Ted Ginn, Jr. returns a kickoff for a touchdown in Week 1 against the Seahawks.
The San Francisco 49ers are off to a 7-1 start, the franchise’s best since the 1997 team started 11-1. They bring a six-game win streak into Sunday’s matchup at Candlestick Park with the New York Giants, who are leading the NFC East with a 6-2 record and have won three games in a row.
Under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have used a power running game and a suffocating defense to build a five-game lead in the NFC West. However, the most consistent and dominating unit for the Niners so far this season might just be the special teams.
Kickoffs and Punting
San Francisco’s average starting field position of their own 33-yd line is tied with the Jets for the best in the NFL. Returner Ted Ginn, Jr. has been a big part of their success in this area, averaging 29.2 yards per kickoff return, fourth-best among qualified players.
NFL Ranks This Season
Ginn has also returned the second-most punts in the league this season, and his punt return average of 12.5 yards ranks fifth among returners (min. 10 returns). He has seven punt returns of 20-plus yards, the most in the NFL.
The Giants have struggled covering kickoffs. Their opponents' average starting field position after kickoffs ranks 24th in the NFL. Their 18 kickoff returns allowed of at least 20 yards are eighth-most in the league.
The 49ers, on the other hand, have done a great job pinning teams back all season. Their opponents’ average starting position is at the 25-yard line, tying them with the Buccaneers and the Bengals for the best in the NFL.
AkersKicker David Akers has induced 24 touchbacks on kickoffs, tied for the seventh-most in the NFL. Punter Andy Lee has the second-best gross (50.2) and net (43.3) punting averages in the league. Lee has 10 punts of at least 60 yards, the most in the NFL.
The Giants have struggled returning kicks this season, ranking 23rd in average starting field position. Their kickoff return average of 22.3 yards ranks 22nd in the NFL, while their punt return average of 8.2 ranks 23rd.
Field Goal Kicking
Akers has also excelled in the field goal department, converting 19-of-21 attempts, including a perfect 4-for-4 on attempts of at least 50 yards. His 55-yarder in Week 2 against the Cowboys set the record for the longest field goal ever kicked at Candlestick Park.
Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes has attempted just nine field goals this season, the second-fewest in the league, and made seven of them. He has only one attempt of more than 40 yards, which he missed.
Sunday’s matchup looks to be fairly even, as both teams have excelled during their winning streaks on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. If the game does indeed come down to special teams, look for the 49ers to have the edge.