Monday Night Preview: Can Nick Mullens Do It Again?
This week's edition of Monday Night Football features the 1-7 New York Giants travel to take on the 2-7 San Francisco 49ers. The dysfunctional Giants will look to end their five-game losing streak after falling 20-13 at home to the Washington Redskins. Conversely, the 49ers will look to build on an emotional 34-3 win over the Oakland Raiders while once again being quarterbacked by Nick Mullens,
This game come in with the 49ers favored by 3-points with a 44.5 over/under. Kyle Shanahan named Nick Mullens the starter again this week. However, with both teams largely struggling in 2018, match-ups could play a crucial role in this contest. Here are a few likely to influence the outcome of this contest.
On the Giants side, Eli Manning will continue to quarterback the offense, despite his continued struggles. Manning has accounted for 300 yards passing in three of his last four games, but owns a brutal 8:6 touchdown to interception ratio on the season. He has struggle based on our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric as well. Among 27 quarterbacks with at least 200 drop backs, Manning's Passing NEP per drop back of 0.02 ranks 22nd.
On the other side, Nick Mullens experienced a breakout game in his first start, recording 262 passing yards, 3 scores, and 0 interceptions. He also performed very well according to our NEP metric. While he only dropped back 22 times, Mullens recorded a 0.91 Passing NEP per drop back, which would rank first among qualified quarterbacks. This type of success is not sustainable, but it provides optimism for Mullens headed into his second game.
Running Back Breakdown
At running back, the Giants will once again feed their first round pick, Saquon Barkley. So far this season, Barkley has impressively accounted for 519 rushing yards and 497 receiving yards. Looking at NEP, Barkley has also performed above expectations. Among 28 running backs to carry the ball 95 times, Barkley's 0.00 Rushing NEP per carry ranks 14th. However, noted above, Barkley remains a difference-maker in the passing game. His 70 targets rank second to only James White among running backs this season.
Following a Raheem Mostert injury, the 49ers project to feature Matt Breida. Seemingly playing through an injury every week, Breida has 531 rushing yards to start the year. He has also impressed according to NEP. His 0.06 Rushing NEP per carry ranks sixth among the aforementioned group of backs. With Mostert injured the 49ers could sprinkle Alfred Morris back into the lineup as well, but his -0.11 Rushing NEP per carry flat-out doesn't cut it when compared with Breida. San Francisco also projects to play Kyle Juszczyk on passing downs, but he remains a non-factor in the run game, with five carries on the year.
The Giants come into this contest ranked 19th in defense, while the 49ers rank 24th, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics.
The date, the Giants have the 14th ranked run defense and 23rd against the pass. Similarly, the 49ers enter this contest ranked 17th in run defense and 22nd against the pass. With the passing games providing a potential avenue for success, Manning and Mullens' play could decide this game.
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