Looking ahead to Sunday’s game

Just arrived in New Jersey. The team will be touching down a little later this evening.

We usually put together the matchups on Saturday, but there’s not a whole lot else going on today, so we’ll get a head start. (Sorry to say that this is not considered a GPS game.)

 

But, first, here’s the injury report for Sunday’s game:

 

49ers: T Jonas Jennings (shoulder) is out; LB Manny Lawson (hamstring), S Mark Roman (knee) and CB Donald Strickland (hip) are probable.

 

Giants: LB Gerris Wilkinson (knee) is out; LB Antonio Pierce (quad) is questionable; C Shaun O’Hara (toe) and DE Dave Tollefson (knee) are probable.

 

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KEY MATCHUPS

 

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz vs. defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo: Martz came under fire last week for his reluctance to stick with the run game when the 49ers needed to chew some clock and score some points in the fourth quarter. Martz is trying to get himself back in the conversation for head-coaching positions. Spagnuolo probably could have been a head coach after last year’s Super Bowl, but he decided to stay with the Giants until something better came along. Spagnuolo will try to turn up the pressure and get some hits on 49ers quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan.

  

QB J.T. O’Sullivan vs. Giants pass defense: O’Sullivan has done a lot of good things since winning the job with an impressive training camp. But there is no denying his struggles in the fourth quarter. He has committed nine turnovers the past two weeks. More than anything, he has to get on the same page as his receivers. Every week there are passes thrown in which the receiver never turns to look for the ball. That happened last week when O’Sullivan tried to hit Arnaz Battle with a hot read late in the game. Battle kept running, while Eagles DE Juqua Parker intercepted the pass and took it back for a TD. Martz said this week that the interception was a result of a “coaching issue” — something he failed to discuss with O’Sullivan. Regardless, O’Sullivan is going to need to be near-perfect for the 49ers to remain competitive. The Giants pass defense struggled Monday night against the Browns’ Derek Anderson.

 

RB Frank Gore vs. Giants run defense: Gore is the key to the 49ers’ offense. We saw that last week when the 49ers’ offense shut down in the fourth quarter. The 49ers ran 16 offensive plays for negative-2 yards against the Eagles. Gore touched the ball just two times in the fourth quarter, and that’s unacceptable. Gore leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage and has been the best all-around back in the league through six weeks. The Giants’ run defense had been very strong before allowing 144 yards rushing on 30 carries to the Browns on Monday.

 

WR Isaac Bruce vs. CB Aaron Ross: It’s been an interesting for six games for Bruce. He leads the 49ers with 303 receiving yards, but more than half of that production came in one game – a Week 2 victory over the Seahawks. Bruce has a huge advantage this week in experience over Ross, who has started all five games this season at left cornerback. Ross, a second-year pro, can be susceptible to double moves, as he showed Monday night when he was beaten by the Browns’ Braylon Edwards for a 70-yard gain. Ross is 10 years younger than Bruce, so he’ll undoubtedly get a chance to learn from one of the best.

 

LG Adam Snyder vs. DL Justin Tuck: On base downs, Snyder will be matched against 300-plus pounders Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins. But when the 49ers are in passing situations, Snyder will have to contend with the quickness of Tuck rushing from the inside. Snyder said he has to take a more aggressive approach to close the gap and get his hands on Tuck quickly. Otherwise, if Tuck is able to create some space, he can use his quickness to squeeze past Snyder and get in O’Sullivan’s face.

 

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky vs. offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride: The 49ers’ defense has been a major, major disappointment this season. Manusky, with a lot of help from coach Mike Nolan, has not been able to push the right buttons to get the 49ers’ defense off the field. The opponents’ success rate on third downs against the 49ers is 42.7 percent. Manusky has to come up with a plan in which the 49ers are strong up front against the run, but also not vulnerable against the pass. Against the league’s top-ranked offense, it’s a difficult chore.

 

LB Patrick Willis vs. Brandon Jacobs: Ah, heck, let’s just turn this matchup into the 49ers’ front seven vs. the Giants big uglies. Willis will have to have a strong day one-on-one against Jacobs, but so much of this matchup requires assistance from others along the way. The 49ers’ defensive line has to do a much better job of not getting steered out of the play. That falls on Aubrayo Franklin and Isaac Sopoaga, neither of whom has fared particularly well this season. Jacobs is a 265-pound back who is a load to bring down. He’s just the kind of runner who would seem built to have a field day against the 49ers’ defense.

 

CB Walt Harris vs. WR Plaxico Burress: Harris has enjoyed strong games against Anquan Boldin and Roy Williams. However, he has not played well in recent weeks against smaller, quicker receivers. His recent struggles have some pondering whether Harris has lost a step or two. Burress (6-5, 232) has returned from a team-imposed suspension, and Eli Manning will be looking to get the ball in his hands. The 49ers might send their No. 1 corner to match up with Burress. But Harris figures to see some time on him, too. Burress moves into the slot a lot in multi-receiver formations, and Harris generally the man who plays that nickel back position.

 

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