San Francisco 49ers: 3 Reasons the Niners Will Upset the Philadelphia Eagles
The general consensus is that this should be a walk in the park for Philly despite Michael Vick's injured, non-throwing, right hand. By some accounts, Vick could play without a right hand and a right foot and still beat the 49ers.
I'd like to think that's not the case, and that the situation at hand is not as bleak. Philadelphia would be wise to not overlook a talented Niner team with the desire to prove themselves.
Unlike teams in recent memory, this 49ers team actually feels like a team playing for something. Ugly wins, over horrible teams like the Bengals, should not detract from their potential as was evident during a hard-fought match with a much more talented Dallas Cowboys team.
Here are three reasons why the 49ers faithful should believe and why the Eagles should be concerned about this weekend's match-up.
Strength as Weakness, Weakness as Strength
Vernon Davis: who's going to cover him?
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If one were to take a nationwide poll of what people consider to be the 49ers' No. 1 weakness, I'm fairly certain it would be a landslide victory for the name Alex Smith, or the lack of passing capabilities.
Add to this a Philadelphia secondary composed of Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel and you have, on paper, a potential recipe for the lowest passing yards by a team in NFL history.
Luckily, games aren't won on paper but rather on the football field, where despite the gap in talent, the Eagles' secondary will still have to cover Michael Crabtree and a surging Josh Morgan, who has proven to be a key target for Smith.
There's also tight end Vernon Davis, who will definitely create problems for the Eagles defense, maybe even requiring the use of double coverage due to his athletic superiority over most linebackers.
This should create opportunities for the 49ers run game against the Eagles' 30th-ranked run defense. Frank Gore may not be 100 percent this weekend, but the rookie Kendall Hunter has shown signs of being a spark at running back. Hunter is a speedier back, able to move laterally, which should complement Gore's downhill running style were he to play.
Ideally, a successful running attack against a sub-par rush defense will create play-action opportunities. This is where it will get interesting, as Smith, despite his reputation, still maintains the capability of delivering the ball to open receivers.
San Francisco's receiving core is more talented and better equipped than most analysts give them credit for. With weapons on the sides ready to go, and a superb tight end in the slot coupled with a one-two punch in the backfield, the 49ers could very well be high-stress problem to contain for an overly optimistic Eagles team.
Michael Vick and the Lack of a Viable Back-Up QB
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Michael Vick will be wearing a specially made Kevlar glove to protect his non-throwing right hand this weekend.
Initially, it was reported that Vick suffered a broken hand during last week's game against the Giants. This was later upgraded to a bruise and in the days leading up to Sunday's game, Vick has been very vocal about his desire and commitment to playing.
Michael Vick's attitude towards being on the field is commendable and admirable, but we must keep in mind that he has historically been prone to injuries due to his mobile style of play. He will be hard to contain, but given the state of his right hand, it's very possible that he will either think twice about making himself a target for hits or that he will experience a hit that will aggravate the injury and force a back-up QB to face the 49ers.
While it is not the desire or hope of this writer to see any athlete hurt, it is a definite concern that must be kept in mind in light of Vick's inability to finish full seasons due to injuries.
Look for Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and the rest of the 49ers defensive line to continue their successful defense against the rush as they try to contain Vick in the pocket, and possibly deliver enough hits that affect his performance.
Should a back-up quarterback be a necessity for the Eagles, their options will be limited to Vince Young and Mike Kafka. Either substitution will be a favorable match-up for an improving Niners defense.
Alex Smith, Team Attitude and the Desire to Succeed
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Never discount desire, cohesiveness and improvement as factors in victories over heavily favored opponents.
NFL rankings and power polls can never account for the unlikely upsets that occur on any given season. As much as the media will point out the strengths of Philadelphia, they still have a 1-2 record and are facing a team that is on the upswing and has a different attitude a desire to prove that they can win against anybody.
As highlighted during the Dallas game, and briefly eclipsed during a very ugly Cincinnati game (by the way, are there ever any pretty games in Cincinnati?), the 49ers have the grit to win.
With Vernon Davis being very vocal about wanting to be involved, and a secondary that wants to prove everyone wrong, we can and should stand behind this attitude that could slowly begin making itself evident in on the field.
Jim Harbaugh has brought a different team mentality than years past. A much more cohesive unit that will only get better and stronger as the season progresses, and that hopefully will extend and help Alex Smith finally attain a successful NFL season.
Time and again, Smith has beaten out contenders for the starting job in San Francisco. This could very well be his last year in the Bay Area, and it's in his best interest, if he has any hopes of landing any jobs after this one, that he performs better than he has in the past.
Like many of you, I have ripped my hair out many times during the summer when inevitably I get word that Smith has once again won the starting job. Despite very strong feelings towards management's inability to improve the most important position, and one which is stark contrast with what made the 49ers brand great, I have to recognize and eventually come to terms with the fact that Smith is still there for a reason.
With Harbaugh at the helm, a quarterback's coach as it were, Smith seems to be displaying more poise in the pocket and better decision making. While it is true that many have seen this as Harbaugh merely allowing Smith manage the game, it's only a matter of time before he has to let him loose.
With more trust in his coach, his team, himself and a necessity to prove himself yet again, I'm optimistic that Smith will come through for the 49ers and this could very well be the game where his services will be needed.
I know these are somewhat abstract factors as to why San Francisco may win this weekend, but they're very real reasons to believe in the likely.