The New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers face off on NBC's Sunday Night Football in an NFC battle between two teams headed in opposite directions. The Giants are going for their third straight win after a 0-2 start, while the 49ers have lost their last three games since a season-opening win over the Minnesota Vikings.
The 49ers are 1-3 and a team in disarray, having been outscored in their past three games by a combined 79 points. Although they still have a marginally better record than the winless Detroit Lions, you could argue that the 49ers are the worst team in the league, ranking last in point differential.
After putting up just three points against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday, there is also serious concerns about the lack of offensive production. San Francisco has scored just one touchdown in the last two weeks combined, and has been held under 200 yards of total offense in back-to-back weeks. They have the league's worst scoring offense (12 points per game) and passing attack (158.8 yards per game), and rank 31st in total offense (289 yards per game).
The Giants have crawled back to 2-2 after a couple crushing losses in Weeks 1 and 2, and now have to be considered a legitimate contender in the tightly bunched NFC East. The G-men are one of three teams tied atop the standings and are the only team in the division that has scored more points than it has allowed.
From a disastrous start to being arguably the favorite in the division race, this Giants team has shown a ton of resiliency through the first four games. In last Sunday's win over the Bills, they put to rest their choker label as they finally made winning plays in the fourth quarter when it mattered and shut down Buffalo's offense. The Giants are hoping to carry that momentum into their primetime matchup with the anemic 49ers.
The 49ers' offensive problems stem from a porous offensive line that can't protect Colin Kaepernick, though the $114 million quarterback deserves plenty of blame himself as well. The 49ers offensive line ranks 30th in Pro Football Focus' pass blocking efficiency metric and Kaepernick has been sacked 14 times, the third-highest total in the NFL.
Kaepernick's lack of accuracy and vision are also big concerns, contributing to the team's major offensive woes and the worst start to a season in his career. He ranks 32nd out of 34 qualifiers in quarterback rating (67.7), is tied for last in passing touchdowns (two) and completed just 50 percent of his passes with six picks in the last two games combined. After back-to-back awful performances, fans in the Bay Area and the national media are already buzzing about how the team can get out of his massive contract.
Despite looking like a good football team in their past two wins, the Giants are still a work in progress. Their inability to get the quarterback and lack of consistent pressure up front are their biggest weaknesses on a defense that has been surprisingly stout against the run. They have five sacks in four games (only the Dolphins have fewer) and Pro Football Focus has them with the lowest-graded pass rush in the league.
The Giants had the NFL's worst rush defense last year, but have done a complete 360 this season under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. They have allowed the fewest rushing yards (69.8 per game), rushing first downs (14) and the second-fewest yards per carry (3.13) of any team. Their past two opponents, Washington in Week 3 and Buffalo in Week 4, each entered the game with the most rushing yards in the league, but were held to 88 yards and 55 yards by the Giants defenders.
Although the Giants haven't yet cracked .500, a few underlying stats indicate they are a better team than their record says. They have a plus-20 point differential, ranked 10th in the NFL, and eight of the nine teams ahead of them have one or zero losses this season. Another hallmark of a winning club is the ability to win the turnover battle. The Giants have done that better than nearly every team so far, tied for second in the NFL with a plus-6 turnover margin. The other four teams in the top five -- Panthers, Jets, Falcons, Broncos -- have a combined record of 15-1.
Who to Watch
Torrey Smith - When the 49ers inked Smith to a five-year, $40 million contract with $22 million guaranteed this winter, they were expecting him to help improve a sagging passing game and be a reliable downfield threat for Kaepernick. Smith hasn't met those expectations yet, with just nine catches for 185 yards and one touchdown in four games.
Smith and Kaepernick are clearly still developing chemistry (Smith has caught only nine of 17 targets), but the 26-year-old receiver also needs to step up his game if the 49ers are going to fix their offense soon.
Kerry Wynn - San Francisco might be struggling in the passing game, but it still boasts one of the league's best rushing attacks. That is why Wynn, one of the NFL's top run defenders, is such a crucial part of the Giants' defensive game plan on Sunday.
The 2014 undrafted free agent out of Richmond has the second-best run defense grade among 4-3 defensive ends, per Pro Football Focus, and the highest run stop percentage among his peers this season. His ability to consistently get into the opponents' backfield and his relentless pursuit of the ball carrier will be critical to shutting down the 49ers' ground game.
How to watch
When: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford
Commentators: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
Online: NBC Sports
The Giants are an overwhelming pick by the experts to beat the 49ers. All eight guys at CBS Sports have the G-men while it's also a clean sweep on ESPN's panel. Here at SB Nation, we make it unanimous with everyone taking the home team.
The Giants are 7.5-point favorites and the over/under is set at 43, according to OddsShark.com.