8:20 PM EST, NBC – Line: 49ers -7, Over/Under: 45
It’s getting late rather early for one of these teams, as the struggling Philadelphia Eagles look to finally break through with a victory on the road against the injury-ravaged San Francisco 49ers, who are simply looking to remain afloat in the loaded NFC West, in this primetime matchup from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Predicted by many to once again contend for the NFC East crown, which is a distinction that they’ve earned in two of the previous three seasons, the Eagles (0-2-1, 3rd in NFC East) have gotten off a woeful start in 2020, leaving many in the City of Brotherly Love reaching for the proverbial panic button. Coming into the campaign, Philadelphia was viewed as one of the true contenders within a stacked NFC, having bolstered their ranks on both sides of the football via the NFL Draft and Free Agency, while also looking forward to another healthy season from their Franchise Quarterback, Carson Wentz (59.8%, 737 YDS, 4.59 NY/A, 3 TD, 6 INT, 35.5 QBR), who who played in all sixteen games last year, which is significant given how the 2017 and 2018 campaigns ended due to injury. The 28-year old was stellar in 2019, completing 63.9% of his passes for a career-high 4,039 yards, twenty-seven touchdowns in comparison to just seven interceptions, all the while posting a QBR of 64.8. However, injury managed to strike the former No. Two Overall Pick once again, this time knocking him out of his first postseason start just four passes into an eventual 17-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Wild Card Weekend. Now armed with a revitalized supporting cast and another year removed from the spectre of Nick Foles looming over his shoulder, Wentz was primed to lead this franchise back to the promised land, and make good on that hefty four-year/$128 million extension with over $107 million in guarantees. So what the hell has happened?
Three games into the 2020 campaign and you would be hard-pressed to recognize this current incarnation of the Eagles in comparison to the one that Wentz led to an 11-2 start three years prior that eventually hoisted the first Lombardi Trophy without him. This version of the birds has been an unmitigated disaster, particularly on the offensive side of the football where Wentz has placed himself at the eye of the storm. Last year, there were swirling rumors of the Quarterback’s relationship with the Coaching Staff and his teammates, with his increasing tendency to call off play calls infuriating the former, while his personality alienated the latter. Both infections appear to have lingered into this season, with the dysfunction creating a ripple effect throughout the entire Offense. If his rapport with a handicapped Receiving Corps was an issue in 2019, it’s only been further punctuated in 2020, while an Offensive Line that has been absolutely ravaged by injury has forced him into sloppy mechanics and poor decision-making. Pro Bowl Right Tackle, Lane Johnson, has been slowed by a nagging ankle injury, while Right Guard, Brandon Brooks, is out for the season with a torn Achilles. Left Tackle, Andre Dillard, who was selected in the First Round of the 2019 NFL Draft to replace future Hall of Famer, Jason Peters, landed on Inured Reserve with a torn biceps, while Peters, at the age of thirty-eight was coaxed out of retirement to play out of position in place of Brooks. With all that chaos up front, is it any wonder that Wentz has been so poor thus far? The signal-caller has completed a career-low 59.8% of his passes, been sacked eleven times already with a alarming sack percentage of 7.7%, which has caused him to average a meager 4.59 net yards per attempt, while his six interceptions leads the league through three weeks. Furthermore, his weapons have been hardly inspiring, with veterans Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson (10 REC, 121 YDS, 12.1 Y/R, 0 TD) again hampered due to injuries, the team’s First Round Pick, Jalen Raegor (5 REC, 96 YDS, 19.2 Y/R, 0 TD), proving slow to adapt to coverages in the NFL, and Pro-Bowl Tight End, Zach Ertz (15 REC, 130 YDS, 8.7 Y/R, 1 TD), disgruntled due to a contract standoff. Just three games into the season, and this unit already has eight drops, which parlays to a drop percentage of 6.4% (up front 4.7% in 2019), while Wentz’s percentage of bad throws has risen from 17.8% a year ago to 20.8% in 2020. Head Coach, Doug Pederson, who has become openly standoffish with the Philadelphia media during this dismal start, was rather cryptic when asked if he would entertain the idea of benching Wentz in favor of Second Round Rookie, Jalen Hurts, stating that “it wasn’t time to think about that… yet.” We’ve heard plenty of endorsements over the years, and we’ll let you folks make of it what you will.
“Tying is no fun. It’s an awkward way to end a game.. I gotta be better. I know that,”Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback
When we last saw them, the Eagles finally found a way not to lose in 2020, though they didn’t find a way to win either, as they tied the Cincinnati Bengals 23-23 last weekend. Trailing 23-17 with just under three minutes left to play, Wentz engineered an eleven-play, 75-yard drive highlighted by a pair of gutsy runs, the latter a 7-yard touchdown to eventually push the affair into overtime. However, after punting on their first two possessions of the extra period, Philadelphia had a potential 59-yard walk-off field goal nullified by a false start penalty, leading to Pederson’s decision to ultimately punt, effectively ensuring the tie. It was another mess of a performance for the hosts, who compiled 381 total yards on twenty-seven first downs, rushing for 175 yards on thirty-six carries, and converting on 10-of-21 third downs. Wentz struggled throughout, completing just 29-of-47 passes for 225 yards a touchdown and a pair of interceptions, while taking three sacks for a loss of nineteen yards, but managed to keep the chains moving with his legs, rushing for sixty-five yards and that aforementioned score. The aforementioned Ertz hauled in seven receptions for seventy yards, while Sophomore Tailback, Miles Sanders (45 TCH, 238 YDS, 5.3 Y/TCH, 1 TD), accounted for 107 yards from scrimmage on twenty-two touches. In the end, they were rather fortunate to be facing a Rookie Quarterback in the former No. One Overall Pick, Joe Burrow, whom their Defense pummeled throughout the evening, registering eight sacks. Cincinnati could muster only 304 total yards, including a scant forty-eight on eighteen carries, and convert just 3-of-13 on third down, yet still threatened to the very end. From an injury perspective, the Eagles lost some more bodies in this one, with Tight End, Dallas Goedert (13 REC, 138 YDS, 10.6 Y/R, 1 TD) leaving the gridiron in the first quarter with an ankle sprain, the aforementioned Jackson sitting out the second half with a tender hamstring, and Cornerback, Avonte Maddox (19 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 PD), missing the final stanza with an ailing ankle of his own.
Meanwhile, the Eagles will get no sympathy from the 49ers (2-1, 4th in NFC West), who have certainly suffered a plague of injuries all their own, though to this point they’ve handled it far better than their opponent tonight. Last season, San Francisco was a dominant force en route to securing the No. One Seed in a loaded conference and bulldozing their way to their seventh Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Granted, though they came up short on the grandest of stages, the general consensus is that this is a team that will contend for years to come, armed with a bleeding-edge Coaching Staff, and a slew of talent on both sides of the football who are just entering their prime. Even though the NFC West was shaping up to be by far and away the most competitive division in the league in 2020, surely the Niners could avoid the dreaded Super Bowl Hangover that has felled so many imposing sides who couldn’t close the deal on the Super Sunday, right? Well, if their performance throughout the first three weeks of the campaign is any indication, if they do happen to struggle in 2020, they’ll do so swinging.
After getting upset at home in their Season Opener by a very game Arizona Cardinals (24-20), Kyle Shanahan’s charges endured a nightmare evening in the Meadowlands where a number of key contributors left the affair with injuries of varying degrees. First and foremost, Quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo (67.3%, 390 YDS, 6.91 NY/A, 4 TD, 0 INT, 79.2 QBR), suffered a high ankle sprain, sounding the alarms throughout the franchise as the 28-year old was carried off the field at MetLife Stadium. This one is going to be tricky, folks, for high ankle sprains can linger for quite a while, with Shanahan stating as much in his presser after the eventual 31-13 victory, with his Quarterback expected to miss anywhere from three to six weeks. Garoppolo wouldn’t participate in last weekend’s slaughter of the New York Giants (36-9), and is highly unlikely to suit up on a short week against the Jets. Of course, a healthy Garoppolo has oftentimes spelled success for San Francisco, who are 22-7 (including the Playoffs) since trading for the former New England Patriot midway through the 2017 campaign, but are just 3-14 without his services. While his absence is only temporary, it’s a far more dire situation on Defense, where both Nick Bosa (6 TKL, 1 QBH, 1 FR) and Solomon Thomas (2 TKL) were lost for the season with torn ACLs, greatly thinning the depth on that Defensive Line. Remember, this team also traded away Defensive Tackle, DeForest Buckner, for draft capital last Spring, and now without a pair of edge-rushers, particularly Bosa, who led the team with twenty-five quarterback hits as a rookie in 2019. Furthermore, Starting Cornerbacks, Richard Sherman (4 TKL) and Ahkello Witherspoon (6 TKL), are out with various injuries, the former on Injured Reserve and the other unlikely to participate on a short week, while the Offense is likely to be without All-Pro Tight End, George Kittle (4 REC, 44 YDS, 11.0 Y/R, 0 TD), who has been dealing with a bulky knee since the Opener, alongside Tailbacks, Tevin Coleman (18 CAR, 30 YDS, 1.7/C, 0 TD) and Raheem Mostert (23 CAR, 148 YDS, 6.4 Y/C, 1 TD), who both pulled up lame at differing points of the win over the Giants. With all that said, the schedule has obviously been kind to the 49ers, who may just prove capable of weathering the storm until they can start getting some of these healthy bodies back on the gridiron. In the meantime, it appears that they still have enough depth to compete at a reasonably high level, as Shanahan has proven capable of coaching up anyone on his roster, particularly Backup Quarterback, Nick Mullens (70.2%, 414 YDS, 7.47 NY/A, 1 TD, 1 INT, 62.8 QBR). The Undrafted Free Agent out of Southern Mississippi has played well against the likes of the Jets and Giants, completing an efficient 70.2% of his attempts for an average of 207.0 yards per game on 7.47 net yards per attempt, with a touchdown and interception apiece.
“Nick was great, very poised… We went on a lot of long drives today. They’re better than not scoring, but long drives can get a little bit exhausting. Especially for me. I don’t want to have to call that many plays.”Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers Head Coach
When we last saw the Niners, they ultimately decided against traveling back to the west coast, instead shacking up in West Virginia before returning to the Meadowlands to face the Giants. It seemed that Shanahan took out his frustrations about the turf at MetLife Stadium on it’s inhabitants, with the visitors embarrassing Big Blue, 36-9. Though it was a bonafide field goal fiesta through much of the first half, the 49ers broke the 6-6 deadlock via a 10-yard Jerick McKinnon (20 CAR, 139 YDS, 7.0 Y/C, 2 TD) touchdown run, which was followed by a third Robbie Gould field goal to take a 16-6 lead into Halftime. The hosts would take on another field goal before Shanahan’s charges opened the floodgates scoring twenty-one unanswered points on three consecutive drives. In the end, San Francisco rung up 420 total yards on twenty-nine first downs, converting on 8-of-12 attempts on third down, and possessing the football for a commanding 39:44. Mullens was stellar in completing 25-of-36 passes for a career-high 343 yards and a touchdown, with McKinnon posting seventy-seven yards from scrimmage and a score on just seventeen touches. Little-used Jeff Wilson (14 CAR, 18 YDS, 1.3 Y/C, 1 TD), emerged in the absences of Coleman and Mostert, totaling sixty-nine yards from scrimmage and a pair of touchdowns on fifteen touches, while Linebacker, Fred Warner (28 TKL, 1 INT, 2 PD) led the shorthanded Defense with seven tackles and an interception, as that unit relegated New York to just 231 total yards.