What can the Eagles do to Beat the 49ers?
The bright lights that will accompany the Eagles primetime matchup against the San Francisco 49ers will not be the only reason the team feels a tremendous amount of pressure. They enter Sunday night’s contest sporting a putrid 0-2-1 record after only sneaking away with a tie against the Cincinnati Bengals. Below, I’ll take stock of the current injury news on the team before posing some relevant questions for the Eagles in week 4. The answers to these questions will very well decide the outcome of their game on Sunday.
The Injury Bug Lingers
Eagles rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor has officially been placed on injured reserve indicating that he will be sidelined for at least three more games. While that news doesn’t bode well for the Eagles in the immediate future, he is rumored to be doing well in rehab. Dallas Goedert, the emerging tight end alongside Zach Ertz, has also been placed on injured reserve with a small fracture in his ankle. This injury forced him into an early exit last Sunday. His timeline is unclear at present, leaving an even wider hole in the Eagles receiving offense as Wentz’s struggles continue.
But at least DeSean Jackson is back…nope. The veteran wide receiver also exited Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. Jackson had yet to be ruled out for the Eagles week 4 contest but hamstring injuries warrant a cautious approach from the team. Cornerback Avonte Maddox, who also left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, is expected to miss multiple weeks. Trevor Williams will likely continue to be his replacement on the outside.
These array of injuries are discouraging for the Birds but their impending opponent, the 49ers, have also had significant injuries on both sides of the ball. Two days ago the franchise placed both tight end Jordan Reed and linebacker Mark Nzeocha on their short-term injured reserve list. These players join a host of others on the 49ers roster (Dee Ford, Raheem Moestert, George Kittle, etc.) as a good deal less than healthy. At this juncture it is unknown which 49ers will be able to return for week 4, including starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but the team has stayed afloat despite the adversity and currently post a 2-1 record.
Does Wentz have a Renaissance in him?
This is the big question for any and every Eagles fan. The team simply can’t dream of posting a winning record and turning this season around at all without an improvement from the quarterback position, also known as the most important position in football. Head coach Doug Pederson has been adamant in his support of Wentz, quickly dismissing any thoughts of starting flashy rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts, but…something has to change.
The 49er are normally a stingy defense, but a rash of injuries may prove favorable towards a Wentz renaissance. A huge issue is that injuries on the Eagles side of the ball leave Wentz with as porous receiving options as he’s ever had. But there was a surprising option that came through last week. That leads us to our next question.
Can Greg Ward Continue to Step Up? Can Anyone Else?
Eagles Wide receiver Greg Ward contributed in a huge way in week 3, hauling in 8 receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown. The second year player out of Houston demonstrated clear rapport with Wentz that he will look to build on this coming week. While it is unrealistic to expect Greg Ward to be the salve to Wentz’s struggles, he could certainly help in the absence of so many other receiving options.
As yet, Greg Ward remains more of a fantasy football sleeper than a real-time factor contributing to the Eagles securing their first victory. Other players are going to have to step up as well. My prediction is that this is the week tight end Zach Ertz finally achieves the elite production we are used to from him. He should be a target monster over the middle with Dallas Goedert on injured reserve. If George Kittle returns for this matchup it could very well be a tight end duel.
Is the NFC East Even Mediocre?
Stacking up the respective records in the NFC West (the 49er’s division) and the NFC East shows a tremendous disparity in the quality of divisions, even so early in the season. The NFC West is a collective 9-3, with one of those losses occurring in an inter-division game. All teams currently post a winning record and will need to keep winning out of division to keep pace with each other. It is truly a gauntlet down the line between the 49ers, Seahawks, Rams, and upstart Cardinals.
The NFC East you ask? Well, their collective record is 2-9-1 with half of their total wins being the result of Washington’s defeat of Philadelphia in week 1. The good news for the Birds is that with a division so horrible they won’t require as many victories to catch the first place team. The bad news is that the Eagles need to actually win a game this season. The NFC East currently looks like the worst division in football. We will see if the Eagles can offer any resistance to that notion on Sunday night against a representative from the NFC West.
Injuries have continued to come at the worst of times for the Philadelphia Eagles. But beyond that, this team just doesn’t look like it has a lot of fight in it, best evidenced by Pederson’s decision to punt instead of go for a game-winning field goal last week. I’m taking the 49ers in primetime 24 to 20.