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49ers vs. Eagles: 5 questions on slow starts, Chip Kelly's influence, OL injuries and predictions

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We close out the week of preparations for 49ers-Eagles with 5 questions for Bleeding Green Nation. They talked Chip Kelly, slow starts, injuries, and strengths and weaknesses. They also provided a score prediction.

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The San Francisco 49ers are back for their Week 4 contest on Sunday, which means it is time once again for 5 questions with the opposing team's blogger. It's been a fun week interacting with Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation. We opened the week with a discussion of players we would take from the opposing team. We moved on to take a look at each team's weaknesses and why our respective team's might lose. I answered 5 questions from Brandon, covering Kap vs. Foles, the 49ers slow start, and provided a score prediction.

Here are Brandon's responses to my questions.

Niners Nation: The Eagles are off to a 3-0 start, even as the team has fallen behind by double digits each week. Why do you think the Eagles have had such slow starts?

Bleeding Green Nation: It's been a different story every week. In Week 1 against the Jaguars, the offense turned the ball over three times (two fumbles, one interception). In Week 2 at the Colts, the offense moved into scoring position but had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. Washington kept Philadelphia's offense off the field in Week 3 with long scoring drives.

A common pattern in these first half struggles, however, has been the Eagles' inability to get their run game going. LeSean McCoy just hasn't been as good as he was at this point last season, and that's not entirely his fault. He hasn't had the kind of blocking he had last season due to several injuries on Philadelphia's offensive line. On defense, the Eagles have failed to get off the field on third down and have allowed drives to continue for too long.

NN: The offensive line has dealt with injuries, a suspension, and general re-shuffling. What can 49ers fans make of it, particularly given San Francisco's own struggles generating a pass rush?

BGN: This is the projected Eagles starting lineup for the 49ers game, from left to right: LT Jason Peters, LG Matt Tobin, C David Molk, RG Dennis Kelly, RT Todd Herremans. Peters is the only starter that remains in place from last year. Tobin is a second year player who the team is high on, but he hasn't played since suffering an injury in the final week of the preseason. The return of Tobin is key for the Eagles because it sends a struggling Andrew Gardner (who played at right tackle) back to the bench. Molk wasn't even in the league at all last season. Kelly has looked like what you expect from an average backup offensive lineman. Herremans is regularly the team's starting right guard but he has plenty of experience at tackle as well.

Overall, it's a less than ideal offensive line. It could be worse, however. Through two straight weeks the Eagles haven't allowed a sack. It's the run-blocking that seems to have suffered the most due to the absences of Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, and Allen Barbre.

NN: What are the biggest strengths and weakness of this team?

BGN: Quite literally, one of the biggest strengths of this team right now is their second half performance. Philadelphia has scored a total of 74 points in the second half this season, an average of 24.7 point per game. For as much as the Eagles start slow, they finish strong. That's due to an explosive offense loaded with weapons that's almost capable of scoring at will.

As far as weaknesses go, it's easy to turn to the defense and point at Philadelphia's pass rush. Through two straight weeks the Eagles have failed to register a sack. There's more to pass rush than just sacks, of course, but at some point this defense is going to need to get more pressure to improve. It's just not clear where that pressure is going to come from. The Eagles lack talented pass rushers. It's a personnel issue.

NN: Tell us about Chip Kelly and what he has brought to the Eagles. He and Harbaugh are two guys who have gone to the NFL directly from college and found success. Pete Carroll was a college guy, but he had a couple NFL head coaching opportunities before that. Tell us about Chip Kelly and what he means to the Eagles.

BGN: I really believe Chip Kelly is so critical to this team's success. He's completely changed the culture since arriving. From the addition of a top-notch sports science program that helps players prepare better than they ever have before (despite Cary Williams' insistence otherwise), to the actual play calls on game-day, Kelly has his fingerprints all over this team. The identity of the Eagles under Kelly is always going to be offensive-focused and for good reason. Kelly wants to "score f***ing points", as he puts it, and he will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

NN: Who wins this game, and why?

BGN: The 1-2 49ers NEED this win more than the 3-0 Eagles do. I don't know if that necessarily means they will get it. While the 49ers still have a number of talented players, I'm just not sure to what extent San Francisco will be able to limit Philadelphia's offense. Considering how well the Eagles play in the second half, I think all the pressure here is on the 49ers to get off to a good start early. If they don't, and the 49ers' second half struggles continue, it could be a long day for San Fran. I think the Eagles will be able to at least keep it close in the first half and then pull away later on.

Eagles win, 30-23.

Fooch's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $350,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 4's NFL games. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $30,000. Starts Sunday, September 28th at 10am PT. Here's the link.