By Paul Dottino
» More Columns
Quick, when was the last time the Giants had a winning record?
Too late, I’ve already looked it up for you. It was last season after they improved to 3-2 with a win over Atlanta on Oct. 5. That good feeling quickly went up in smoke when Victor Cruz injured his knee during a 27-0 loss in Philadelphia, the start of a seven-game losing streak.
Guess what? The Giants are in position to get on that side of .500 again when the disjointed San Francisco 49ers (1-3) come to town for Sunday Night Football.
Credit coach Tom Coughlin for dragging the Giants out of their 0-2 hole — two painful losses that could have been victories. He’s gotten the team back on track, even if it isn’t a finished product and has yet to play its best ball.
Here are three key matchups to look for in this week’s game:
1. Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. vs. 49ers RCB Kenneth Acker
Beckham is playing as if he’s fired up over the aggressive treatment he’s gotten from opposing defenses this season. He understands that the team needs his focus and production, so in light of how he was caught on video throwing a chopping right hand in Buffalo, it’s very likely he’ll channel his energy with big plays against San Francisco. Teams have completed 65 percent and averaged 19 yards per catch on the passes thrown at Acker, who was roasted by Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown for nine receptions worth 195 yards and a TD in Week 2. Consider that QBs are completing 70 percent of their throws for a 12-yard average against the Niners’ secondary and you know that Acker’s not going to get much help. Bad news for him.
2. Niners QB Collin Kaepernick vs. Giants MLB Jon Beason
Why Beason when Kaepernick usually likes to run toward the edges, you ask? Well, because Beason is the conduit for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on the field — and Spags’ schemes so baffled Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor last week that the Bills had very little chance to succeed. Ditto for Kaepernick, whose poor decision-making indicates he’s easily confused and whose erratic throws are an example of his frustration. He’s got only two TD passes against five INTs, been sacked 14 times and hit in the backfield 24 times (not including his 33 rushes). Kaepernick is not likely to get his act together this week, expecially if he has to bring the Niners from behind. Beason likely will have Jasper Brinkley on the strong side to help against the run, given injuries to Devon Kennard (hamstring) and Jonathan Casillas (calf).
3. Niners OLB Aaron Lynch vs. Giants LT Ereck Flowers
Although many of the names have changed, the Niners’ front seven can be very physical and disruptive. The defense has nine sacks, including three from Lynch, a second-year pro who is showing signs of becoming a force, especially in their blitz packages. He had two sacks and four tackles for losses in a strong defensive effort during last week’s 17-3 loss to Green Bay. Flowers performed well on a sprained left ankle in Buffalo, where he had to leave after the first play, only to return for the Giants’ second possession and finish the game.
PREDICTION: Giants 27, 49ers 10
Follow Paul on Twitter at @GiantsWFAN