Here is a look at what we will be watching during Sunday's Eagles-49ers game:
The Vernon Davis Dilemma. The Niners’ tight end is Alex Smith’s go-to guy. He’s been targeted a team-high 17 times in the first 3 games and is coming off an 8-catch, 114-yard performance v. the Bengals. The Eagles’ problems with opposing tight ends has been well-documented. Last year, Davis had five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles.
Tale of the Bouncing Ball. The Niners have been very opportunistic thus far. They are third in the league in takeaways with 8 and tied for first in turnover ratio (+6). The Eagles, meanwhile, who historically have done a pretty good job of protecting the football in the Andy Reid era, already have 7 giveaways and will be starting a quarterback with a bum hand who has fumbled 8 times in his last 4 regular-season starts.
Gore-y Details. The Eagles have had problems against the run in the first three games. They’ve already given up 17 runs of eight yards or more and have the fourth worst yards-allowed-per-carry average in the league. Frank Gore is playing on a gimpy ankle and only is averaging 2.5 yards per carry, but is dangerous as both a runner and receiver.
Very Special Unit. The Niners have one of the best special teams units in the league. Return man Ted Ginn Jr. has 6 career PRs and KRs for TDs, including 2 this season. P Andy Lee is first in the league in net average (46.3) and third in gross (52.8). And ex-Eagle PK David Akers has been perfect since moving to the west coast, converting all 7 of his field goal attempts, including a 55-yarder.
I’ve Been Working On the Red Zone. The problem that haunted the Eagles’ defense last season continues to haunt them three games into this season. They again are dead-last in the league in red-zone defense. Opponents have converted 6 of 7 trips inside the 20 into touchdowns, including their last six in a row. But the Giants and Falcons both were top-10 red-zone offenses. The 49ers, who are just 4-for-9 in the red zone, aren’t. – Paul Domowitch