The San Francisco 49ers are 2-1 to start the season, and we all predicted it to go exactly this way with Nick Mullens at the helm, and the biggest name on defense being Fred Warner. Heading into Week 3, this is exactly the situation the 49ers find themselves in.
The Philadelphia Eagles on the other hand are sitting at 0-2-1. (Yes, Donovan McNabb, you can tie in an NFL game.) It’s been an utter disaster of a season so far for the City of Brotherly Love. They are looking to right the ship this week, and this game seems ripe for a trap game, even though the Eagles were ranked #4 in these rankings. Let’s dive right in.
Why the 49ers Will Win
George Kittle is back! Although Jordan Reed played very well in the absence of the All-World tight end, Reed himself is now taking his yearly trip to the injury report. There is no overstating how much getting a player of Kittle’s ability back will do for Nick Mullens. The Eagles have struggled mightily so far this year against tight ends; see Tyler Higbee’s three-touchdown performance against them in Week 2.
Nick Mullens has, so far, shown one massively important skill: he is very careful with the ball. Add this to the fact that every Eagles defensive back not named Darius Slay has struggled, and you are looking at a very long day for fans of the away team. Let me clarify “struggled”: they have picked off zero passes, and allowed a quarterback rating of 108.2 this season. That is beyond bad.
The Eagles’ run defense has been fairly stout so far this year. They held the Bengals and Washington to 2.4 yards per carry. However, they were gashed against a Rams team that used a large amount of misdirection runs. This is encouraging, because last week, the 49ers used Brandon Aiyuk on a few sweep run plays in which he totaled 31 rushing yards. I would look for more of these type of plays this week.
On defense, the 49ers are playing against the artist formerly known as Carson Wentz. Wentz has thrown six interceptions through three weeks. That’s… not good, at all. Now, it’s not all on Wentz; his receiving corps is in shambles. Currently, they are missing Jalen Reagor, DeSean Jackson, Dallas Goedert, and Alshon Jeffrey. That is a lot of talented pass catchers to be attempting to go without.
To make matters worse for the Eagles, they have been missing a lot of their offensive line lately. To start, Lane Johnson has been limited with an ankle injury. Then they have multiple linemen who have been out sick and may be still recovering Sunday. Jack Driscoll, Jason Kelce, and Jason Peters all fall under this category. Missing any of these guys would be a huge loss for an Eagles team looking to get their offense back on track.
What does this all mean? Well, the 49ers have been surprisingly stout thus far in run defense without injured star Nick Bosa. The pass rush has suffered heavily, but it may get the benefit of corners K’Waun Williams and Ahkello Witherspoon returning this week. This game has the smell of one where an already struggling offense is undermanned and never able to get out of its own way.
Why the Eagles Will Win
We have already documented ad nauseum the struggles of the Eagles offense. However, they do have a couple things going for them. The first may be a bit of a cop-out, as it was one of the reasons I listed the 49ers would win. Carson Wentz is a quarterback who has proven he can win. Sure, he has struggled mightily so far this year, but he is also perfectly capable of reminding the world who he truly is.
The second — well, second and third, really — are running backs Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. Sanders is averaging five yards per carry so far this season on his own, and while Scott hasn’t been doing as well, he is a very capable back. This is easily a game where, if their line is healthy, their running backs could have a huge game.
Defensively, the best thing the Eagles have going for them is their pass rush. With 29 total pressures on the season, this is the type of game where Mullens may make a mistake. Malik Jackson, Brandon Graham, and Fletcher Cox form a very formidable defensive line to try and deal with.
I’m not really feeling that there is much chance of the 49ers losing this game. So unfortunately, I don’t have much else nice to say about Philadelphia.
If it isn’t obvious, I’m taking the 49ers in this match-up. This game shouldn’t even be close, if previous games are any indication. Another smooth week of sailing, Niners Nation.
(Featured Image Credit: San Francisco 49ers)