Game Overview ::
- The 49ers are epically banged-up, and may slow down this game a bit as they continue to lean run-heavy
- The Giants are banged up as well, and they are likely to lean on the pass to try to win this game
- This isn’t a great spot on the surface for scoring, but there are a few different ways this game could break
- Nothing jumps off the page in DFS here; but this game can still be mined in a few different ways
How San Francisco will try to win ::
Against the new-look Giants defense under Patrick Graham, the short-area passing attack of the Steelers threw the ball only 32 times and racked up only 229 passing yards, while the short-area passing attack of the Bears threw the ball only 28 times for 190 yards. Jimmy Garoppolo has a shot at playing, as does George Kittle, but it’s likely we see Nick Mullens out there instead, and Kittle is no sure thing. With Deebo Samuel still out, expect the 49ers (30 pass attempts per game so far) to continue as one of the more run-heavy teams. Of course, the backfield distribution of touches is its own little mess to deal with in the Interpretation segment; but insofar as how San Francisco will chase down a victory, their standard “run-heavy, short passing” ways should continue in this spot, with the 49ers perhaps slowing down the pace a bit from there (they ranked 20th in situation neutral pace a year ago, but 29th overall, as they often slowed down games with a lead; this same proactive football intelligence could see Shanahan deciding that a shortened game gives his team the better chance at a win: as the more talented team, but with the enhanced risk of a backup quarterback under center and several injured pieces on defense, a shorter game means fewer opportunities for crazy things to happen).
How the Giants will try to win ::
First off, let’s say this: The Giants are going to try to win this game.
I mean…of course they will, right? But when a team like the Giants loses its marquee player, and is then taking on a team that nearly won the Super Bowl, it’s easy to write them off as a clear dumpster fire. But the line in this game opened at 49ers -6.5, and it has moved to 49ers -4.0. Furthermore, that’s not a bet I would comfortably be taking. (Not that I think the Giants have some sort of clear edge here; but it’s a true 50/50 that this team could finish with a loss of three or fewer points, with it very easy to swing over to a Giants win with a couple things breaking their way from there.) So let’s give this team a bit of respect, recognizing that even if it’s easy to write them off on the surface, they’ll be coming out hunting for a win, against a backup quarterback and a banged-up defense.
The Giants rank fourth in the NFL in pass play rate to begin the year, and they are down their top running back with Saquon Barkley out of action, which should push them more completely to the air.
We’ll get to the way touches should be distributed on this offense in the Interpretation segment; but expect a short-area attack that mixes in a few downfield looks to Darius Slayton, with a backfield rotation that keeps Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman at the top this week as Devonta Freeman gets his feet under him in New York.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
This game is interesting. The 49ers can still get downhill on the Giants; but the relative strength of the Giants is their run-stuffing line (the Giants don’t have a pass rush, but they ranked seventh in adjusted line yards last season). The Giants gave up 4.47 yards per carry to running backs last season, but this number was influenced by issues at the second level that led to a high number of 20+ yard rushes (including a number of rushes much longer than that). As such, this could be a game of short gain on the ground // short gain on the ground // try to convert on third; short gain through the air // short gain on the ground // try to convert on third; etc. Without the violent downhill speed of Mostert and without Jimmy G., the 49ers could require a handful of big plays to hit in order for this game to take off.
On the other side of the ball, Daniel Jones will face a 49ers pass rush that is suddenly a question mark, with Arik Armstead working without the help of Nick Bosa. And while the 49ers will still have the solid presence of K’Waun Williams in the slot and the solid presence of Emmanuel Moseley on one side of the field, the dominating presence of Richard Sherman is missing on the other side, where the Giants will be able to attack Ahkello Witherspoon. Diving another layer deeper in the individual matchups: OWS favorite Fred Warner creates a tough pass game matchup for the Giants running backs, while Evan Engram will deal with a number of matchups: none of which are “easy,” but none of which should give him much trouble. Put it all together, and with the 49ers still presenting a challenge against the run, the Giants’ best path is to lean on Evan Engram in the short areas of the field (with plenty of Golden Tate mixed in), while moving Darius Slayton around for favorable matchups and targeting him on intermediate and downfield looks. In the same way that the 49ers’ likeliest approach could lead to a number of eventually-stalled drives, the Giants could easily run into enough negative plays for this game to disappoint.
With all that said: there are other ways for this game to play out. The 49ers could hit some big plays on the ground or after the catch. And Daniel Jones could create some magic with big plays to Slayton and targets piling up for Engram. I’m having a difficult time pinning down a line on this game; but wherever Vegas has it (just checked; it’s sitting at 41.5), there’s a decently broad range on either side in which the scoring in this game could fall.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
With both of these teams carrying a Vegas-implied total of 23.0 or below (and with the injuries likely drawing some DFS attention: DFS players love spots where a player is filling in due to injury), there is nothing in this game that jumps off the page to me. (To say that another way: if this game were going entirely overlooked, there might be some sneaky plays. But if the public is poking around here, it becomes more +EV to just leave this game alone. There are some likely landmines, and the chances of missing out on a “have to have it” score are low.)
With that said: the Giants are not a scary secondary, so if you want to bet on the “possession + end zone” role of Kendrick Bourne (five targets each game so far), the YAC role of Brandon Aiyuk (only three targets last week, but a healthy 44 snaps), or “49ers tight end,” you can certainly make a case. Re: tight ends — if it’s Kittle, Sonic pulled up these stats this week from RotoViz :: with Mullens, Kittle averages 2.4 more targets, 0.9 more receptions, 0.08 more touchdowns, 26.03 more yards, and 3.83 more PPR points per game than he averages without Mullens. As always, Kittle has to really hit in order to justify his price tag; but especially on FanDuel (where it’s more about production than price tag anyway), he would be viable, while the upside is there on DraftKings. If it’s instead Jordan Reed…well, my caution on him last week was that he had only played 10 snaps in Week 1, and I expected the 49ers to keep him in the 20 to 25 snap range last week. I was right about this. Reed played only 28 snaps. But he saw eight targets on those snaps and scored two touchdowns. A 5-40-0 line is likelier than another 7-50-2; but it wouldn’t be surprising if he saw around 30 snaps again this week, and the 49ers are happy to throw to him when he’s out there.
In the backfield, the big question for me is how willing the 49ers are to give McKinnon a heavy share of snaps. Jeff Wilson is the likeliest back to see 15+ touches, but against a run defense that is more “short gain, short gain, short gain, long gain,” Wilson could easily become mostly short gains, with his long gains not doing enough to pay off. He’s a bet-on-workload-and-touchdowns play (on a team where workload can be assumed, but is never 100% certain). Wilson had a game a couple years ago with nine targets from Mullens, but that was in a blowout loss to Seattle. Outside of that spot, he’s never topped 100 yards from scrimmage (he’s topped 50 yards only once), and he’s never topped two receptions. Splitting work with Wilson will be McKinnon and UDFA JaMycal Hasty. After not playing in two years, McKinnon has been held to 19 snaps and 13 snaps, so while he has the most obvious appeal of the group, it’s difficult to bank on a heavy workload. He’s a “bet on efficiency” play. Hasty is a player the 49ers like, and if Wilson struggles early, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hasty rack up 12+ touches. He’s a large-field dart with enough sneaky upside to justify the risk.
On the Giants’ side, it isn’t yet clear if Devonta Freeman will be active here; but Freeman looked washed last year in Atlanta and had to wait until Week 3 to find a team that would give him a chance to actually play. The Giants also have Dion Lewis as their pass-catching back and Wayne Gallman as a steady fill-in they’ve leaned on in the past. None of these guys set up well here, so it’s a “hope to guess right on some receptions or a touchdown” sort of spot.
The Giants’ passing attack is more interesting, with the likely pass-leaning nature of this offense and the condensed target tree in this spot. Engram and Slayton have each seen 15 targets through two games (Golden Tate saw five targets last week; Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley are leaving 19 targets behind), and they’re the pieces on the Giants likeliest to move the needle in this game. Engram is a “bet on volume and hope for touchdowns” play with his short-area looks (Tate could be thrown into this category as well), while Slayton will be used in the downfield and intermediate areas, and is the piece that is likeliest to drive this game forward if any fantasy goodness is going to come in this spot. (That is to say: Slayton is the best bet for a big play. And it will likely take a big play or two for anything big to get stirred up in this game.) I’m not sure if I’ll end up with exposure to this game myself; but if I do, I’ll likely start my rosters at Slayton and work my way outward from there.
- After getting sacked 7 times by some of the best pass rushers in football to start 2020 (Watt, Mack, Heyward, Quinn, Dupree, Hicks), Jones now faces the injury-ravaged defensive line of SF missing Bosa, Ford, & Thomas
- Jones showed a significant fantasy ceiling in 2019 with four DK pt totals of 39.2, 32.2, 34.3, 38.3
- Jones’s 2020 target distribution: Engram (15), Slayton (15), Shepard (10), Saquon (9), Lewis (6), Tate (5)
- In what was supposed to be the first time Jones, Barkley, Shepard, Tate, Slayton, & Engram all played together, Barkley & Shepard got hurt after 8 & 15 snaps
- The trio’s targets without Shepard in 2019: Slayton (8, 2, 5, 4, 14), Engram (DNP, 5, 7, 8, DNP), Tate (9, 11, 10, 6, 8)
- The banged up SF defense has allowed 161 yds to Hopkins, 75 yds to Hogan, & 59 yds, TD to Berrios
- Despite not playing a full complement of snaps returning from injury, Tate still had the most production among NYG WRs in Week 2 with 5 rec (5) for 47 yds
- Engram’s targets in his 8 games with Jones starting: (8, 7, 11, 5, 7, 8, 7, 8)
- Engram has finished below 40 yds just twice in his last 16 games
- Wayne Gallman played in place of Saquon once in 2019, finishing with 18 att for 63 yds, TD and 6 rec (7) for 55 yds, TD
- Gallman was inactive in Week 2 when Saquon went down, leading to 10 att & 6 tg for Dion Lewis (57/65 snaps)
- The NYG also signed Devonta Freeman on Tuesday
- Nick Mullens DK scores in 2018 (low to high): 8.6, 10.7, 12.1, 14.8, 22.1, 22.2, 22.3, 26.7
- While the addition of Bradberry has helped (2nd highest forced incompletion rate in 2020 per PFF), the NYG have still allowed Ben & Trubisky to throw 5 TDs in the first two weeks
- Mullens threw 2 or 3 TDs in 4/8 games his rookie year
- Mullens kept both Kittle and a WR (Garcon 1, Goodwin 1, Pettis 4, Bourne 2) relevant in each of his 8 games
- Kittle averaged 6.4 rec (9.8) for 99.1 yds, 0.38 TDs with Mullens
- The top WR averaged 4.1 rec (5.9) for 74.4 yds, 0.75 TDs with Mullens
- The receiver that doesn’t matchup most with Bradberry (PFF’s #2 CB) will be at an advantage compared to the other, as the other three NYG CBs are ranked among PFF’s worst
- SF’s WR snaps in Week 2: Bourne (48), Aiyuk (47), Taylor (28), Pettis (10); Taylor played the most in the slot
- In Reed’s first game filling in for Kittle, he received a team-high 8 targets, producing 7 rec for 50 yds, 2 TD on just 28 snaps
- The 2019 NYG Defense allowed 8 TDs to TEs (6th most)
- In 8 games with Mullens, the top producing SF RB averaged 79 rush yds, 25.6 rec yds, 0.51 TD (jumps to 86.4, 27.7, 0.57 without dominant CHI Def)
- The 2020 NYG have allowed 113 rush yds to Snell, and 82 rush yds + 45 rec yds, TD to Montgomery
- RBs available in the SF backfield: McKinnon, Wilson, Hasty