Can a road trip to face the banged-up 49ers solve what ails the Eagles?
"Sunday Night Football" features a matchup that probably looked a lot better in the preseason as the San Francisco 49ers host the Philadelphia Eagles. Both of these teams are extremely banged up, and it's only Week 4 of the NFL season. Philly rolled in this matchup 33-10 back in 2017 in a game between Carson Wentz and C.J. Beathard. The Eagles, ironically, were the one-loss team beating the winless squad, which is the opposite of this game.
Philadelphia (0-2-1) just finished the "easy" part of its schedule and doesn't have a win to speak of. The Eagles had the ball on 4th-and-long in the final minute of overtime and could have tried a long field goal or gone for it, but instead, they punted and played for the tie. Wentz is playing like a bottom-10 quarterback, and the defense just isn't getting stops right now, even against mediocre opponents. There is a real possibility that, with a loss on Sunday and upcoming games against the Steelers and Ravens, the Eagles will start the season 0-5-1.
San Francisco (2-1), meanwhile, is just glad to be out of New York. The Niners spent two straight weeks on the East Coast after dispatching the Jets and Giants, spending the week in between in West Virginia. The victories were costly, though, as their injury list grew, but head coach Kyle Shanahan was able to continue his success on offense with backups and third-stringers. The defense also took several injury hits, but that may not be as much of an issue in this game.
Sunday Night Football: Philadelphia at San Francisco
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 4 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Spread: 49ers -7
Three Things to Watch
This is the Eagles' second road trip of the season, although it's their first time leaving the East Coast. In Week 1, they went down to Washington, D.C., so this is their first extended getaway. In Week 5, they travel to Pittsburgh, but considering this team is winless, they can't afford to overlook anyone. As mentioned above, the Niners are home for the first time in a couple of weeks. It's the start of three straight in San Francisco, with the Dolphins up next so focus won't be an issue here either.
2. The walking wounded
The injury lists for both of these teams read like a CVS receipt. We'll start with the road team, which lost offensive lineman Brandon Brooks before the season. Joining him on the sidelines are fellow offensive lineman Andre Dillard and Isaac Seumalo. Pass-catchers Dallas Goedert, Jalen Reagor, and Alshon Jeffery are out, with DeSean Jackson also not 100 percent. This leaves Wentz with the likes of John Hightower, Greg Ward, and Quez Watkins as his wide receivers. Zach Ertz would be peppered with a ton of targets, but the Niners may double him all over the field. Unfortunately, this is just more of the same for Wentz, who last season became the first quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards without any wide receiver hauling in at least 500 yards. On defense, Philly is without Vinny Curry up front and Avonte Maddox out wide.
The home team would love to have so few injuries on defense. Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Julian Taylor, and Solomon Thomas are all unavailable with Ahkello Witherspoon, Emmanuel Moseley and Dre Greenlaw are all questionable as to whether they will be available. The offense may get some help, although Raheem Mostert, George Kittle, Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, and Jordan Reed are all either out or not 100 percent. Even with all the injuries, they still racked up 36 points and over 400 yards of offense in the win over the Giants.
3. Carson Wentz
Pick a category and Wentz is at or near the bottom. His 59.8 percent completion rate may have been good in years past, but that ranks 28th among qualified starters. And he's got a league-high six interceptions and has been sacked 11 times (tied for fourth-worst). His QBR ranks 31st at is 35.5, while his passer rating ranks 33rd at 63.9. According to Pro Football Focus, he has the worst rating in the league with a clean pocket. Wentz is hamstrung by a poor group of skill position players that can't stay healthy or are way too young. He's also got a coach who is calling way too many passing plays — 144 to 67 rushes — and that's unacceptable when you have Miles Sanders. Sanders failed to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark because his coach didn't commit to the run. San Fran is really banged up, and the Eagles have to run the ball in order to keep them honest. We'll see if Wentz can get out of his slump on Sunday.
The Eagles failed to pick up a win in two of their easier contests and now begin a stretch in which they take on the Niners, Steelers, and Ravens. The defense looked alright at times last week, but that was against a bad offensive line and a rookie quarterback. Nick Mullens has run Shanahan's system well enough when he's gotten the chance. The coaching staffs are the difference-maker for these two teams limping into Sunday. Give me the home squad.
Prediction: 49ers 24, Eagles 13
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.