continue.
News and Notes
Kaepernick's Issues Continue
San Francisco's signal-caller isn't progressing in the way fans and coaches hoped entering 2015. Kaepernick's Week 4 effort wasn't quite as bad as what happened the week prior. But it's clear the quarterback isn't currently capable of carrying the load necessary under center.
Head coach Jim Tomsula continues to stand by his quarterback and has made repeated statements how Kaepernick won't be benched anytime soon.
Yet other NFL analysts aren't as certain this is the best idea.
B/R's Chris Simms feels as if the time has come for the Niners to bench Kaepernick in favor of No. 2 quarterback Blaine Gabbert, as discussed in the video above.
With Kaepernick owning a 67.7 passer rating on the season, it's clear something positive needs to happen soon in order for him to keep his job.
49ers Add Linebacker Gerald Hodges via Trade
The 49ers made a move to reinforce the interior of their defense by adding inside linebacker Gerald Hodges in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings.
The trade, which was first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN, sent depth center Nick Easton and a sixth-round pick to Minnesota for the veteran linebacker.
Hodges has a plus-0.1 grade on the season, according to Pro Football Focus. Ironically, the only negative grade received on the season was for his efforts against San Francisco in Week 1 (minus-3.2).
This move adds competition for the starting position alongside linebacker NaVorro Bowman and, namely, with fellow LB Michael Wilhoite.
Aaron Lynch Has a Strong Performance
San Francisco needs a strong pass rush this season. And it could be getting stronger thanks to the ongoing development of second-year linebacker Aaron Lynch.
Lynch leads the defense with three sacks on the young season. Two of those came against the Packers, along with three quarterback hits and four tackles for a loss, per Joe Fann of 49ers.com.
Pressuring Giants quarterback Eli Manning will be a necessity in order to relieve pressure on San Francisco's inconsistent secondary.
Look for Lynch to be a key factor in this context.
Latest Injury News
|Daniel Kilgore (PUP)||C||Ankle|
|DeAndre Smelter (NFI)||WR||Knee|
|Dres Anderson (IR)||WR||Knee|
|Jerome Simpson (Out)||WR||Suspension|
|Shareece Wright (Questionable)||CB||Undisclosed|
|Vernon Davis (Questionable)||TE||Knee|
|Quinton Patton (Questionable)||WR||Concussion|
The only noteworthy injury from San Francisco's Week 4 contest was a concussion suffered by wide receiver Quinton Patton.
Tight end Vernon Davis missed the game with a knee injury, although he was a limited participant in the week's practices, according to Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News.
Offensive linemen Alex Boone (shoulder, ankle) and Joe Staley (knee), along with linebackers Ahmad Brooks (shoulder, non-related) and NaVorro Bowman (non-related), did not practice on Wednesday, per the team's website.
Aaron Lynch vs. Eli Manning
Getting pressure on Giants quarterback Eli Manning will be at the heart of San Francisco's defensive efforts in Week 5.
And a lot of that will fall on the shoulders of linebacker Aaron Lynch.
As stated previously, Lynch is leading the team with three sacks. But the Giants have limited opponents' sacks to just four on the season.
Lynch and the pass rush will be a major factor during the game, as discussed by 49ers.com analyst Taylor Price.
49ers Secondary vs. Odell Beckham
Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham continues to impress in 2015. He currently leads New York with 307 yards on 24 receptions and two touchdowns.
Matching up against Beckham will be the responsibility of San Francisco's inconsistent secondary and, primarily, cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Kenneth Acker.
New York will attempt to test these players with Beckham as much as possible, which puts even more pressure on San Francisco's pass rush to be effective.
Jordan Devey vs. Cullen Jenkins
The right side of San Francisco's offensive line has been problematic all season, and right guard Jordan Devey has been a significant part of the issue.
Devey has a minus-9.1 PFF ranking and has allowed one sack and 12 quarterback hurries on the season.
Frequently opposing Devey will be Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins.
Jenkins leads New York with two sacks on the year. As a whole, the Giants have only five sacks. Yet the 49ers have already given up plenty this year, which prompts the possibility of a vast increase from New York's defense.
49ers Receiving Corps vs. Giants Secondary
New York ranks No. 1 in the league against the run with just 279 rushing yards allowed. But the Giants are on the polar opposite of the spectrum against the pass.
The Giants have given up the most yards in the league through the air (1,265). Overall, New York has a minus-21.4 PFF ranking on the season defending against the passing game this season. So could this be the tonic Kaepernick needs to get back on track?
Wide receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin could wind up having big nights if New York's defense continues this trend.
49ers X-factor of the Week: Colin Kaepernick
As noted on the previous slide, the Giants pass rush hasn't been much of a factor, and their pass defense is last in the league.
That usually is a recipe for disaster against top-tier quarterbacks and receiving corps.
And then there's Kaepernick.
Two predictions emerge from this critical matchup: Kaepernick will find a way to regain momentum versus a questionable defense, or Kaepernick and the anemic 49ers offense will make New York's suspect defense look good.
Sounds like a pretty good X-factor by definition, doesn't it?
Head coach Jim Tomsula is one of those trying to get Kaepernick back into effective form. The quarterback commented on Tomsula's statements, per the team's website.
"It was a conversation we had, and he said, 'Play to win. If something happens, it happens, but we have to make sure we’re going out there to make plays,'" Kaepernick said. "You have to take care of the ball to win games. But at the same time, we have to be able to take our shots when it’s there."
San Francisco's eventual Week 5 outcome will hinge specifically on what Kaepernick does Sunday.
If Kaepernick somehow finds a way to rediscovering his prowess, the 49ers should be in good shape.
But if he doesn't...
Prediction: 49ers 20, Giants 17
Road victories are always hard to come by, and the 49ers' current efforts shouldn't suggest they'll pull off a victory against a Giants opponent riding a two-game winning streak.
But the 49ers should be motivated enough given the context of their situation and by the fact they're playing on a national stage on Sunday Night Football.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith discussed San Francisco's woes and pointed out ways in which they can be fixed, as reported by Joe Fann of 49ers.com.
"It just boils down to execution," Smith said. "We have to be able to make plays on the outside. Make one person miss and they’re in trouble. Or split a run in the run game and it’s a huge play for us. At the end of the day, it boils down to execution and we haven’t been doing a good job these past few weeks."
San Francisco has this opportunity given New York's defensive issues against the pass. If the 49ers can replicate a similar effort against the Giants offense, as was the case in Week 4 versus the Packers, the red and gold stand a pretty good chance of coming away with a victory.
Look for the 49ers to come out with a much more aggressive demeanor on offense. The conservative approach didn't work in Week 4. So why not have the offense attempt more high-risk, high-reward plays?
The 49ers need a statement game; an effort that dismisses many of the problems seen over four weeks and serves as a turning point within an ugly season.
San Francisco comes away with a much-needed Week 5 victory in this prediction.
Prediction: 49ers 20, Giants 17
Peter Panacy is a Featured Columnist covering the San Francisco 49ers for Bleacher Report. Follow him @PeterPanacy on Twitter.