Week 4 was a win over the NFC champs. That’s the nicest way we can put it. Try not to think about the fact the 49ers were missing some key personnel or how their third-string quarterback looked amazing against the Eagles.
Just fade all that and soak up the fact the Eagles are in first in the NFC East. I’ve been covering the Eagles long enough to know they typically beat good teams and lose to bad ones. However, I ultimately flipped my Eagles upset pick at the last minute last week and who could blame me? They looked like crap through the first three weeks and last night didn’t clear up much on how I feel about them.
A look back at Week 4
Lucky for us, Carson Wentz’s deep touchdown with just under six minutes to go to put the Eagles ahead for good. If not for the pick-six, the Eagles were well on their way to a disappointing finish in San Francisco, as the 49ers were one play from losing this game in the end.Wentz was again skittish in the pocket. The good news this week was, he made a few clutch plays when he needed to. The 49ers gave the Eagles a gift by starting their third-best quarterback in this game. Even if Mullens had some really nice throws, he made some very crucial errors, especially late.
The pass rush was again encouraging for the Eagles and was a huge part in their success, but the folly of the 49ers was their inability to exploit the Eagles’ secondary downfield. The key all season for teams facing the Eagles has been going downfield. Whether the 49ers just aren’t designed to do that or not, there’s no doubt in my mind Beathard would’ve been the better option for the 49ers from the start. Regardless, the Eagles are sitting at 1-2-1 and leading the division.
Week 5 Preview
Week 5 will be a big test for the Eagles as they face their in-state nemesis, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are coming off an unexpected bye week, following the Covid-19 outbreak of the Titans. The Steelers are going to be rested and ready, featuring a balanced offense and great defense. Granted, the Steelers have played the Broncos, Giants, and Texans thus far, and they do rank number one in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (54 yards).
Now, the teams they’ve played haven’t been great running the ball in 2020, but they’re still a full ten yards better than the second-place team on the list. The Steelers defense is also 5th in points allowed per game (19.3), while the offense is 13th overall in points per game (26.7).
The Steelers run defense and pass rush is going to be a big problem for the Eagles. The Steelers have 15 sacks through three games and four interceptions. Even if Wentz doesn’t get too frazzled in the pocket, moving the ball on this defense will be tough. Though the Steelers have been suspect through the air defensively this season, they seem to still be able to make big plays at the right time.
The Eagles need to find creative ways of buying time in the pocket this week. On the one hand, there’s the issue of the Eagles’ pass-catching talent.
For one, Alshon Jeffrey is expected to make his 2020 debut this week. If that happens, it’s a huge boost to the offense, even if Alshon doesn’t produce much during the game. For the sake of getting Greg Ward and Desean Jackson softer coverage, Alshon’s return is crucial. The big hurdles will be whether or not the Eagles protect Wentz long enough in the pocket, and his accuracy and consistency.
Defensively, the Eagles need to pressure Big Ben, attacking the banged-up line, and stay consistent against the run. The Eagles need to stay stout on the run to take away the third and short opportunities Ben thrives on.
Week 5 Prediction
I think the Eagles will come out strong to start this game, mixing plays well offensively, and getting to Big Ben early. However, I like the Steelers more as the game goes on to make some big plays through the air.
With the return of Dionte Johnson and the presence of Juju and Claypool, the Steelers feature an array of highly-skilled pass catchers. I expect we will see the Steelers use James Conner to chip on the blitzes and flare out. This is where the Eagles need to stay disciplined and assign a spy to lock on to Conner in the backfield.
As this game goes along, I don’t see the Steelers running away with it. I think this game will remain close, but ultimately, Wentz throws a pick late and the comeback attempt falls short for Philadelphia.