The New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers are in a heated battle for the No. 1 spot. Sadly, that spot isn’t related to team rankings or Super Bowl chances. It’s a battle for the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Overall, the two teams have a combined 3-14 record as we’ve reached the halfway point of the 2018 season. Injuries have played a part, especially for San Francisco.
The 49ers lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after signing him to a five-year contract extension worth up to $137.5 million during the offseason. On top of losing their franchise quarterback for the year, the 49ers were forced to put running backs Jerick McKinnon and Raheem Mostert on injured reserve as well, the former before the season even started.
One thing is certain: it hasn’t been the season that either team hoped for coming into the year.
New York at San Francisco
Kickoff: Monday, Nov. 12 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: 49ers -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Will the location of the game be moved due to smoke?
As of right now, it looks like the Monday night showdown will remain at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. That notion isn’t a foregone conclusion, however.
Due to excessive smoke from the fires in Northern California, the 49ers have already been forced to adjust their practice schedule this week. That known fact already makes things more interesting, as it’s unknown how much that will affect the team’s play on Monday.
Either way, there’s going to be a lot more than football on people’s mind when things kick off.
2. Jamon Brown’s insertion into the starting lineup
The Giants have fielded one of the league’s worst offensive lines this season. Nate Solder, who signed a four-year, $62 million free agent contract in the offseason, hasn’t played up to his paycheck.
Neither did the team’s other free agent signing, offensive guard Patrick Omameh. His poor play is one of the major reasons why he was cut on Saturday. The other reason was the team being awarded former Rams starting guard Jamon Brown off waivers.
Brown was drafted by the Rams in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft. In three and a half seasons, he played in 42 games with 30 starts, including 16 in 2017. The emergence of Austin Blythe for Los Angeles is what made Brown expendable.
It’s not often that a starting-caliber offensive lineman becomes available this late in the season.
3. Can Nick Mullens keep the magic going?
Mullens isn’t a name that a lot of people were going to know heading into last Thursday’s matchup between the 49ers and Oakland Raiders. The undrafted free agent out of Southern Miss had never been close to meaningful game action in the NFL, after all.
After playing a pivotal part of handing the Raiders a 34-3 beatdown, all of that had changed. Everyone seemed to know who Mullens was, including Twitter.
The 23-year-old who rewrote some of Brett Favre's records at Southern Miss completed 72.7 percent of his passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. His 151.9 passer rating meant that the 6-foot-1, 210-pound quarterback had put up one the most impressive starting debuts in NFL history.
The only question that he has left to answer: can he keep it going?
The over/under for this game seems a little bit low at 44.5 points. Some of that is the result of a questionable quarterback matchup, but let’s also not forget about the key injuries the 49ers have on both sides of the football.
Linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Jaquiski Tartt are important pieces for San Francisco, and neither of them will be available on Monday night. To make matters worse, Mullens will be without one of his favorite targets, Pierre Garcon. The veteran receiver led the team in targets (5) last week.
As much as Eli Manning has struggled this season, the Giants look to be as healthy as they have been in a while. That bodes well for New York's chances of getting its second win of the season.
Prediction: Giants 24, 49ers 21
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.