67 - Rushing yards per game allowed by the Eagles defense — fewest in the NFL.
I know, I’ve sounded like a broken record about this. But the Eagles are really, really good at stopping the run.
How good are they? Per Reuben Frank, the 2017 Eagles have faced the second fewest rushing attempts through seven games since 1952. In other words, teams aren’t even trying to run the ball against the Eagles because they know it just won’t work.
The Eagles have a very simple defensive formula. Once they’re able to shut down the run, Jim Schwartz unleashes his pass rushers upon the opposing quarterback. Rookie C.J. Beathard is going to face a tough task today — more on that in the next section of this post.
For now, I want to stick with the run numbers. San Francisco is actually a little better running the ball than you’d realize. The 49ers only rank 23rd in rushing yards per game (96) but they’re actually tied for ninth with Philly in rushing yards per attempt (4.3.) Carlos Hyde is a talented player who can do some nice things. The Eagles should still be able to shut him down, but he’s a player to watch.
On the flip side, running the ball could be key to an Eagles victory in this tilt, especially if the rainy/windy weather hampers the passing game. Philadelphia currently ranks fourth in rush yards per game and tied for ninth per rush attempt. San Francisco, meanwhile, ranks 30th in opponent rush yards per game but only 12th in opponent rush yards per attempt.
With that said, the 49ers are prone to allowing big plays on the ground. Per Pat Thorman, San Fran’s defense has allowed the third most rushes of 10+ yards this season. They’re only one run away from being tied for first. The bad news for the Niners is that the Eagles rank third in runs of 10+ yards. LeGarrette Blount has the third most of any running back in the NFL. This could be a great opportunity for the Eagles to pound the rock with him.
Carson Wentz has played so well lately that the running game has taken a back seat. It could resurface as a key factor in today’s game.
4th - The Eagles have the fourth-best pressure rate in the NFL at 38.8%.
If the Eagles are able to effectively shut down the 49ers’ rushing attack, San Fran will have no choice but to throw the ball with their rookie quarterback making his second career start.
Beathard will be facing an Eagles pass rush that’s better than the sack numbers would indicate. Philly has been generating a lot of pressure this season. Here’s some good info from Pro Football Focus.
QB C.J. Beathard vs. pressure — Beathard’s 46.7 overall grade after just shy of two games of action would be the league’s second-worst if he had enough snaps to qualify, topping only DeShone Kizer, and the third-round rookie has struggled in a number of areas. Chief among those has been his play under pressure, where Beathard is the only quarterback with at least 30 dropbacks under pressure to average less than 4.00 yards per attempt, a mark he clears by more than a full yard (2.96). On Sunday, he’ll be facing an Eagles defense that has pressured opposing quarterbacks on 38.8 percent of snaps this season, the fourth-best rate in the NFL. If that weren’t enough, Philadelphia brings that pressure quicker than all but two defenses — 29.3 percent of their pressures reach the quarterback in 2.0 seconds or less.
Right side of 49ers OL vs. Edge Brandon Graham and DI Fletcher Cox — Complicating matters further, the 49ers may be without both starters on the right side of their offensive line after Trent Brown and Brandon Fusco left last week’s game against the Cowboys with injuries. Should neither player be available in Philadelphia, San Francisco will likely be inserting Zane Beadles (RG) and Garry Gilliam (RT) into the starting lineup, who have combined to allow eight total pressures on 72 pass-block snaps this season. That could spell potential disaster against one of the best defensive lines in football, particularly on the left side where Graham and Cox spend the majority of their time. Graham is one of just seven edge defenders with an overall grade of 90.0 or higher (90.2), and his 90.1 pass-rush grade trails only Melvin Ingram. Cox’s pass-rushing prowess hasn’t been far behind, with his 86.1 pass-rush grade ranking fourth among interior defenders.
This Eagles defensive line has looked so dominant at times. They could really terrorize Beathard today.
49ers fans are fully expecting this, too. There’s literally a headline on Niners Nation that reads: “Is C.J. Beathard going to die?”
This matchup is what makes me very confident in an Eagles win today. The gap between Beathard and Wentz figures to be huge in this game. Even if Wentz isn’t on his A-game, he should still find himself in a much better situation than Beathard is.
95.8% - The Eagles’ current chances of making the playoffs, per Football Outsiders.
The Eagles are in great shape at 6-1. They’d be even better at 7-1.
Handling business against the 49ers is obviously important. But the other big game that Eagles fans should be paying attention to is the Cowboys-Redskins matchup in Washington this week.
According to ESPN, this is the highest leverage game of the week. A Cowboys loss would drop their playoff odds by 25%. A Washington loss would drop theirs by 17%.
Rooting for Dallas to lose is the right move today. They’re potentially the biggest threat to the Eagles. Philly already owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over Washington so they’re much less dangerous.
The problem is that Washington probably won’t win today. They’re dealing with too many injuries on the offensive line; starting left tackle Trent Williams is out today. Going to be a tough one for Kirk Cousins.
If Kurt can somehow pull off the upset and the Eagles can beat the 49ers, this will be a great Sunday for Philly. The NFC East race is kind of almost over already, but it’d be even more so if Dallas loses to Washington and the Eagles win.