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Four Downs

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Four Downs: Keys to a Second Straight Win on Primetime

Our 49ers.com writers are back to break down four pressing topics ahead of the San Francisco 49ers home game against the New York Giants on "Monday Night Football."

Here's an outlook on the 49ers Week 10 matchup in our weekly "Four Downs" series.

First Down: Who will score the 49ers first touchdown?

Joe Fann: Kendrick Bourne

Bourne has quietly been a solid red zone target for the 49ers with three touchdowns this season. He excels at quick slants, which is the route he scored on last week against the Oakland Raiders. Don't be surprised to see Nick Mullens look Bourne's way again if and when the 49ers get inside the 5-yard line on Monday. I think we can all agree that the entertainment factor of Bourne's touchdown celebrations make this an easy scenario to pull for. Bourne is sure to bring the sauce on primetime if he finds the end zone.

Keiana Martin: Matt Breida

With 11 days between the 49ers Week 9 contest and Monday night’s matchup, Breida has had a mini bye week to help recover from a lingering ankle injury suffered in Week 3. For the first time in six weeks, San Francisco’s primary back was not listed on the 49ers injury report. A healthier Breida could see more touches and a bigger workload as the 49ers are without complimentary back Raheem Mostert (forearm) for the remainder of the season. I foresee some of those touches coming near the goal line.

Second Down: Who is the 49ers X-factor against the Giants?

Joe Fann: Cassius Marsh

Marsh has been disruptive in recent weeks and finally had his hard work pay off with a 2.5-sack outburst against the Raiders. The 49ers will need a repeat performance from their top edge rusher against a Giants offense that has allowed 31 sacks this season. Eli Manning is as immobile as they come, and if he hears footsteps, he may give the 49ers a few freebies. Marsh, Ronald Blair, DeForest Buckner and the rest of the 49ers defensive line will look to dominate in this one.

Keiana Martin: DeForest Buckner

The 49ers pass rush has seen vast improvements as of late. San Francisco has gone from 24th in the league in sacks in Week 7 (nine) to being tied for seventh heading into Monday night (24). The Giants are allowing almost four sacks a game and rank worst in the league with 31 allowed through eight games. Monday night could make for a big showing for the 49ers defensive line and Buckner in particular. Bringing pressure and limiting the Giants playmakers are keys to getting the ball back in Nick Mullens' hands.

Third Down: The 49ers can win if...

Joe Fann: They avoid giving up home runs to Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley

The Giants, like the Raiders, will enter the game with just one win. The big difference between the two teams is that New York has legitimate superstars on offense in Barkley and Beckham. A busted coverage or a missed gap assignment could easily result in a touchdown for either player. I like the 49ers chances if they force the Giants to sustain long drives and convert on third down. The only way that happens is if San Francisco avoids giving up explosive plays. Barkley is tied for the league lead with three runs of 40 plus yards. Beckham has 11 receptions of at least 20 yards and two receptions of at least 40.

Keiana Martin: They help Nick Mullens succeed under center

Going from practice squad to a primetime standout, Mullens is coming off of an impressive NFL debut, and the 49ers hope he can recreate that same magic on Monday night. But it’s not only up to the undrafted quarterback to get the offense going. Simply put, receivers getting open, success in the run game and pass protection must work in the 49ers favor if they want to put up an encore performance against the Giants.

Fourth Down: What is your bold prediction?

Joe Fann: 49ers defense puts up a five-sack performance

A lot of this will be determined by the game script. I don't foresee this matchup getting out of hand early like it did when the 49ers beat the Raiders. However, unless the 49ers find themselves facing a major deficit, the pass rush should still have ample opportunity to get after Manning on Monday night. DeForest Buckner will get two and then Cassius Marsh, Dekoda Watson and Ronald Blair will get one each.

Keiana Martin: Richard Sherman gets his first interception of 2018

The NFL’s active leader in interceptions has yet to record one in 2018. This is primarily due to opposing quarterbacks opting not to target San Francisco’s veteran corner. Through his seven games so far this season, Sherman has allowed just eight catches for 148 yards. If the defense can force Manning into some bad decisions, maybe Sherman can finally be the beneficiary and come up with his first pick of 2018. Sherman may also see more targets should he line up across Odell Beckham Jr, a receiver who normally operates on Sherman's side of the field.

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