The Philadelphia Inquirer Blog - Eagles
Jeff McLane and Jonathan Tamari
Just in the time, the 49ers come to town. Don't let its 2-1 start fool you, San Francisco isn't that good. Yes, the 49ers have a solid defense -- an aggressive run-stopping unit led by inside linebacker Patrick Willis. But that's pretty much as far as it goes. Their best offensive weapon -- running back Frank Gore -- comes in on a gimpy ankle. Gore could have helped even the scales against an Eagles run defense that is 30th in the NFL. But it wasn't like he was scorching the earth in the first place, averaging a miniscule 2.5 yards a carry. So more of the load will fall on quarterback Alex Smith, tight end Vernon Davis (15 catches for 179 yards) and a last-in-the-league 49ers offense that has trouble expanding the field. Advantage: Juan Castillo and his inconsistent defense.
If there were ever a must win by Week 4 this is it. Andy Reid cannot afford to fall to 1-3 with Buffalo and Washington -- the Eagles' next two opponents -- better than expected. So expect to see a workmanlike offensive gameplan. The trickery is out, Owen Schmitt is out. Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin -- provided he plays -- are just too talented for this Eagles team to lose three straight. Eagles, 24-13.
What goes right: Jackson finally breaks out of his two-game funk and strikes early.
What goes wrong: Nate Allen, in for the benched Kurt Coleman, doesn't exactly solve the woes at safety.
Sometimes you have to step back and look at the big picture. When I picked the Eagles to lose in Atlanta Week 2, it wasn't because of any specific evidence on the field, it was just that I didn't see Andy Reid's team as a group ready to run rampant through the early part of the season. I figured a slip up was in order. By the same token, despite all the doom and gloom brought on by two straight losses, this team is far too talented to let the wheels to come off in Week 4. I don't expect all of their problems to be solved, and San Francisco might be more dangerous than first thought, but with the motivation of a game the Eagles have to have, with Reid knowing he has to rally his guys, and with the 49ers' at the end of a 10-day road trip, I think the Eagles restore some order and get a win Sunday. It might not be pretty, but it'll still count in the standings. Eagles, 24-20.
What goes right: Jackson gets back on track with a big day.
What goes wrong: The defense still struggles to close out the game (even if they manage to hang on this time).