Okay, so things haven’t gone so swimmingly in these parts over the season’s first few weeks.
While two bad losses certainly have put a damper on the enthusiasm surrounding the Eagles, there’s still time for them to right the ship and become the team so many expected they would be.
It’s only natural to look at this San Francisco game and mark it down as a win for the Eagles, particularly given their recent dominance against the 49ers.
Andy Reid sports a 6-2 career record against San Francisco, including five straight wins. But as we saw last week, recent dominance means very little once the ball is kicked off.
Suprisingly, San Francisco enters the game with a 2-1 record. While they have two wins over miserable teams (Cincinatti and Seattle), the 49ers let one slip away against Dallas. This team could, and probably should be 3-0 right now.
But whatever. Frank Gore has struggled, Alex Smith is at quarterback, and come on, this is the Eagles we are talking about here. There’s no way they will fall to 1-3 after losing their first two home games of the season, right?
Not so fast. There are some very real reasons to believe the Eagles are going to be in for a heck of a game this weekend. Let’s take a look.
1) Alex Smith doesn’t completely suck.
Jim Harbough has built a reputation as a bit of quarterback guru, and while Alex Smith hasn’t passed for Joe Montana through three weeks, the former first-round pick has played fairly well for the 49ers.
Smith’s 68.9 percent completion percentage is good for second in the NFC. He’s thrown for 504 yards, two touchdowns, and only one interception. He’s been efficient with the football, limited mistakes, and has led San Francisco to two wins without the support of any real running game. I’m not saying Smith is coming in and throwing for 300 yards, but he’s been decent to start the season.
2) Vernon Davis.
Davis has to be Juan Castillo’s primary concern in this game, and for good reason. It’s been well-documented that the Eagles have no idea how to cover any tight end, let alone one of Davis’ caliber. Since 2009, Davis ranks first among all NFL tight ends with 20 touchdown receptions. Davis is the most explosive tight end in football and it’s not even close. He’s a matchup nightmare for this defense right now.
He’s coming off an eight catch, 114 yard performance last week, and yes, he has a good history against the Eagles’ defense. The last time these two teams met, Davis had five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. There’s simply no reason to believe the Eagles will be able to limit Davis on Sunday, so they’re probably better served ensuring that they take away the rest of San Francisco’s offensive weapons.
3) Turnover differential.
One of the biggest reasons the 49ers have gotten off to a solid start is because they’ve won the turnover battle. They enter this weekend ranked number one in the NFL with a plus-six turnover differential (8 takeaways, 2 giveaways). Meanwhile, the Eagles have been sloppy with the football, sporting a miserable minus-four turnover differential. This is a trend that will have to turn Sunday, or the Eagles could be in serious trouble.
4) Frank Gore.
It’s no secret that Gore has been off to a slow start. Fantasy owners and 49ers faithful are bashing their heads against a wall over Gore’s three duds to start the season, but he’s still dangerous. Gore is a strong runner who can break tackles. If the Eagles tackle like they did last week, Gore will go off. He’s had two 100-yard rushing performances against the Eagles in their last three meetings, so again there’s a history of success here.
5) The Eagles themselves.
Want to know the biggest challenge for the Eagles on Sunday? It’s to avoid beating themselves. Atlanta made big plays in the clutch, and New York simply embarrassed the Eagles last Sunday, but much of what ails this team has been self-inflicted. Miserable play calling, missed tackles, poor execution at the worst times, and injuries have prevented the Eagles from winning early on. Things must change on Sunday. If they don’t, the opponent is irrelevant. No disrespect to the Giants, but there are only a handful of team’s that wouldn’t have won last week’s game given the way the Eagles played.