NEW YORK, New York - With the 49ers traveling to take on the New York Gaints Sunday, we spoke with Scout's Giants insider Josh Fyffe, who provided some great analysis of a Giants team that won two straight, including last week's road victory over the Buffalo Bills.
Niners Digest: Josh, after that rough 0-2 start, the Giants are looking like a team that can emerge from that struggling division. What do you make of their chances at winning the NFC East?
Josh Fyffe: Going into the season I thought the Giants were the second best team in the division, justifiably behind the Dallas Cowboys. With the injuries the Cowboys have endured during the start of the season, losing Romo and Dez Bryant for several weeks, as well as developing pass rushers Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory; the ‘Boys have diminished their chances to solidify a playoff berth out a weak division. Washington has looked better than most people gave them credit for during the preseason/offseason, but don’t have the consistency on offense or defense to ignite a playoff berth; the Giants already handedly beat them this season. It also appears that the gambles Chip Kelly took in the offseason, replacing the Eagles’ quarterback, running back, and selected linemen hasn’t paid off as they are currently in the cellar of the division.
The struggles that each of the Giants three divisional opponents have faced essentially erases the 0-2 abysmal start that would have already written most teams out of the playoff picture. Manning is quietly having a great start to the season, building off his efficiency from a year ago, having only tossed one interception on the year to seven touchdowns. The offense has still yet to hit its full potential with Victor Cruz out of the lineup. Additionally the Giants have proven their stout defense, minimizing the Bills rushing attack and forcing multiple turnovers as well. In the secondary, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was recently ranked as a top 15 corner on PFF for the 2015 season.
I would give the Giants a 65% chance to win the division at this point. The Eagles can certainly mold together as the seasons goes and the Cowboys are legitimate Super Bowl contenders when fully healthy. If the Giants want to win the NFC East they have to take advantage of these next few weeks and extend their 2 game win streak.
ND: Through four games, the Giants have the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense. How surprising is that to you, and what’s gone into that becoming a strength in the early going?
JF: Honestly pretty surprising, however stopping the run was always the primary focus of defensive coordinator’s Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. The Giants have great run stoppers on their roster, with Jonathan Hankins plugging up the middle at DT, Jon Beason captaining the defense at MLB, and Kerry Wynn, who had an exceptional game against the run a week ago against the Buffalo Bills.
While the Giants have shut down opposing running games, their success can partially be attributed to their offense and lagging secondary. The Giants have held a double digit lead in every game so far this season; which really forces opposing offenses to rely on their quarterback’s arm rather than their running backs’ legs. Also every quarterback who has faced the Giants this season has thrown the ball 42+ times, further diminishing their total rush yards.
While the stat may be somewhat deceiving, I do expect the focus of this week’s game-plan to be containing the 49ers run game, which is without a doubt their greatest asset as an offense.
ND: The Giants have had a number of players miss practice this week. How do you think some of those injuries will impact Sunday’s game, and whose injury status should 49ers fans keep their eyes on?
JF: Several key starters are out for the Giants once again including, WR Victor Cruz, DE Robert Ayers, and LOLB Devon Kennard. Rotational DE George Selvie, who has seen a sharp increase in playing time in the last three weeks is also listed as out. Both Ereck Flowers and Markus Kuhn were limited all week in practice but are expected to start against the Niners this Sunday.
I would say the only relevant injury status to watch would be LB Jonathan Casillas. The ex-Patriot is currently listed as questionable with a calf injury and is known for his solid tackling ability in the run game. Casillas would be playing a majority of defensive snaps with Kennard being held out with a hamstring injury.
ND: Is there anything Odell Backham Jr. can’t do? In all seriousness, how has he reacted this week to getting fined for punching a Bills player? And what stands out to you about his game, aside from the insane one-handed catches?
JF: OBJ is definitely one of the most fascinating personalities and really brings an Ocho-cinco entertainment vibe to the table when you watch him on the field and in press conferences. After being called a Prima Donna last week, Odell commented that he still “slept like a baby at night.” The former LSU standout still has a high head on his shoulders and didn’t want to continue petty trash talk to a team that the Giants had already beaten. Beckham was fined $9,000 for the punch he threw last Sunday and said he was obviously going to attempt to appeal the charge. At the end of the day OBJ said that the Giants organization and himself were looking forward to San Francisco.
As for his game as a whole; OBJ is one of the best pure athletes in our generation and his multi-sport proficiency is pretty well documented. Aside from his beastly one-handed snags, Beckham Jr. is one of the most polished route runners in the entire NFL and can run the most beautifully timed routes. His footwork dangles most cornerbacks, and paired with his speed, elusiveness and baseball-glove-like hands, make him one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the league. Especially with Cruz sitting another game out, I would make sure the 49ers keep a safety over the top on OBJ the entire game.
ND: Last time the 49ers played Eli Manning, he threw five interceptions. Through four games this year, he’s only thrown one. What improvements in his game do you think have led to that?
JF: Eli Manning is in his second season with coordinator Ben McAdoo, who has emphasized decision making and efficiency throughout his time with the Giants. In his inaugural season with McAdoo, Eli put together his highest completion percentage in his career and it appears that he is building off last year’s success as the 2015 season progresses.
The decision making that McAdoo has emphasized in Manning’s career growth has been an important part of his success thus far into the season. Manning is making the right reads and throwing the ball away when necessary. Also, Manning has been able to use the addition of Shane Vereen as a safety net and way to gain offensive efficiency.
It also helps that Manning is throwing to two thousand yard wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle; both of whom he has strong chemistry with from a season ago. All of these components have led to pleasant start for Eli Manning.
Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.
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