Eagles

Eagles-49ers predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-49ers predictions by our (cough) experts

Is there any chance the Eagles lose this one?

Well, the weather is not looking pretty and the opponent is better than its record indicates.

Still, the Eagles are an NFL-best 6-1 and at home, welcoming the 0-7 San Francisco 49ers on Sunday (1 p.m./FOX).

Let's get into our expert predictions for Week 8:

Reuben Frank (7-0)
Last time the Eagles were favored by this many points, Joe Webb came to town. And we all know the rest of the story. There are no locks in the NFL, and it's up to this Eagles team to do what that 2010 team failed to do against the Vikings on a freezing Tuesday night at the Linc — choke off an inferior team, take away its hope and make sure it's not still in the game midway through the third quarter. 

The Eagles should annihilate this 49ers team, and I think they will. This is an extremely focused team, and things like trap games, winless opponents and huge point spreads don't seem to affect them. 

I expect the Eagles to jump out on top early and ride another exceptional game from Carson Wentz and a big rushing performance from LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement to blow out a winless 49ers team that wants no part of a 6-1 Eagles team playing at 10 a.m. their time after a five-hour flight. 

The Eagles haven't scored 40 in a while. Not since a 43-24 win over the Titans at the Linc in 2014. They do Monday. 

And bring on the Broncos!

Eagles 40, 49ers 6

Dave Zangaro (5-2)
Earlier this week, I began to wonder what percentage of Eagles on the roster could name the 49ers' quarterback. 

I never actually got an answer to that question but the fact I could ask it and really wonder kind of tells you all you need to know about the winless 49ers. If you care, his name is C.J. Beathard (BETH-urd) and he's a third-round pick from Iowa who took over for Brian Hoyer. 

Wentz said this week that the Niners don't look like an 0-7 team but I guess that depends on what game he was watching. Because five of their seven losses have come by three or fewer points but the other two have been complete blowouts, including last week's 40-10 drubbing at the hands of the Cowboys. 

This week will give us a sense of just how focused the Eagles actually are. I think they'll be plenty focused in this one, even against a winless team in the rain. 

They ain't losing to "what's his name." 

Eagles 34, 49ers 13

Derrick Gunn (6-1)
Losing both future Hall of Famer LT Jason Peters and LB Jordan Hicks for the season are big blows, but the Eagles have become used to the next-man-up mentality. Each week, the legend of Wentz continues to grow. In comes a 49ers squad still in search of its first win of the year. Prior to getting blown out by Dallas, the Niners had set an NFL record for losing five consecutive games by three points or less. Last Sunday, the Cowboys attacked a porous Niners' run defense (29th, allowing 134.6 yards per game) by running the ball 43 times for 265 yards, including 26 by Dak Prescott.

The Eagles must do the same ground and pound and put the Niners away early. San Fran rookie QB Beathard has potential, but he's not ready for what Jim Schwartz will throw at him. It should be an interesting game for at least a half, but the team with the best record in the league should eventually pull away.

Eagles 31, 49ers 10

Ray Didinger (6-1)
The Eagles are adjusting to life without Peters and Hicks, both major losses, but the good news is this week they play the winless San Francisco 49ers, so if there are a few glitches, they shouldn't be too costly. The 49ers are in a total rebuild and while they are playing hard — five of their losses are by three points or less — they aren't very good. They were no match for Dallas (40-10) last week.

Rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan is going with another rookie, Beathard, at quarterback and the kid looks overmatched. The Dallas defense sacked him five times and he fumbled twice. The Eagles have a better pass rush than the Cowboys, so this looks like a big game for Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Derrick Barnett, who got two sacks Monday night against Washington.

Eagles 30, 49ers 13

Andrew Kulp (6-1)
It's going to take an epic meltdown by the Eagles to lose this game. The 49ers have managed to play some close games this year, but the list of teams that have experienced scares includes the Cardinals, Colts and Washington. I don't believe the Eagles are in that category.

The 49ers also took a step back last week, losing 40-10 to Dallas with first-time starter Beathard at the helm, so I'm going to go ahead and guess things are going to get worse before they get better. Wentz continues to roll, and the Eagles win with ease.

Eagles 41, 49ers 6

Corey Seidman (4-3)
Literally, the only chance the 49ers have to win this game is with multiple return TDs — one in the kicking game, one on defense. Other than that, how is this offense supposed to keep up with the Eagles? How is this defense supposed to contain Wentz, even in the rain?

This should be a pretty easy win. The Eagles are 12- to 14-point favorites and I fully expect them to cover.

Eagles 27, 49ers 6

Andy Schwartz (6-1) 
The Eagles are rolling.

The Niners are winless. 

After losing five straight by a combined 13 points (all two or three points, including two in OT), the 49ers got blitzed by Dallas on Sunday by 30. And that was at home.

Now they come across the country to face the Eagles. I know about any given Sunday and all that, but San Fran's first W isn't happening here. Maybe next week at home against banged-up Arizona.

Eagles 31, 49ers 20

Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

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Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

How do you turn being a home underdog into a good thing? Use it as motivation to win a football game.

How do you turn being a home underdog into a great thing? Raise money for Philadelphia schools and win football games. That’s what Lane Johnson is doing.

After the nation doubted the Eagles against the Falcons, Johnson and Chris Long donned dog masks after divisional round win, embracing the role of underdogs. Now, Johnson has his own T-shirt and is raising money. A lot of it, too.

Shirts can be purchased at lj65.shop for just $18 and Johnson tweeted that more than 3,000 have already been sold.

Hopefully, the home dogs continue to eat this weekend against the Vikings.

Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

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USA Today Images

Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

There were no special instructions. No extraordinary measures taken. Not much was said. Not much needed to be said.

The game was on the line. The season was on the line. For the Eagles' defense, it was just another play. The stakes were just incredibly high.

It was 4th-and-goal for the Falcons at the Eagles' 2-yard-line in the final seconds Saturday.

Give up a touchdown, and the season's over. Stop the Falcons and you're one game closer to the Super Bowl.

"Our guys, we don't do a whole lot," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Our guys know what to do, and they have downloaded that software enough that it's a little bit automatic for them.

"We also didn't change. We don't surprise the players. What we practiced in our red-zone period is what we played."

The Falcons had already driven from their own 24-yard-line down to the 2-yard-line.

Their quarterback, Matt Ryan, has the fourth-highest passer rating in NFL postseason history, behind Jeff Hostetler and Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Bart Starr.

That's what the Eagles' defense was up against.

"At that point, you sort of have to trust the players and the players have to trust the scheme," Schwartz said. "I think you saw a combination of both of those. We didn't feel the need to blitz. Played coverage, played good technique."

The clock showed 1:05.

Ryan’s two favorite receivers, Julio Jones and Mohamad Sanu, both lined up on the right side of the formation, Jones outside with Jalen Mills on him and Sanu in the slot with Malcolm Jenkins covering him in a battle of North Jersey natives.

Ryan took the shotgun snap from center Alex Mack at the 7-yard-line and immediately rolled to his right, retreating to the 10 as he neared the sideline.

Nigel Bradham, lined up as the left linebacker, trampled blocking tight end Levine Tollolo, who had his hands full with Brandon Graham, and ran around guard Wes Schweitzer, giving him an angle on Ryan. 

Meanwhile, Vinny Curry, after getting cut blocked to the ground by Falcons running back Tevin Coleman, quickly bounced back up and began pursuing from Ryan’s left. 

Ryan pumped once toward Sanu, who was covered by Jenkins. He quickly looked left but saw only Curry closing in. Thanks to the pressure, he had to quickly backpedal back to the 14-yard-line and finally was forced to unload that lob toward Jones at the right sideline in the end zone.

At that point, it was up to Mills, who had Jones blanketed, and the rest is history.

The ball went through Jones’ hands, his feet came down out of bounds anyway, and after an agonizing moment looking for flags, the play was over.

"A lot gets made of what Jalen did, rightfully so," Schwartz said. "You're talking about a Pro Bowl, All-Pro receiver, 1-on-1. But Malcolm playing the seven route to Sanu and Rodney (McLeod’s) ability to help him leverage that, that was because he's looking for Julio Jones first.

"Julio slips, he's looking for Sanu, nowhere to go and now he has to re-rack that thing and by then, Nigel is closing down on him and everything else.

"If Malcolm doesn't get that route that he covered, if he doesn't get that covered, nobody's talking about Jalen Mills right now."

Mills was physical with Jones but not physical enough to draw a flag. Schwartz said Mills has made huge strides this year with his technique, and on the biggest play of his life, his technique was perfect.

"It's one thing to have confidence, but that's just not the sole requirement for the position," Schwartz said.

"There's a lot of technique that goes along with playing, and I think if you look at that last play, he did a great job of staying square. Meaning his shoulders were perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.

"What the receiver there is trying to do is get you turned so he can come back for the ball. He could never get Jalen turned."

Mills is 23 years old, a second-year pro, a former seventh-round pick, a first-year starter.

To think that he made one of the most historic plays in Eagles postseason history is remarkable.

"I think every player makes a big jump from year one to year two, as far as knowledge of scheme and knowledge of opponents and things like that," Schwartz said.

"(Defensive backs coach Cory) Undlin and Jalen have worked really hard. He's haunted the hallways quite a bit, even on off days this year, just trying to improve his technique. It hasn't been by chance that his technique has gotten better. It's a lot of hard work that's gone into it from a coaching standpoint and from a player's standpoint."

The bottom line is that this defense has played tremendous football all year.

And with the season on the line, everybody simply went out and did their job. Nothing more, nothing less.

"I just think a part of our success is our guys just understand what's asked of them in the schemes," Schwartz said.

"They communicate well. We don't make a lot of mistakes, mental mistakes, and I think that makes it hard to drive the ball on us.

"When you get into those situations where is it's closed quarters and you don't have to defend deep balls, our guys have a good understanding of what opponents are going to do. I was proud of them on that play."