LOS ANGELES – Opening with back-to-back road wins has the 49ers right where they want to be: Alone atop the NFC West at 2-0.
Thursday night, they’ll be at Levi’s Stadium, to not only host the New York Giants but to try extending a 12-game regular-season win streak dating to their last SoFi Stadium visit last October.
“We know Kyle is going to come down hard on us,” wide receiver Deebo Samuel said of coach Kyle Shanahan’s endless pursuit of perfection.
Those lessons will be taught more in the meeting rooms than on the practice field. Players had Monday off, and Tuesday marks their only official practice, which will be a lighter session to help recovery, especially for a 49ers defense that encountered 78 plays (including 55 passes by Matthew Stafford).
THIS WEEK’S STORYLINES
1. Nick Bosa’s body
Bosa played 63 of 80 snaps, his most since 2019, so it’ll be interesting to see how his body responds, considering he reported after camp and the preseason. Two games since signing the richest contract for a non-quarterback, Bosa is still seeking his first sack. He had none in the three playoff games, and none since the Jan. 8 regular-season finale against Arizona that gave him an NFL- and career-high 18 ½ as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
2. Saquon Barkley’s absence
Giants star Saquon Barkley is not expected to play. He left with a sprained ankle after scoring two touchdowns in New York’s 31-28 comeback win at Arizona. Ankle injuries kept Barkley out three games in 2019 and four in 2021. This sets the stage for a Matt Breida Revenge Tour. Breida entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the 49ers from 2017-19, led the 2018 team in rushing, and got traded in 2020 to Miami for a fifth-round pick the 49ers used on current right tackle Colton McKivitz.
3. Brandon Aiyuk’s shoulder
Aiyuk’s left-shoulder injury would have kept from practicing Monday, per the 49ers’ projected injury list. He got hurt landing on that shoulder on his first catch Sunday, then aggravated a third-down conversion catch on the opening touchdown drive . “I think he’ll be alright,” Shanahan said postgame. Aiyuk told NBC Sports Bay Area that his shoulder was sore. He played through the pain (30 snaps) and rotated with rookie Ronnie Bell (27 snaps).
4. NFL rushing king
Christian McCaffrey has run for an NFL-high 268 yards through two games, bolstered by a 65-yard touchdown run in Week 1 and a 51-yard dash on Sunday. This is an intriguing development, and the 49ers have not fully tapped into McCaffrey’s receiving skills. They haven’t had an NFL single-season rushing leader since Joe “The Jet” Perry, ran for 1,049 yards over 12 games (87.4 yards per game) in 1954. McCaffrey played all 57 snaps Sunday while Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason saw no offensive action, a disparity that Shanahan second-guessed Monday.
5. Purdy’s perfection
It’s as if the playoff disaster never existed. No loss in the NFC Championship Game at Philadelphia, no career-threatening elbow injury. Throw that game out and Brock Purdy is unbeaten. Now he better brace for a blitz-heavy attack from the Giants.
Here are the 49ers injuries to follow, based on Monday’s projected participation report:
WR Brandon Aiyuk (left shoulder)
CB Ambry Thomas (knee)
The Giants’ injuries worth following include:
RB Saquon Barkley (ankle)
G Brad Bredeson (concussion)
OT Andrew Thomas (hamstring)
DE Azeez Ojulari (hamstring)
LB Micah McFadden (neck)
WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee)
The Giants failed to score in their first six quarters of the season, including a 40-0 Week 1 loss to Dallas and then a 20-0 halftime deficit to the Cardinals. Quarterback Daniel Jones engineered a 31-point attack Sunday to pull out the 31-28 win at Arizona, where they’re staying until coming up for Thursday’s game. Jones threw two touchdown passes (26-of-37, 321 yards, one interception) and ran for a score. Once Barkley got hurt on the winning drive, he was relieved by ex-49ers rushing leader Matt Breida, who gained 5 yards on his lone carry. Tight end Darren Waller will be a chore to cover, a role that could fall to nickel back Isaiah Oliver or perhaps a linebacker or even a safety. The Giants have no sacks through two games; Dexter Lawrence has a team-high four quarterback hits.
Three years ago, in Week 3, the 49ers turned a 16-6 halftime lead into a 36-9 rout at MetLife Stadium, a week after that turf saw leg injuries take out Nick Bosa, Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert and Solomon Thomas in the Niners’ win over the Jets. The 49ers bunkered in West Virginia between those wins, the latter of which saw touchdowns scored by Jeff Wilson Jr. (two), Aiyuk and Jerick McKinnon.
The 49ers stated from Week 1 that they’re gunning for the NFC’s No. 1 seed. So here are how their top challengers stand: Eagles (2-0), Cowboys (2-0), Commanders (2-0), Falcons (2-0), Bucs (2-0), Lions (1-1). Their NFC West counterparts: Seahawks (1-1), Rams (1-1), Cardinals (0-2)
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Sunny skies will give way to a clear, star-filled night, as temperatures drop from 77 degrees to a low of 56, according to weather.com. Winds are forecast between 10 to 15 mph for kicker Jake Moody’s official home debut. Sunset is at 7:06 p.m.
After not covering Sunday as 7 ½-point favorites (courtesy of the Rams’ walk-off field goal), the 49ers have an even bigger spread this game: 10 ½ points.
Prediction: 49ers 37, Giants 14