There’s no secret to the formula for success on Sunday. On offense, the San Francisco 49ers (1-2) need to get back to basics while playing to their strengths which is smash-mouth football. That’s their identity, that’s who they are. They are not a finesse team by any stretch of the imagination, so look for 49ers OC Greg Roman to re-establish the run this time around. Not to mention, the Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) high octane offense will need to be contained, a recipe for success in doing that, is winning the time of the possession with the run. But the question remains, how long will Roman commit to the run if they don’t have early success?
By sticking to the run for four quarters they ultimately wear down the defense. An Eagles defense that is vastly underrated, as I believe them to have one of the more underrated units in the NFL, tackling bruising runners like RB Frank Gore and RB Carlos Hyde should take a toll on them in the second-half. If the 49ers can stick to the run, both Gore and Hyde should have their fair share of big plays especially if they run on the left-side.
A side that is anchored by two All-Pro’s in LT Joe Staley and LG Mike Iupati, those two should grade out highly at the end of the day as they are matched up against NT Bennie Logan and DE Cedric Thornton. And if Staley and Iupati can hit that second-level, look for Gore and Hyde to benefit as I predict Gore to have a stat line around 17 carries for 86 yards and one touchdown.
With the run-game being the focal-point of the offense, it’s the passing game that will be extremely efficient. Although the 49ers are not a finesse team, they do have the weapons to spread out wide and it showed last week as WR Stevie Johnson had his breakout game for the 49ers. If the 49ers can have a good mix of run/pass that should open things up for QB Colin Kaepernick.
The four-year quarterback had a strong performance despite losing the game. He looked more comfortable in the pocket while improvising on the run. A true dual-threat quarterback, look for Kaepernick to have another strong outing as he should have easy intermediate options open.
Both WR Michael Crabtree and WR Anquan Boldin are familiar with the Eagles starting cornerbacks. On one hand, you have CB Cary Williams. You know the player that was torched by Crabtree in Super Bowl XLVII while also getting in a scuffle with FB Bruce Miller. Look for Crabtree to do it to him once again as Williams is no match for King Crab. And if not Crabtree than Boldin.
Boldin has the strength, smarts, and separation skills to make those Eagles defensive backs pay. Whether finding soft spots in zone coverage or posting up for an easy curl-route first-down, Boldin will make Williams or CB Bradley Fletcher pay on Sunday.
With the 49ers offense looking to do their part, it will be the defense that needs to hold up their end of the bargain as they may have trouble with All-Pro RB LeSean McCoy and RB Darren Sproles. The best 1-2 punch in the NFL, it will be up to the 49ers front seven to make tackles on initial contact. Both players are elusive, so to think they will go down easy is a mistake, as gang-tackling may be in the cards for the 49ers defense. If the 49ers can contain McCoy all while controlling Sproles coming out of the slot (DB Jimmie Ward), they should be in good shape, if they can also generate a pass-rush.
The 49ers are absolutely horrible in this area. Horrible! I feel like I’m watching a game from 2005 where I was hoping and praying that OLB Brandon Moore would get a sack. Remember him? Yeah, that’s how bad the pass-rush has been thus far. And if you’re wondering why they are not using last year’s second-round (No. 40) DE Tank Carradine, your guess is as good as mine. I have been on the Carradine wagon since his days at Florida State and I continue today. Why he’s been inactive, who knows as head coach Jim Harbaugh said yesterday, “he’s coming.” The time is now, Jim. Let him loose, the pass-rush can’t get any worse. And while I vouch for Carradine look for rookie fifth-round pick (No. 150) OLB Aaron Lynch to shine, as he goes up against Eagles RT Andrew Gardner.
According to Pro Football Focus, Gardner has second worst pass-blocking grade in the NFL with a -6.2. Second worst? If the 49ers can’t generate a pass-rush against him than they are worse than I thought. However, I’m sure Lynch will have a field day on Sunday much like a kid in a candy store as he should rack up a pair of sacks. Yes, that’s right, not one but two all while creating a strip/sack in the process.
If the 49ers can do that all while not allowing QB Nick Foles to get in a rhythm, they should be in the clear on Sunday as they should win with home-field on their side.
NinerFans.com 2-1 (Over/Under)
With the total points set at 50.5, I would slightly take the under. Fangio will bottle up McCoy and Sproles out of the backfield preventing the Eagles offense from moving the chains as the 49ers win a tight one, 23-20.
NinerFans.com 1-2 (line)
With the 49ers favored by five points, I would take Philadelphia and the five points. A team that historically does well after a loss under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers should be good enough to come out on top.
Fantasy Football (2 out of 9)
As you know we select three players each game who we think will score touchdowns (quarterbacks omitted). Last week we went 0 for 3. TERRIBLE! We look to get back on track in Week 4!
RB Frank Gore
WR Zach Ertz
RB LeSean McCoy
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