5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat 49ers

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat 49ers

We'll get to see just how focused this Eagles team is on Sunday. 

It can be hard to get up for games like this. The Eagles head into Sunday's game at the Linc with the best record in football at 6-1 and they'll face a team that is 0-7. The Eagles opened up as huge favorites (12.5 to 14 points). 

On Thursday, Carson Wentz said the 49ers don't look like an 0-7 team when looking at the film. It just depends on which games you watch. Five of the 49ers' seven losses have come by three or fewer points. The other two have been 20- and 30-point losses. That includes a 40-10 loss to the Cowboys last week. 

Here are five important matchups for the Eagles on Sunday: 

Carlos Hyde vs. Eagles' run D
Through seven games, Hyde is eighth in the NFL with 428 yards on 100 carries (an average of 4.3 yards per attempt). He has also caught 27 passes for 162 yards. But his ability in the run game is what the Eagles have to be ready for. 

The Eagles have been incredible as a run-stuffing unit this season. They've allowed just 67 rushing yards per game, the lowest average in the NFL. But they'll have to stop Hyde without their middle linebacker after Jordan Hicks was lost for the season to a torn Achilles. The last time the Eagles faced a really good running back was against the Chiefs when Kareem Hunt went for 81 yards and two scores in September.

RT Trent Brown vs. DE Brandon Graham 
With four sacks, Graham has been the Eagles' best pass rusher and he's been even better than that number suggests. Graham has, at times this season, been a complete game-wrecker. 

Brown, a seventh-rounder in 2015, isn't bad. He's started every game this season and has given up just one sack. But he's a middle-of-the-road type player who might have trouble with Graham, who is built like a bowling ball. Brown is around 6-8/6-9 and 350 to 360 pounds. If he gets his hands on Graham, he'll be able to handle him. If he can't, Graham could have a big day. 

Big V vs. DE Solomon Thomas 
All eyes are going to be on Halapoulivaati Vaitai as he makes his first career start at left tackle. This will be the first time in Wentz's career he won't have Jason Peters protecting his blindside. 

Vaitai actually played pretty well after coming into Monday's game against Washington and there are some good reasons for letting him play left tackle instead of moving Lane Johnson (see story). He'll have a good test on Sunday against Thomas, the third overall pick in the spring out of Stanford. He has two sacks and 24 tackles so far this year. 

WR Pierre Garcon​ vs. CB Jalen Mills
The Eagles will get to say hello to an old enemy this Sunday. Garcon​ was a tough matchup for the Eagles during his years in Washington. Now, he's on a bad team but still having a good year. He leads the 49ers with 38 catches for 483 yards. He's a physical matchup, so that seems to fit the way Mills plays. 

How good has Garcon​ been against the Eagles? Well, he's been better against the Birds than just about any other team. In 11 games against the Eagles, he has 65 catches for 711 yards and four touchdowns. The last eight times he's faced the Eagles, he's averaged five catches for 60 yards.

QB C.J. Beathard vs. Jim Schwartz 
This week on a conference call with Philly reporters, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked how defenses attack a rookie quarterback like Beathard. He said some teams like to blitz and bring pressure to fluster a young quarterback, while others like to sit back and wait for the rookie to make mistakes. So it'll be up to Schwartz to see how he wants to handle this. 

Beathard took the job from Brian Hoyer two weeks ago during the Washington game. The rookie has completed 55 percent of his passes for 480 yards, one touchdown and one interception in two weeks. The third-rounder from Iowa has some talent, but Schwartz has to be pretty excited to get a crack at a rookie with just one start under his belt. 

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

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Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

Carson Wentz doesn't care about accolades. 

He just better get used to them. 

The NFL announced Wednesday afternoon the Eagles' quarterback is leading all players in Pro Bowl fan voting. 

"I honestly didn't even know that," Wentz said to NBC Sports Philadelphia while sitting at his locker after Wednesday's practice. "I guess that's cool and all but you know how I am about that stuff. At the end of the day, we're 9-1 and that's what we like. You know me, I don't get caught up in that stuff."

Wentz has 273,367 votes, well ahead of the second-place player, Tom Brady (239,989). He has over 30,000 more votes than perhaps the best quarterback of all time. 

Fan voting is open until Dec. 14 and the Pro Bowl teams will be announced on Dec. 19.  

This season, Wentz has thrown for 2,430 yards and leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 25. He has just five interceptions. Wentz, in his second pro season, is a big reason why the Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 9-1. 

If Wentz makes the Pro Bowl this season, it would be the first of his career. He admitted it would mean something to be named to the team. 

"I mean, obviously, that's recognition and that's something cool," he said. "But that's for down the road. We still have six games here to take care of business. We'll see what happens." 

In addition to Wentz, his favorite target Zach Ertz is closing in on his first Pro Bowl appearance. Ertz leads all NFC tight ends with 156,183 votes. In nine games this season, Ertz has 536 yards receiving and a career-high six touchdown catches. 

The Eagles are hoping neither of these two will be able to play in this year's Pro Bowl even if they make it. They're hoping both will be preparing for the Super Bowl that week. 

Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

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Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

Carson Wentz's declining production probably isn't a sign of trouble on the horizon for the Eagles. Quite the contrary, the quarterback's down numbers may be at least in part a reflection of the scheme and how well the team is playing.

With 2,430 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, Wentz might be the front-runner to be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player at season's end. He's among the top two or three candidates, anyway. But the second-year player's once eye-popping statistics have notably dropped off in recent weeks, begging some question as to whether the magic is wearing off.

Over the Eagles' last three games, Wentz has completed 47 of 86 pass attempts (54.7 percent) for 192.7 yards per game (6.7 average) with eight touchdowns — far from MVP-caliber.

Perhaps the most concerning of those numbers is Wentz's completion percentage. At 59.7 percent for the season, he's fallen well below his mark of 62.4 as a rookie.

Wentz concedes he could be more accurate. The 24-year-old signal caller also believes some of the dropoff in his completion percentage is due to the offense pushing the ball vertically with more frequency in 2017.

That, and stats are meaningless as long as the Eagles are winning.

"That's definitely a number that I'd like to get higher again," Wentz said before Wednesday's practice. "I'm not crazy about stats. What really matters is wins and losses, but I'd like that to get higher.

“I do think it's a product of taking more chances down the field, taking more shots, being aggressive. I'm not going to get too hung up on that.”

There is certainly something to what Wentz is saying. While his completion rate is sub-optimal, his yards per attempt are over a yard higher compared to last season — 7.6 to 6.2. That's good for ninth in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks.

More incompletions or not, Wentz has still managed to play more efficient.

The Eagles are also 3-0 during Wentz's ongoing funk, so to speak, and he's only turned the football over once. He's obviously doing something right.

In fact, Wentz and the Eagles have been so successful in the last three games, that's actually had a negative impact on his individual numbers as well. The team jumped out to big second-half leads in contests against the 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys, reducing the need to put the ball in the air. Wentz even sat out portions of the fourth quarter twice.

Those types of game scripts will obviously put a damper on volume totals such as yards and touchdowns, and possibly Wentz's MVP chances along with them. From the team's vantage point, they're overwhelmingly positive.

With the Eagles chugging right along at 9-1, there doesn't seem much need to perform an autopsy on Wentz's season at this point. But if critics are searching for holes in the ship, the quarterback doesn't appear to be the place where this squad is going to spring a leak.