After a miraculous comeback on Sunday afternoon, the New York Giants will be put to the test against the 2-0 San Francisco 49ers Thursday night at Levi Stadium. The Giants were out west to face the Cardinals in Week 2 and will stay on the west coast during this short week. The Giants fell down 20-0 at the end of the first half, before scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half, eventually winning the game 31-28.
Despite some positive takeaways from the comeback, none more important than the confidence of this offense, the biggest headline is Saquon Barkley’s health. The Giants star RB is expected to be out multiple weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of the game. Barkley is the Giants most dynamic offensive player in a skill position group that is lacking star power.
On the other side, the 49ers look like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. There were concerns for this team surrounding the health of Brock Purdy and if he would be fully healthy enough to man the helm for this offense after tearing his UCL last season.
The Niners defense has looked great through two games, ranking third in rushing yards allowed, third in expected points added by passing defense, and sixth in pressure rate. Kyle Shanahan and company continue to perplex defenses with a unique scheme, highlighted by Christian McCaffrey, who’s eclipsed 100 yards and scored a touchdown in both games in 2023.
Currently we have a spread of -10.5 in favor of SF, with a total of 45. Both the spread and total were hit a half point after opening -10 and 45.5 respectively. Despite the media attention surrounding the Giants comeback, I don’t see how anyone will be running to back them against the 49ers, especially on a short week.
Between 10.5 and 12.5 is what I would consider a “dead zone” for point spreads, meaning that the value of each point is worth less than more “key numbers”. For example, we care a lot more about a line moving from 3 to 3.5 than we do moving from 10.5 to 11.
As far as the total goes, it’s another case where I can’t see money coming in on the over. This Giants defense has shown next to nothing in the first two games and the first half performance against what could be the worst team in the league is highly concerning. The Giants could be in for a lot of trouble when they face Shanahan’s offense on Thursday Night.
On paper, the Giants strength on defense is their pass rush, but they’ve generated a pressure rate of 7.1%, good for second worst in the league, and are the only team yet to record a sack. The 49ers offense should hum if the Giants continue to struggle to pressure the quarterback as Brock Purdy does just fine taking his completions over the middle and allowing their dynamic run game to move the chains.
I think this is a game where ball control by the 49ers will be the name of the game and the Giants will likely struggle to get anything going on offense without their top player on a short week for Brian Daboll to prepare his team.
Because the 49ers offense is so potent, I don’t think I want anything to do with the total as it feels ripe for defensive scores or backdoor touchdowns to spoil it. Rather, I’ll be looking at an alternate spread for the 49ers. I think the best way to play this is to wait up until game time and then “sell” the points on the 49ers to get to -13.5 or -14.
With the total already shading towards the under, I wouldn’t be surprised if it falls even further before game time, tightening the range of outcomes on the point spread. I think we will find the best price on this one closer to game time but for tracking purposes, I’ll be rolling with the 49ers -13.5 (+120) at Caesar’s for a 1% play.
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