XANDAMERE’S SHOWDOWN SLANT
And just like that we’re into Week 3, which begins with the Giants visiting the 49ers for a 44.5 total game with San Francisco favored by a whopping 10 points (thus the Giants have an implied team total below 20 points). The Giants are coming off of a huge comeback victory against Arizona and now have to face one of the NFL’s best teams . . . seems almost unfair.
On the 49ers side, Christian McCaffrey has been used as an absolute bell cow so far, playing 85% and then 100% of the snaps to go along with 27 and 23 running back opportunities. But, there’s reason to doubt that will continue. First, is what coach Kyle Shanahan has said, noting recently it was a mistake to let CMC play that much, and that he needs to do a better job of mixing in Elijah Mitchell. Of course, that could just be coach speak, but we also have last year’s history to go off of, when CMC played far less than a bell cow rule as long as Mitchell was also healthy. As a team that is a near-lock to go to the playoffs and wants to make a deep run, it doesn’t make sense for them to run down CMC in the season’s early going and increase his injury risk. He’s a critical decision point on the slate because if he continues to see massive usage as a 10 point home favorite, he’s highly likely to smash. But at $13.2k, his salary is as massive as his ceiling, and so if they scale back on his workload, it’s very easy to see him not being optimal. It’s a scary decision point. Personally, I’m going to be underweight on CMC and if he beats me, he beats me. Behind CMC, Mitchell is just $2,400 due to his lack of early season work, making him a superior value play if you believe he gets back to something similar to the split that the 49ers running backs had last season.
Ownership updates automatically
The passing game for the 49ers is mainly Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle, with Jauan Jennings hanging around occasionally, and a couple of other guys playing a small handful of snaps. So far we’ve seen each of Deebo and Aiyuk have big games, and that’s how this offense will work. The 49ers receivers generally have to get by on limited target volume (Brock Purdy has attempted 29 and 25 passes in their two games thus far), with double digit target games being the exception rather than the rule. Fortunately, all the 49ers main playmakers have the ability to score from anywhere. Deebo leads the team with 16 targets while Aiyuk has 14 (good for a 55% combined target share, which is nicely condensed). Aiyuk picked up a shoulder injury in Week 2 but played through it to finish the game, so it seems more likely than not that he plays here, though on a short week, it’s possible we could see the 49ers take the more cautious approach and rest him. If Aiyuk rests, it’s wheels up for Deebo in what has looked like a very positive matchup early in the season against a Giants defense that has yet to even sack the opposing quarterback. If Aiyuk plays, Deebo has a slight on-paper edge based on his historically slightly larger target share and a couple of additional carries he generally sees, but they’re both clearly strong options. Then we have George Kittle at tight end, who is absolutely elite but rarely sees elite volume when the 49ers are healthy (nine targets so far vs. the 16 & 14 for Deebo & Aiyuk). The biggest beneficiary of Aiyuk missing would be Kittle. His lack of volume makes him a risky play whenever the 49ers are fully healthy, and while he still always has an elite ceiling, his likelihood of hitting that ceiling goes up meaningfully when San Francisco is down one of their other primary playmakers. Jennings is primarily a floor option as a “well, he’s on the field a good bit” guy who sees little receiving volume. When Aiyuk missed some time last week, it was Ronnie Bell who was the primary beneficiary, seeing his snaps go from 10% in Week 1 to 47% in Week 2 (though with zero targets to show for it). It’s also possible that Ray-Ray McCloud will take some additional offensive snaps. McCloud broke his wrist in the preseason and was expected to miss roughly two months, but he played some special teams snaps in Week 2, and we could see that role expand if Aiyuk misses. Bell should be viewed as the favorite to see increased run if Aiyuk is out, but McCloud can be used as something of a dark horse. Backup tight ends Charlie Woerner and Ross Dwelley can also be mixed in as MME punt options.