In his classic 2007 hit "Good Life", Kanye West muses "Having money's not everything/not having it is". The same could be said of a winning record in September. Being undefeated through September is great, but it doesn't mean anything (just ask Bills fans, like, every year). The Eagles have their flaws, but unless you're Cary Williams, it's hard to complain about a 3-0 record.
But if you're the 1-2 San Francisco 49ers and are looking to climb out of the cellar of one of the most talented divisions in football? Not reaching .500 after a month might mean everything. As we saw with the Eagles in 2012, losing puts a strain on a locker room, even ones used to winning like the Niners. This week alone we've heard that Frank Gore is unhappy with his touches, rumors are swirling about Jim Harbaugh leaving for the Michigan head coaching job, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria. The Niners need this win, and they need it badly.
On paper, this should be a close game, and one worthy of being the Game Of The Week. So before we take a look at this week's game, let's recap a busy week in Bleeding Green Nation.
Read more: Eagles-49ers Odds: Tough matchup for the Birds by Brent Cohen
Listen to BGN Radio: 49ers vs. Eagles: How will Philadelphia's offense fare against San Francisco's defense?
Read more: Eagles-49ers Preview: Where is Philadelphia's run game and pass rush? by Mike Kaye and Dan Klausner
Take A Bow, Nick
BGN Radio host John Barchard some of us were calling for Mark Sanchez to start over Nick Foles? I don't know about you, but I thought it was nice to have a week off from painful All-22 breakdowns detailing just how many open receivers Nick Foles missed in last Sunday's win.
To be fair, there were still some missed throws, and the offense continues to start slow. That's gotta change. But gives Foles credit for continuing to improve each week. Sunday's win over WASTEAM may have been Foles' most impressive performance in midnight green.
As poorly as Foles played for stretches over the course of the first two weeks, he also did not get a ton of help from his receivers. But this week Jeremy Maclin and rookie Jordan Matthews showed up in a big way, combining for more than 200 receiving yards, three touchdowns and one awesome Instagram video.
But Matthews catching his first touchdown and promptly falling down is not what people will remember about this game. They'll remember Chris Baker's dirty hit on Foles (sorry Troy Vincent, it was dirty) and All-Pro Badass Jason Peters' response.
Read more: Eagles-Redskins: NFL Rulebook explains why Chris Baker's hit on Nick Foles was illegal by Brandon Lee Gowton
Read more: Jason Peters fined $10,000 by NFL for fighting Chris Baker by Brandon Lee Gowton
After the hit he took and the melee with Washington that followed, Foles reportedly told his teammates to "make them pay". The offense did just that, capping a 76-yard scoring drive with a Maclin touchdown reception. Foles didn't take any sacks last week, but still took a ton of punishment. To Foles' credit, he kept battling, and went without throwing an interception for the first time this season.
We've said all along that this team will go as far as Foles is capable of taking them. In the first three weeks the Eagles have won in spite of mediocre quarterback play and subpar defense. So while the latter doesn't show signs of changing any time soon, it's nice to see the former showing signs of real improvement.
Read more: 49ers vs. Eagles 2014: Nick Foles or Colin Kaepernick? by Brandon Lee Gowton
Read more: NFL Fantasy Football: Week 4 best and worst Philadelphia Eagles picks by Brandon Lee Gowton
Marcus In The Middle
As a draft prospect out of Louisville, one of Marcus Smith II's biggest positive attributes was his versatility. He showed the ability to rush the passer, the ability to play in space and some nice coverage chops, too. Up until last week, defensive coordinator Bill Davis had been using Smith II almost exclusively as an outside linebacker. But the injury to Mychal Kendricks necessitated a move inside. As BGN's own Dan Klausner pointed out this week, Kendricks' injury may have opened the door for Smith II to become DeMeco Ryans' replacement.
Here's Dan on the potential position switch:
DeMeco Ryans is on the downside of his career and, most likely, in his last season with the franchise. Finding his successor to pair with Kendricks for the future is just as important as finding Cole's successor on the edge. The Eagles drafted Smith with the intent that he'd be the latter, but perhaps instead they've fallen ass backwards into a solution for the former.
Eagles fans have been burned by this type of thing in the past, and the team's recent track record with first-round picks ain't stellar. Calling Smith II a bust two weeks into the season was obviously a massive overreaction, but those fans were simply exaggerating something we'd all noticed - Smith II didn't look like a top-30 player.
Perhaps no player in Kelly's tenure with the Eagles has been called out more in the media than Marcus, which tells me that a) the team expects a lot out of him, and b) they weren't seeing it. Smith II played 16 snaps last weekend. And while he didn't jump off the stat sheet, Kelly did say that he felt Smith had a nice game in the middle.
In this pundit's opinion, Smith II should get the start Sunday afternoon, and should be given every opportunity to play significant snaps until Kendricks is ready. It goes without saying that Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho are not starting-quality linebackers, and the WLB platoon we saw last week says that the coaching staff agrees. If Davis and Kelly think Smith II has a chance to stick in the middle, he should be given every opportunity to play there, starting against the 49ers.
Read more: Marcus Smith: DeMeco Ryans' Replacement by Dan Klausner
Read more: Eagles-49ers Injury Report: Mychal Kendricks ruled out by Brandon Lee Gowton
Pictures Of The Week
Beau Allen (@Beau_Allen) September 23, 2014
Since being drafted in the seventh round, rookie nose tackle has quietly been killing it on Twitter. Following last week's win, he posted a picture of him lifting up kicker Cody Parkey with the caption "No one puts Parkey in a corner". Brilliant.
This week, it's Allen and Connor Barwin in a tub, creating the perfect potential Halloween costume:
Just think - they could walk around with an Eagles-themed rubber duckie and everything. Barwin wouldn't even need a haircut to be Bert. It's too perfect to not happen.
As many of you have heard, Bengals defensive lineman Devon Still's daughter Leah has been battling cancer. The Bengals released Still at the end of Training Camp, but signed him to the practice squad so he could keep his insurance. A classy move by the Bengals, no doubt.
The picture above comes courtesy of Still's Instagram (which is great and inspirational and full of faith-in-humanity-restoring posts) with the caption "Thanks to Chip Kelly and the Eagles for sending these surprise gifts and flowers to me daughter".
Throughout his time at Oregon and in Philly, Kelly has been known to privately make these types of gestures. They're the kinds of gestures that purposely stay out of the media, which is fantastic. Doing nice things for others shouldn't be done with retweets or positive PR in mind. This is one team and one member of the NFL community reaching out to another in a time of need. After the month the NFL has had, it's nice to be reminded that not everyone in the NFL is a horrible person. And it's even nicer to know that the man behind this gesture is the leader of our favorite football team.
Read more: Chip Kelly sends gifts to Devon Still's daughter following surgery by Mike Kaye
According to Football Outsiders' DVOA Playoff Odds Report, the Eagles currently have an 82.2 percent change of reaching the postseason. They also have a 41.4 percent chance of finishing with a first-round bye. As of Tuesday, no team in the NFC comes close to matching either stat. To make it even more fun, the combined playoff likelihood for the other three teams in the NFC East is 63 percent. None of them are even given a six percent chance at a first-round bye.
Read more: 49ers vs. Eagles: San Francisco starts fast while Philadelphia finishes strong by Brandon Lee Gowton
Read more: Why Doesn't Brandon Boykin Play on the Outside? by Dave Mangels
The Niners, meanwhile, are given less than a 30 percent chance to make the playoffs under any circumstances. And a 1-3 start could all but close the book on their season. As Kanye sort of reminded us at the beginning of this column, having a winning record's not everything, but not having one is.
All of this is to say that the Eagles need to be aware that the team they'll be facing will be as desperate as a team in Week 4 could be. Desperation doesn't mean much in tangible terms - teams struggle for a reason; being 1-2 doesn't mean the Niners get Navarro Bowman back - but the Eagles should be prepared for another long, tough and physical game. It's by no means a gimme for San Fran, as most of us thought when the schedule came out. But a win on the road and a 4-0 record?
Talk about the good life.