Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports


49ers vs Eagles: Five Keys to Victory and Score Prediction

Matt Andruscavage
Oct 3, 2020 at 9:20 AM


The San Francisco 49ers survived two straight weeks of the awful conditions of MetLife Stadium and are finally back home to take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football.

After a rash of injuries, San Francisco appears to have been somewhat written off as a team on a "Super Bowl hangover", especially after losing the opener to Arizona. Leaving New York with a 2-1 record may not be gaudy enough to rank high on a power rankings chart, but with all of the players who are missing time, the 49ers are in good shape.

There are still a lot of injuries, but there is also some good news. Tight end George Kittle is back and will start. Deebo Samuel is set to return. Nickel back K'Waun Williams is questionable, but could be back in the lineup. As of Friday's practice, here is where things stand currently.


Nick Mullens and Jerick McKinnon will be preparing to make their second straight starts. Brandon Aiyuk, the NFL rookie of the week, will likely start alongside Kendrick Bourne or Samuel. On defense, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair will likely be filling in one more week for Dre Greenlaw. Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon are both out, thus Jason Verrett and Dontae Johnson will be the starters.

Next week against Miami should be the week the 49ers get a lot of good news. Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, Richard Sherman, and maybe a couple of others should return, but until then, we're going to see another week of this deep roster.

For the Eagles, wide receiver is the big story. John Hightower, Alshon Jeffrey, DeSean Jackson, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside are all banged up. It appears Hightower will play, so he will join Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett, and Quez Watkins in the receiver corps. Tackle Jason Peters is now heading to injured reserve. At tight end, Dallas Goedert has a small ankle fracture and will miss the game.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox practiced Thursday and should play. Tackle Jack Driscoll and center Jason Kelce both practiced in full on Thursday. Safety Rudy Ford was limited after a groin injury kept him out of Sunday's matchup with Cincinnati, but appears set to play.

Here are five keys to winning this game for the 49ers:

Where and When: Sunday October 4th at 5:20 PM PT at Levi's Stadium

1) Establish the rushing attack, but better than last week


Last week, San Francisco ran the ball somewhat effectively, but there were too many times it hit a wall. Brandon Aiyuk was the bright spot as he ran three times for 31 yards, including a 19-yard end around that reminded us of Deebo Samuel. The overall numbers were not great, however, as the 49ers ran 35 times for 93 yards and a low 2.7 yards per carry.

Jerick McKinnon will get at least 10 carries and hopefully he is able to get more going this week. Jeff Wilson is more of a short yardage back. We have seen glimpses of what Aiyuk is capable of. The back who could make the biggest difference is JaMycal Hasty. Though he ran for only 9 yards last week on two carries, he showed a burst as well as some capable footwork that could result in a good day against the Eagles.

Philadelphia is currently ranked eighth in the NFL against the run, giving up 106 yards per game. If the 49ers, which possess the 12th ranked rushing offense, are able to give Nick Mullens an effective ground game, it will go a long way in coming up with a win.

2) Bottle up the Eagles' ground game


Run the ball and stop the run are the two easiest keys to victory to name, but these really cannot be overstated. Miles Sanders leads the league's 24th ranked rushing attack. It will be important to ensure that Sanders does not have a big game as Carson Wentz has his work cut out for him and has six interceptions. Ranked 16th against the run, San Francisco will look to improve on those numbers.

Making the Eagles one-dimensional will give the 49ers a great chance at forcing multiple turnovers as well as giving the defense a number of sack opportunities.

3) Protect Nick Mullens


Things are good overall in the blocking department, but there have been a few times when it hasn't gone according to plan. In Week 1, the interior gave up a number of pressures. In Week 2, center Ben Garland returned and it was tackle Mike McGlinchey who didn't have a great day. Last week, left guard Laken Tomlinson gave up 3 pressures. The good news is, with Garland back, the offensive line is healthy and stabilizing. Hopefully, this unit can keep Mullens clean and give him the time he needs to find all of those weapons in the receiving arsenal.

If Mullens has time, expect another good day, except this time, he should have a stronger first half. George Kittle was his go-to receiver in 2018 and why not? A tight end is almost always the friend of a backup quarterback. Mullens has the ability to get everyone involved and if he remains upright, he should be able to pick apart the Eagles' defense.

4) Double-team Zach Ertz


It may be the time for Robert Saleh to channel his "inner-Belichick" (we're hoping that exists). Bill Belichick is a master of taking away the biggest strength of the opposing offense. Tight end Zach Ertz is the best weapon the Eagles have and it will be vital to not allow him to gash the 49er defense.

The best way to make things difficult on Wentz, besides slowing the ground game, is to take away his best player. The defense may not be able to double Ertz every play, but hopefully it will be able to double him often and force someone else to have to step up. With all the missing weapons for the Eagles, that offense may not be able to overcome the loss of Ertz if he is taken out of the game.

5) Finish drives


Last week, it was understandable and even somewhat acceptable to settle for a few field goals. San Francisco will likely not be able to afford that luxury against the Eagles, whose backs are against the wall as they seek their first victory of the season.

It won't be enough to simply move the ball and kill the clock. The offense needs to be able to get the ball into the endzone more often than it attempts field goals.

This is still a pretty good Eagles team, despite all of its issues and injuries thus far. The 49ers need a win here to keep pace in the difficult NFC West and the best way to give themselves a high probability of victory is simply to take care of the football and get touchdowns on the board.

Prediction


The Eagles will probably have some early success, but Kyle Shanahan will find ways to utilize every available skill player on offense to grind out a win. In the second half, expect the defense to get to Carson Wentz and force at least one crucial turnover. Brandon Aiyuk will have another impressive day, George Kittle will score, and Deebo Samuel will make at least one big play.

49ers 24, Eagles 16
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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