The Philadelphia Eagles are in a very tough position after a poor start to the 2020 NFL season. The Birds start a difficult stretch on Sunday night as they travel out west to take on the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers have maintained their winning ways despite being decimated by injuries. This is a must-win for Philadelphia after an ugly 0-2-1 start to the season. The Eagles must flip the switch and start winning football games.
Battle of the Reserves
The 49ers and Eagles are among two of the most injured teams in the NFL. Both teams have suffered injuries at key positions on their respective teams. Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, and Richard Sherman are notable players on the IR for the Niners. Notable players on the IR for the Eagles include Andre Dillard, Dallas Goedert, and Jalen Reagor. The casual viewer may need to pull up a depth chart on the internet to figure out who’s on the field Sunday Night. Let’s take a look at the current Injury Report:
Jimmy Garoppolo – OUT Desean Jackson – OUT
Raheem Mostert – OUT Alshon Jeffery – OUT
Emmanuel Mosely – OUT J.J. Arcega-Whiteside – Doubtful
Dre Greenlaw – OUT Avonte Maddox – OUT
Ahkello Witherspoon – OUT Trevor Williams – OUT
49ers Players to Watch
George Kittle – The Tight End for the 49ers returns to action after missing two games due to a sprained MCL. The return of Kittle is a huge upgrade to the 49ers offense. One of the top Tight ends in the NFL, Kittle draws a juicy match-up with the young inexperienced Eagles linebackers. The Eagles must contain Kittle in any way they can.
Jeff Wilson, Jr – Wilson was a key ingredient to the 49ers success last week. While he didn’t cause much damage on the ground (12 rushes for 15 yards, 1 TD), Wilson wreaked havoc out of the backfield catching three balls for 54 yards and a TD. The Eagles have some problems with pass-catching RBs, so this will be a match-up to monitor on Sunday evening.
Brandon Aiyuk / Deebo Samuel – The 49ers welcome a huge addition to their receiving corps as Deebo Samuel returns to the field for the first time in 2020. Samuel burst onto the scene as a rookie last year with 57 receptions for 802 yards and hopes to replicate his rookie season. Brandon Aiyuk made his debut last week with an impressive 5/70/1 line on the stat sheet. The Eagles are thin at WR, so Kyle Shanahan may feature the WR not being covered by Darius Slay.
Kerry Hyder, Jr – The seven-year NFL veteran has stepped in nicely for the injured Nick Bosa and held his own on the defensive line. He leads the team with two sacks. Hyder will have an exciting match-up with Lane Johnson this week.
Eagles Players to Watch
Carson Wentz – Of course, we have to start with the Ginger Cannon. Wentz has struggled mightily in 2020. He looks like a shell of his former self. The question around Philly has to be: Will the real Carson Wentz please stand up? This has to be a prove-it game for Carson. Although he’s missing nearly every WR on the roster, he MUST shine on Sunday night. We need to see flashes of late 2019 when he put the team on his back and carried them to the playoffs. According to Pro Football Focus, Wentz has an awful accurate pass percentage of 46% with passes less than 10 yards downfield. That has to improve significantly! The time is now for Wentz to prove his critics wrong on national television.
Greg Ward / John Hightower – The only two healthy receivers on the roster are in a prime position to showcase their talents this week. They’ll be relied on heavily for offensive production on Sunday night. Greg Ward impressed last week with an 8/72/1 stat line. These receivers will have to flourish against a banged-up Niners secondary if the Eagles want to secure a victory in week 4.
Fletcher Cox / Javon Hargrave – The interior defensive line of the Eagles will need to dominate for the defense to thrive. Fletcher Cox is banged up, but I think he’ll give it a go this week. Creating pressure will be essential to the success of the defense.
Eagles Keys to the Game
– Carson Wentz MUST play like the Wentz of old: Carson needs to relax and play football. Keep everything simple, and rely on the players around. Most importantly, NO TURNOVERS!
– Utilize the Play action: Watching the tape on the Niners defense, they constantly over pursue the play, especially Kwon Alexander. The Giants only success last week was in the play-action and utilizing Daniel Jones on the move. Get Wentz moving in the pocket, and use some misdirection to keep the Niners defense on their heels.
– Miles Sanders must have the ball in his hands: The guy is a playmaker. He averaged over 5 yards a carry last week. I don’t see any reason why Miles Sanders shouldn’t touch the ball 25 times on Sunday. Get him the ball!
– Get Ertz Involved: It’s time for Zach Ertz to shine. Wentz should be looking in his direction early and often. Ertz should see at least ten targets, and capitalize on the opportunity.
– Defensive front four must dominate the game: The Niners are weak on the interior offensive line. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave should have a field day getting into the backfield. In order to win this game, the D-Line must create a ton of pressure on Nick Mullens, and make him feel the heat all night.
– Contain Jeff Wilson in the passing game: Jeff Wilson is best utilized as a receiver out of the backfield for the 49ers. The Eagles struggle somewhat in that category. The Eagles must contain Wilson and avoid letting him create space in the open field.
– George Kittle: Need I say any more? The Eagles have severely struggled against opposing Tight ends. Now, they have a match-up with one of the best in the league. Nate Gerry must play the game of his life and contain Kittle as much as humanly possible. Good Luck, Nate.
– CB2: Darius Slay will lock down one side of the field, but who’s holding down the other side? That’s the million-dollar question. The Eagles will have Cre’von LeBlanc and Nickel Robey-Coleman available. They must play at a high level, and much better than previous weeks, to contain the young receivers of San Francisco.
The NFL Network dropped their predictions for Sunday Night’s game:
Maurice Jones-Drew: SF 28-21
Daniel Jeremiah: Philly 28-24
Colleen Wolfe: Philly 21-20
Marcas Grant: SF 30-17
Adam Rank: SF 31-29
As for my prediction, this is a challenging game to gauge for me. This game has all the makings of a San Francisco blowout in prime-time. The Eagles are 0-2-1. The Eagles are playing their worst football in the Doug Peterson era. They have to travel across the country to play. San Francisco is the defending NFC Champs. However, you have to look at both sides of the situation here. For whatever reason, the Eagles play their best football when their backs are against the wall. The Eagles are in a must-win situation. I believe Carson showed a few minor flashes of his old self last week, especially with the game-tying touchdown in the 4th quarter. Let’s hope Carson can return to form and lead the Eagles to a hard-fought victory in San Fran!
Prediction: 27-23 Eagles