Eagles vs. 49ers Week 4: 6 Predictions for Eagles' Must-Win Game
I don't like feeling this early in the season that a game is a "must win," but that is the case for the Eagles.
A 1-3 start wouldn't necessarily doom the team to a losing season, but it would be a significant blow to their playoff chances, as well as officially put Eagles fans in rampage mode.
Even more concerning to the Eagles organization as a whole is that the they could wind up being completely overshadowed and outdone by the Philadelphia Phillies. It is well known that the Eagles and Phillies compete against each other for the attention of Philadelphia sports fans.
If the Eagles start out 1-3 while the Phillies begin a World Series campaign, fans will turn all their positive attention towards the Phils and use the Eagles as their whipping boys.
However, let's not even think about that possibility. The Eagles need to get to 2-2 and gain some confidence as a team. They'll need it with two tougher-than-anticipated games coming up against the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins.
So, what needs to happen in order for the Eagles to win on Sunday? Well, that's easy... just score more points than the 49ers! (Brilliant!)
However, the devil is in the details. As long as the following six predictions come true, the Eagles will virtually be guaranteed a victory.
1. They Will Stop Turning the Ball over in the Red Zone
The main culprits have been Michael Vick and the offensive line. It has been a bad combination of breakdowns in protection and poor ball security by Vick.
Against the Giants, you could blame the turnover on WR Steve Smith because the ball deflected off his hands. However, the pass was hurried due to poor protection from the offensive line.
Either way, these turnovers need to stop. The Eagles can't afford to let a scoring opportunity go to waste.
2. WR DeSean Jackson Will Have a Big Game
The 49ers come in with the league's seventh-ranked overall defense. They've been particularly strong against the run (No. 3) but are middle of the pack against the pass (No. 16).
DeSean Jackson has been questioned this week about his lack of productivity in the past two games. He's also been questioned about whether or not he's playing "not to get hurt."
Sometimes when a player with an ego gets questioned about these types of things, it motivates them. I think Jackson will come up big this week, and usually when he does, it translates to an Eagles win.
3. The Secondary Will Not Let Another No-Name Receiver Have a Big Game
Nnamdi Asomugha and the Eagles' secondary were burnt last week by some guy named Victor Cruz. After a thorough investigation, I found that Cruz actually plays wide receiver for the New York Giants.
I was stunned. I mean, this guy was actually a football player!
I took the liberty of forwarding my findings to Juan Castillo, hoping that will help the Eagles defense identify him the next time they play.
The top three wide receivers the the 49ers will have on the field—Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn—have a combined total of 15 catches for 146 yards and no TDs.
I'm not saying that all three of these guys are exactly no-names, but they certainly aren't making a name for themselves this season.
However, I must point out that Michael Crabtree did post nine catches for 105 yards and a TD against the Eagles last year. Though, that should have been more of an indictment against last year's putrid pass defense.
Asomugha will look for a little redemption this week and will look to make up for last week's flop against Cruz.
4. The Eagles' Defense Will Shut Down the 49ers' Anemic Offense
To expand further on the 49ers' lack of production from their wide receivers: their offense overall is ranked dead last in the league.
Even below the Kansas City Chiefs!
San Fran has averaged a pitiful 213.7 yards of offense through three games. QB Alex Smith has only thrown for 504 yards and two TDs. He's also been sacked 11 times already.
Frank Gore and the 49ers' running game haven't been able to get anything going either. They have averaged a mere 69.7 yards rushing per game and 2.5 yards per rush.
San Francisco's 2-1 record certainly isn't thanks to this group. They're getting by with good defense and special teams play.
This is the perfect game for the Eagles defense to get a confidence boost. They won't face an offense this bad for the rest of the year. This is a big opportunity to put on a good showing for the home crowd.
They won't disappoint.
5. QB Michael Vick Will Have a Good Game
Michael Vick has not had a good season so far. Shaky offensive line play, injuries and the pressure to live up to his new contract have likely impacted his psyche and his play on the field.
This week, Vick has declared that he is going to start—and finish—this game. In fact, he stated that the only way he won't be on the field for the rest of the season is if he's carted off.
With the way he plays, that's certainly a possibility.
However, his statements show that he's getting a little fired up about things. He has been frustrated with the amount of hits he has taken and the injuries that have resulted from them.
He's also frustrated that he hasn't been as effective as he thinks he should be.
Vick will come out in this game with the mindset to play and make things happen. Whether it's by running with or passing the ball, he's going to do whatever is necessary to lead his team to victory.
This will be a statement game for Michael Vick.
6. Game Management Will Be Better
Maybe the better way to put this would be that I predict there won't be a scenario that will allow for Andy Reid to make a critical error in judgement.
Reid's game-management skills were a crucial part of why the Eagles lost to the Giants last week.
His call to go for it on fourth down midway through the fourth quarter, and his horrible play-calling down at the goal line for four straight plays, may have ultimately been the difference between winning and losing last week.
At least he admitted his mistakes this past week. Although I don't think he will necessarily improve in this area, because he hasn't in 12 years. I just don't think he will get the chance to screw things up this week.
If the game is close, this becomes more of a factor. However, this game should not be close, therefore nullifying Reid's deficiencies in this area.
The Eagles will win by double digits:
Eagles 27, 49ers 13