Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation contributed to this post
You've already read what I think the 49ers need to do in order to come out of Philadelphia with a win.
Now let's see what smart people who cover the Eagles are worried about. Here is my good friend and former co-host on The SB Nation NFL Show, Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation.
1 - The Eagles can’t beat the 49ers playing from behind
In order to beat the 49ers, the Eagles must dictate the game script. They need to shut down San Fran’s rushing attack and force Brock Purdy to drop back and pass much more often than he’s used to doing.That much is easier said than done, especially for a team that’s entered halftime trailing in each of their last four games.
Credit the Eagles for playing well from behind, but that’s just not the spot you want to be in against the 49ers. Staying ahead could be difficult for an Eagles team that hasn’t been nearly as good as their opposition when it comes to protecting the ball and taking it away. The 49ers have the league’s best turnover differential at +11 while the Eagles actually rank 19th at -2. The worry here is that Jalen Hurts, who has the NFL’s second-longest average time-to-throw, will hold onto the ball for too long and give the 49ers’ front chances to sack him. We could see a strip-sack or an interception generated from him being hit while throwing. Hurts has been able to overcome turnover issues for most of the season, but he’s about to be dealing with his smallest margin for error yet.
2 - The Eagles’ run defense might not be as good as it looks on paper
The Eagles are allowing the third-fewest rushing yards per game, but they’re only allowing the 11th-fewest per attempt. So, their efficiency is a bit worse than the volume number would suggest. Teams have had some success on the ground in recent weeks. Isiah Pacheco had his second-best rushing performance of the season against Philly. The Eagles struggled to stop him in the first half before the Chiefs got away from running the ball. The Bills ran for 173 yards last week, though Josh Allen accounted for 81 of those yards on nine carries.
Philly’s run defense has been weakened from a personnel standpoint. Fletcher Cox is expected to miss this week’s game. Top linebacker Zach Cunningham also figures to be out. The Bills’ run game seemed to pick up after Cunningham went out and they could go after Eagles backup linebacker Christian Elliss. Kyle Shanahan should not struggle to find weaknesses in the Eagles’ defense and look to attack them over and over again.
3 - The Eagles could have some X-factors working against them
Based on how much trash-talking they did after losing to the Eagles, this feels like the 49ers’ Super Bowl. There’s danger in making too much out of one regular season; just look at how the Cowboys approached their game against San Fran. But it’s possible that the 49ers just want this one way more after losing the NFC Championship Game. The Niners also need it more from the standpoint of staying alive for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff picture.
Thanks to the cushion they’ve built up, the Eagles could potentially afford to lose their next two games and still manage to get a first-round bye. Another factor to consider is how the Eagles are at an exacerbated rest disadvantage. The 49ers are coming to Philly after a mini-bye while the Eagles are coming off an overtime game in which the defense was on the field for 95 snaps! For context, the 49ers’ defense was only on the field for 56 snaps in their last game. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Eagles look sluggish after having to really empty the tank against the Bills.
Check out Brandon, Levin, and me on Thursday's Gold Standard Podcast!