After hypothetically beating the New York Giants in Week 3, the San Francisco 49ers are now 3-0 as they travel back home for a primetime game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Will this game be close, or will it look like the Niners first primetime game a year ago against the Browns?
Reason for: Lack of playmakers on the perimeter
The way to beat the 49ers is to have players on the outside who can create for themselves. Last season, the Eagles averaged 2.9 yards after the catch on passes thrown past the line of scrimmage, which was the second-worst figure in the league, per Football Outsiders. There’s a reason Philly added TCU’s Jalen Reagor in the first round, but expecting a rookie wide receiver to make a significant impact, especially early in the season, is a big ask.
The Eagles lacked diversity in how they attacked defenses last year, too. They were one of two teams who used 12 personnel more than 11 personnel for starters, which led to Philadelphia targeting their non-starting receivers a league-low 8% of the time. Will Reagor make that much of a difference? Perhaps, but not likely against the Niners defense. Alshon Jeffery will start the season on the PUP list, which means it’ll be Reagor, 34-year old DeSean Jackson, and second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on the perimeter.
We can’t talk about the Eagles offense without mentioning Zach Ertz, who put up big numbers in 2019 but had a negative DVOA. I’d bet come Week 4 Ertz is the Eagles top option in the slot. The 49ers had the second-best DVOA against tight ends last year.
As for Jackson and Reagor, San Francisco led the NFL with the fewest explosive plays allowed before Jaquiski Tartt went down to begin December. Like most teams, the 49ers match up well here.
I like Carson Wentz more than most and think he’s capable of having an “MVP type of game” against anyone. That will give Philly a chance. The question is, will Wentz have time to make plays? Andre Dillard takes over at left tackle for Jason Peters, who slides over to guard after Brandon Brooks tore his Achilles this offseason. Dillard had the second-worst blown-block rate among all tackles in the NFL last season. Hello, Nick Bosa. Left guard Isaac Seumalo was also in the bottom-half of block blocks among guards. Wentz will get a chance to test his athleticism, which isn’t a good thing. Philly will have trouble moving the ball.
Reason against: Fletcher Cox and the defensive line
Last season, any interior defensive linemen that were above average gave the 49ers fits. If Daniel Brunskill is playing center come Week 4, that means either Colton McKivitz or Tom Compton will start at right guard and have to face Fletcher Cox. Even if Brunskill is starting, Cox is one of the best defensive tackles in the league. The Eagles defensive line as a whole was stingy last season. They finished third in adjusted line yards and stuff rate. The 49ers won’t be able to run the ball at will, and a player like Cox can single-handedly ruin a drive.
Brandon Graham had 8.5 sacks, and eight QB hits on the edge, while Derek Barnett had 6.5 sacks but hit the quarterback and impressive 16 times. The Eagles had four edge rushers with at least seven QB hits. Affecting Jimmy Garoppolo will be what every team tries to do this season, but the Eagles are well-equipped to do so. Adding Darius Slay will be a big help for their secondary, but if the Eagles are going to pull off the upset, it’ll be because their defensive line is too much for the Niners to handle.
Will the 49ers beat the Eagles
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