Sunday 6pm Preview: Niners travel East to play high-flying Eagles

Most people had eyebrows raised aloft when Sky Sports chose this NFC match-up for their 6pm game in Week 2, but don’t scoff too quickly, let’s play it back a second. Both teams are 1-0. Both teams scored 30+ points last week. Both teams have been to a Superbowl within the last 5 years, and both teams still have questions at QB – albeit perhaps for different reasons. This should be a tasty match-up and has the potential to be very high-scoring.

The Eagles started the season with an dominant win on the road against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes Benz Stadium, holding Atlanta to only six points. Meanwhile San Francisco travelled to Detroit and turned a what looked like a walkover into a rather close game toward the end. They eventually overcame the Lions, putting up 41 points in the process – the highest scoring team of the weekend.

QBs dominate the talk

All eyes will be on Jalen Hurts as he looks to build on his impressive week 1 performance in Atlanta. Going 27/35 for 264 yards and 3 TDs was a real statement from Hurts, who has had to endure a long off-season of rumours swirling in Philadelphia about the future of the position. Hurts also didn’t throw any picks and added 62 yards from 7 carries on the ground, he looked more like a veteran than he did a 2nd year QB who had only started 4 NFL games prior to Sunday.

Hurts’ instant chemistry with 2021 First-Round draft pick DeVonta Smith was evident for all to see, especially with the TD pass at the back of the end zone. Smith’s route-running adds some poise to Philly’s young receiver corps and his ability to evade coverage showed in his 6 receptions for 71 yards. Hurts also spread the ball around to Philadelphia’s other young wide-outs, with Jalen Reagor also grabbing himself a TD – equalling the same number of receiving TDs he had in the whole of 2021.

Jimmy Garoppolo looked to put his injury ravaged 2020 season behind him with a steady performance in Detroit. He recovered after a fumble turnover on his very first snap to go 17/25 with 314 yards and a TD and also wasn’t picked off as well. However the elephant in the room in the shape of Trey Lance also made his first appearance for San Francisco last week. Kyle Shanahan brought him on in the red zone, where he immediately threw a 5 yard TD pass to WR Trent Sherfield. With an instant impact like that, Niners fans must be wondering when they’ll see Lance under centre more often.

Jimmy G also looked to rekindle his old spark with dominant TE George Kittle – combining for 4 receptions over 78 yards including an impressive 35 yard reception to begin the 2nd half. If Kittle can stay healthy he’ll be a huge boost to San Francisco’s chances in an extremely competitive NFC West. However the most notable return was that of Deebo Samuel, who exploded back onto the scene after a frustrating 2020. 9 receptions for 189 yards and a TD (a 79 yard monster to take the 49ers up by 28 points) capped a very impressive day for the South Carolina alum.

Ground game to be the key?

Whilst Jimmy G’s comeback steadied the ship, the ground game was where San Francisco had the most joy. But not before Raheem Mostert suffered another injury which has now ruled him out for the entire 2021 season. The guy cannot catch a break! However, enter Elijah Mitchell. The rookie out of Louisiana had himself a day, with 19 carries for 104 yards, averaging 5.5 YPC.

If Philadelphia is going to have success, they’ll need to find a way to stop the run game and they seemed to struggle to do so against a relatively weak Atlanta rushing attack. They allowed 124 yards from 26 carries and although they were much more dominant in the 2nd half, they’ll need to start stronger against a much more dynamic San Francisco rushing attack.

The Eagles themselves will also be able to look to the ground game after Miles Sanders had 74 yards (4.9 YPC) and rookie Kenny Gainwell had an impressive debut game, averaging 5.6 YPC from 9 carries and getting himself a debut NFL touchdown too. San Francisco’s run defence wasn’t any better than Philadelphia’s though, allowing 116 yards (4.8 YPC) and a rushing TD against a Detroit Lions team that doesn’t tend to be that strong when they hand the ball off.

Predictions

The battle of the unbeatens.

Will Jimmy G continue his comeback tour and leave PA with the W? Or can this young, hungry Philadelphia team raise even more eyebrows and grab the scalp of a potential play-off candidate?

I think the game will be won and lost on the ground. Philly will look to their pass rush and the likes of J. Hargrave and B. Graham to frustrate Jimmy G and the 49ers and try to stifle San Fran’s running attack. Meanwhile I think Elijah Mitchell will play a big role for the 49ers again and Philly will have to improve at stopping the run.

The true test will be Philadelphia’s defence and whether it can hold against a much better offensive unit run by one of the best coaching minds in the league in Kyle Shanahan. They didn’t allow a TD in Week 1 and I would be mortified if they can still say that come 10pm on Sunday night.

It’s going to be a close game and neither team will be allowed the offensive blowout that they had last week (although San Francisco tried their best to throw it away at the end).

It’s going to be a close one and I could really see it going either way.

San Francisco 20, Eagles 23

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