Niners gameplan

Niners game plan, matchups to watch and injury impact for Sunday's contest vs. the New York Giants:

GAMEPLAN VS. GIANTS:

The 49ers will be starting their fourth quarterback in five weeks, so they will probably have to rely on a similar formula that earned them a victory last week against the Buccaneers. The 49ers got strong play from their defense and special teams to take the heat off their offense. With Cody Pickett calling signals, it might be asking too much for him to make a lot of plays to get the offense going. After all, Pickett has not played much quarterback in practice for the last two months. The offensive line will have to respond to the challenge against the Giants. Their first priority is to open holes for Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore in the run game. The 49ers must run the ball effectively to take the heat off Pickett, who has attempted just 11 passes in his two-year NFL career. Pickett is a good athlete, so the 49ers will try to get him outside the pocket on occasion to make plays. Defensively, the 49ers will have their hands full against the highest-scoring team in the NFL. The 49ers' defense has given up more points than any team in the league. They must find a way to contend with the running of Tiki Barber, as well as the much-improved passing game that Eli Manning has brought to the club in his second season. When the 49ers have been competitive this season, their special teams have played a huge role. Kicker Joe Nedney has been very good this season, as have punter Andy Lee and the coverage units. The 49ers won their game against the Buccaneers last week because they controlled the game of field position.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

--- 49ers run game, which rolled up 158 yards on the top-ranked Buccaneers last week, vs. the Giants run defense, which ranks 11th in the league and will have to contain Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore on first downs.

--- RT Kwame Harris, who has shown a lot of inconsistency in pass protection, vs. DE Michael Strahan, a seasoned veteran who leads the Giants with 6.5 sacks.

--- OLB Julian Peterson, one of the team's top all-around performers, vs. TE Jeremy Shockey, who has recorded 28 catches for 453 yards and four TDs.

--- 49ers cornerbacks Shawntae Spencer and Bruce Thornton, who had a strong game last week against the Bucs, vs. Giants WRs Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, who have combined for 61 catches for 828 yards and seven touchdowns.

INJURY IMPACT

QB Alex Smith (right knee) did not practice this week and could be out beyond Sunday's game. ... Backup Ken Dorsey will not start after sustaining a left ankle sprain in last Sunday's game against the Giants. That means Cody Pickett will get his first career start. Dorsey returned from what looked like a bad high ankle sprain to practice all week and he'll be available for backup duties. ... The 49ers figure to be short on depth in the backfield, as RB Maurice Hicks (knee) is out and RB Terry Jackson (hip/knee) and FB Chris Hetherington (hamstring) are listed as questionable for the game against the Giants. ... LB Saleem Rasheed is expected to miss up to another month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus cartilage. ... LT Jonas Jennings is still not close to being ready to action because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He is not expected to play this week against the Giants and will require major surgery whenever he decides to end his season. ... WR Arnaz Battle has a chance to return to action Sunday against the Giants. He's missed most of the last four games with a sprained right knee ligament. ... Center Jeremy Newberry did not practice this week but should start Sunday. He is hobbled by a chronic knee problem. ... WR Otis Amey, who has missed two games with a high ankle sprain, is questionable for Sunday. ... CB Ahmed Plummer is expected to miss at least two more more games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle. ... WR Derrick Hamilton is still on PUP after sustaining a torn ACL in the offseason. He is not expected to play this season. ... LB Jeff Ulbrich (left biceps), CB Mike Rumph (foot), TE Eric Johnson (foot) and WR Rashaun Woods (thumb) are on injured reserve.


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