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Philadelphia Eagles opponents preview - San Francisco 49ers

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This is the next part in our series of previews of the Eagles 2009 opponents. Joining us for this feature is Dave Schwab, who writes about the Eagles at his site Eagles Lincs.

This Sunday the 49ers take a cross country trip on a short week face the surging Eagles. The 49ers are clinging to faint playoff hopes and are riding high after beating division rival Arizona last Monday Night. Was last week's win over the Cards the Niners superbowl or are they something to be worried about?

Dave's full analysis is after the jump.

After playing four out of their last five games on the road, the Eagles are home for two straight games as they continue their quest for another NFC East division title. This Sunday in a 1:00 P.M start at Lincoln Financial Field, they face the San Francisco 49ers who are coming off a big 24-9 win over NFC West division foe, Arizona this past Monday night.  The win kept the Cardinals from clinching the division as well as moved the 49ers record to 7-6 to keep their faint hopes for a spot in the playoffs alive. With an incredible 45-38 win over the Giants last Sunday night the Eagles are now 9-4 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. Philadelphia has to be careful to avoid a letdown this week after a huge win that put them in control of their own destiny in the division.

The biggest threat on the field this Sunday for San Francisco will be not be RB Frank Gore, rather it will be TE Vernon Davis. Since changing QB’s back in week eight, sending Shaun Hill to the bench and handing the reigns over to former first round pick Alex Smith the 49ers have switched to a spread offense that looks to throw the ball much more than they did in the past. Davis is the team’s leading receiver with 66 receptions for 815 yards and 11 TD’s which is tops among all tight ends in the NFC. Another threat is rookie WR Michael Crabtree. After holding out in the beginning of the season, he has caught 37 balls for 473 yards and 2 TD’s in his first eight games as a pro. The Eagles’ defense will still have to be wary of Gore’s ability to gain large chunks of yardage on the ground. With the proper schemes they should be able to put enough pressure on Smith as well as confuse him with some different looks to neutralize Davis, preventing him from winning this game with his arm.

Defensively the 49ers are very average. They are ranked 5th against the run and 8th in points allowed, but they still give up an average of 338.6 total yards per game and are ranked 27th against the pass giving up over 240 yards per game. While Philadelphia will look to establish the run with RB LeSean McCoy and FB Leonard Weaver as they have in the second half of the season, QB Donovan McNabb always keeps an eye down field for second year sensation WR DeSean Jackson, who has tied an NFL record for most touchdowns over 50 yards with eight. With their number two WR Jeremy Maclin out for at least two weeks with a foot injury, look the possible return of Kevin Curtis who has been out since week two with a knee injury. All in all there are more weapons on this Eagles’ offense than the 49ers can cover, so do not be surprised if once again big plays carry the Birds to a win.

The Eagles have had the bad habit of dropping a game at home late in the season to a team they should easily beat. Last year it was Washington in week 16 and in 2007 they lost to Seattle in week 13. This year things appear to be different as McNabb is playing with complete confidence and is not turning the ball over at crucial times of the game. In his 11 starts this season he has thrown for 18 TD’s and only seven interceptions. He also has the luxury of being surrounded by perhaps the most talent on offense in his entire 11 year career. San Francisco is a fairly decent team and probably just a few players from becoming a legitimate playoff caliber team, but at this point they do not have the horses to run with Philadelphia especially in late December at the Linc.