Ten Trends: 49ers at Giants

Should 49ers fans be concerned if their offense fails to get a first down -- on first down? Why will third-and-one be an interesting matchup for the 49ers offense and the Giants defense? Ed Thompson shares ten trends that could impact the Giants-49ers matchup.

San Francisco

Don't be surprised to see the 49ers get into the backfield and drop the Giants running backs for a loss or two. They enter Sunday's game as the second-best defensive unit in the league at turning running plays into lost yardage -- 13.8 percent of the time. The 49ers have tacked 46 yards of negative yardage on their opponents so far this year, putting them in a tie for seventh-place in the league. Leading the charge is defensive end Marques Douglas with seven stuffs -- second-best in the league -- in five games while rookie linebacker Patrick Willis has been credited with 4.5 so far.

The 49ers have a league-worst 36.5 percent three-downs-and-out possessions. That's horrendously magnified by a league average that's running at just 21.5 percent.

Another bad trend that's certainly contributed to the team's short-lived possessions is their third-down conversions, which are running at a success rate of just 24.2 percent against a league average of 41.2 percent. The only third-down situation they're converting above the league average is on third-and-one with a 75 percent success rate. And if they need more than ten yards, forgot about it. They're only converting 12.5 percent of their chances.

On first down, if the 49ers don't move the ball at least 10 yards and pick up another first down right away, they usually put themselves in a tough spot. They've had 88 second-down plays so far this season and their average "to go" on those second-down plays is a league worst 8.9 yards.

Two special teams areas have been a real positive for San Francisco so far. They have the third-best gross punt average at 50.1 yards and the best net punting average in the league at 43.8 yards. That net is even more impressive when you consider that the league average for gross punt average is 43.9 yards. Kickoff coverage has also been an area of strength as the 49ers have allowed a return of 20-plus yards just  53.8 percent of the time versus a league average of over 66.2 percent.

New York

Osi Umenyiora tackles Donovan McNabb
AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy

The Giants lead the league in sacks with 21 heading into their matchup with the 49ers. And with San Francisco allowing 18 already this year, that's a bad combination for the visiting team. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora has seven sacks while defensive end Justin Tuck has 5.5 and linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka has added 4.5 to the total. Just to manage expectations, 49ers fans shouldn't get too excited if New York doesn't get rough right out of the gates. Only two of their 21 sacks have been made in the first quarter.

Certainly a factor in the Giants' offensive success has been their ability to move the chains. Their 126 first downs in six games puts them in a tie for second-place in that category. While they're fourth in rushing first downs, they've also been awarded more first downs by penalties than any other NFL club with 16 so far this year. The 49ers are one of the least penalized teams in the league, so the Giants aren't likely to get much help there on Sunday.

Another interesting clash of trends will occur when the 49ers -- who convert 75 percent of their third-and-one opportunities -- have to try their luck against the Giants who sport the league's second-best record in defending those situations. New York is only allowing their opponent to convert a third-and-one 33.3 percent of the time.

One area of struggle for the Giants offense is when they're faced with a third down situation with more than six yards to go. Moving the chains on just six out of 36 chances, New York has a league-worst 16.7 percent conversion rate in that situation.

The Giants offense has been impressive putting together 22 drives into the opponent's red zone this year, the fourth-highest total in the league. Once there, they've scored 12 touchdowns and converted five of seven field goal tries. They've come up short three times, throwing one interception, turning the ball over on downs and one instance of the clock running out. Once in the red zone, the Giants throw a pretty even mix of play choices at their opponents with 25 runs and 29 passes called so far this season.

Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and are syndicated through FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.

Statistics referenced in this article are provided by STATS, LLC. Copyright 2007 by STATS, LLC. Any use or distribution of such Licensed Materials without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited. 

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