The Philadelphia Eagles enter their Week 1 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers as 3.5-point underdogs at home. Considering the preseason expectations for each team, it’s understandable, even with the Eagles coming off a dominating victory in Week 1 over the Atlanta Falcons.
Despite the underdog status, Philly has some clear matchup advantages over this 49ers team. San Francisco is dealing with a handful of major injuries and the Birds are fully equipped to exploit the backups now manning those positions.
Here are three matchup advantages the Eagles will key in on in their home opener this week.
Eagles wide receivers over 49ers cornerbacks
The biggest injury San Fran suffered in their Week 1 win was to No. 1 corner Jason Verrett. He tore his ACL and is now out for the season. In his place, the team will likely roll with fifth-round rookie Deommodore Lenoir. He got the start last week opposite of Verrett with Emmanuel Moseley still nursing an injury.
Speaking of Moseley, he may not suit up in this contest either. If he can’t go, the top three corners for San Francisco will likely be Lenoir, Josh Norman, and K’Waun Williams in the nickel. They may be a bit better than the cornerback group the Eagles saw in Week 1, but they’re still a below average unit with those three starting.
Jalen Hurts proved that he can pick apart a weak secondary last week, and head coach Nick Sirianni has a great feel for what Hurts is good at right now. Philly’s top two wideouts also had solid outings in the season opener. Jalen Reagor had his best game as a pro, hauling in six catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. Rookie DeVonta Smith led the team in receiving with six receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown of his own.
With the success the Eagles found through the air in Week 1, there’s no reason they can’t find a similar level of success facing another subpar secondary.
Eagles rushing attack over 49ers run defense
While the 49ers have a very stout front-seven on the defensive side of the ball, they had trouble slowing down the Detroit Lions rushing attack in Week 1. Detroit totaled 116 yards on the ground on 24 attempts, which averages out to 4.8 YPC.
The Eagles had the second-most rushing yards in the NFL on opening day. They racked up 173 yards on the ground with a 5.6 YPC average. Per Pro Football Focus, the Eagles run game generated 0.24 EPA (Expected Points Added, a football stat that aims to measure the value of individual play in terms of points) through the first three quarters of their game against Atlanta, the highest mark of any game in the 1 p.m. slate.
The Niners are certainly working to clean up their run defense deficiencies that plagued them in Week 1. But facing an offensive line of Philadelphia’s caliber, with the read option threat of Hurts along with his one-two punch of Miles Sanders and Kenny Gainwell in the backfield, San Fran will have their work cut out for them.
Eagles tight ends over 49ers linebackers/safeties
Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz have been glossed over following the team’s big win in Week 1, but their impact was still felt on the stat sheet. The tight end duo combined for six receptions on seven targets for 76 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles young wideouts stole the show last week, and while they have their matchup advantages over the Niners cornerbacks, Ertz and Goedert are both capable of out dueling whoever’s left to cover them.
Niners linebacker Dre Greenlaw was superb in coverage last week, posting a team-best 92.5 PFF coverage grade while only allowing a 44.6 passer rating when targeted. Not to mention his 39-yard pick-six. But he’s now expected to miss 6-8 weeks after having a core muscle procedure this week.
As for the rest of San Francisco’s backers and safeties, they didn’t fair nearly as well in coverage snaps.
In total, the Niners backers/safeties allowed 16 receptions on 20 targets for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson was the biggest benefactor from the Niners subpar coverage, as he tallied eight receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Fred Warner individually was the biggest liability in coverage for San Fran in Week 1. He allowed six receptions on six targets for 93 yards and a touchdown. He gave up 15.5 yards per reception and allowed a perfect passer rating when targeted.
Warner is typically an all-around great linebacker, but he did play inconsistently last week. The Eagles have the tight end arsenal to continue to give Warner and the rest of the Niners linebackers/safeties headaches.
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