The700Level

Do the 49ers do anything better than the Eagles?

Do the 49ers do anything better than the Eagles?

You may think there's no need to break down the Eagles and 49ers position by position, and frankly, you are probably right. The Eagles have amassed a 6-1 record, to some amazement, and San Francisco is 0-7, to no surprise at all.

Regardless, the Eagles swear up and down they can't take this opponent lightly. There may even be some statistical evidence to support that feeling, like the fact that the 49ers lost five straight games by three points or less. They've been in almost every contest this season.

Until last week, that is. The 49ers are coming off a 40-10 blowout loss at home to Dallas, so even the very perception this team is capable of playing competitive football is being put to the test.

So as we do every week, we ask if the Eagles' opponent is any way superior or has the advantage. And in this case, the answer is somewhere between "No" and "Hell no." 

QUARTERBACKS

We'll have mercy on C.J. Beathard and keep this short and sweet. A third-round draft pick from Iowa, Beathard will be making his second NFL start for the 49ers on Sunday, and the first did not go well. Beathard completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 6.2 yards per attempt with five sacks and two fumbles lost in a 40-10 loss to the Cowboys. Meanwhile, Carson Wentz is blossoming into a top-five or -ten quarterback before our eyes, which is pretty exciting.

Very distinct edge: Eagles

RUNNING BACKS

Carlos Hyde could very well be the best running back on the field Sunday, and it may not be particularly close. Hyde is averaging 4.3 yards per carry with four touchdowns in an offense where he's the only weapon defenses legitimately need to worry about stopping. Perhaps more impressive, the 235-pound back has already matched his output as a receiver from 2016 with 27 receptions for 162 yards — in seven games! Granted, LeGarrette Blount is a beast as well, and has only nine fewer yards on 16 fewer carries. And while the two may be difficult to compare, the Eagles are deeper overall with Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement.

Edge: Eagles

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is sixth in the NFL with 39 receptions, tied for seventh with 494 yards, and tied for fourth with five touchdown grabs. Ertz is the most dangerous weapon in this game, although Pierre Garson isn't too far behind. The 10th-year veteran is the 49ers' only consistent option in the passing game with 38 catches and 483 yards, but he has yet to find the end zone. San Francisco's receivers can't match the complementary production of Alshon Jeffery (24 REC, 354 YDS, 2 TD) or Nelson Agholor (24 REC, 366 YDS, 5 TD), so the head-to-head ends there.

Distinct edge: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINES

Obviously, the loss of Jason Peters is significant for the Eagles, but they're fortunate to have Halapoulivaati Vaitai to step in. There will be a drop-off at left tackle, for sure, but Vaitai has been a stabilizing force off the bench the past two seasons. Even if the unit takes a little bit of a step back, it was arguably the best group in the league. The same can't be said for the 49ers O-line, which has taken its lumps. Only left tackle Joe Staley has a positive grade from Pro Football Focus in 2017, while 6-foot-8, 355-pound right tackle Trent Brown and right guard Brian Fusco may miss the game with injuries.

Edge: Eagles

DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVENS

San Francisco's 30th-ranked run defense is deceiving. Opponents are only averaging 3.9 yards per attempt, which is tied for 12th, so all that production isn't coming easy. That should come as no surprise with all the first-round picks the 49ers have invested in the front seven — DeForest Buckner in 2016, and Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster in '17. Of course, the Eagles boast the No. 1 run defense in the NFL, not to mention are also tied for 10th with 18 sacks. Buckner, Thomas and Foster will be great down the line, but Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Nigel Bradham are great right now.

Slight edge: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Moving Eric Reid to linebacker may or may not bolster the 49ers' front seven, but the coaches seem to believe it's improved their secondary. A second-round pick in 2015, Jaquiski Tartt has taken over at free safety, and is currently the only defensive back on the team that grades out positively by PFF. Tartt and Jimmie Ward make a nice safety tandem, but the cornerbacks are not very good, especially with K'waun Williams likely out. The Eagles also have a "nice" safety tandem, but Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson have been holding down the fort at corner as well. Much like San Fran's run D, the Eagles' 29th-ranked pass defense is largely a product of volume.

Edge: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS

Robbie Gould has experienced a bit of a career resurgence with the 49ers, yet his lone missed field goal on the season likely cost the team its first victory. Jake Elliott doesn't miss kicks in the clutch, or hasn't so far anyway, not even from 61 yards out. As always, the Eagles boast some of the best coverage units in the league as well, while Kenjon Barner is a threat in the return game — even if it isn't exactly Darren Sproles back there.

Edge: Eagles

COACHING

It's hard to imagine a month ago we would be giving Doug Pederson the nod over a guy who ran the best offense in the NFL last season, but here we are. As the offensive coordinator in Atlanta, Kyle Shanahan was one of the primary reasons why the Falcons went to the Super Bowl last season — you can see how much he meant to that team now. Yet Shanahan is searching for his first win as a head coach, while Pederson is in the midst of a five-game winning streak and the Eagles are on fire. Sure, a talent discrepancy has a lot to do with it, but would you trade Pederson for Shanahan right now? Didn't think so.

Very slight edge: Eagles

OVERALL

There's a reason the 49ers are 0-7, and the Eagles are 6-1. These two teams are not particularly close, and that's reflected accurately by their records. When you consider that even in the areas where the talent is comparable, the Eagles are still superior every time, it's difficult to imagine a way in which San Francisco could even pull off the upset. It would likely take a total meltdown at home by the Eagles for that to happen, which seems impossible the way they're playing right now.

Very distinct edge: Eagles

The Roots rocked, peak Pederson, and marvelous Merrill

The Roots rocked, peak Pederson, and marvelous Merrill

The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl.

Again, that's really fun to type. And there was so much fun to be had on Sunday when the Birds beat up on the Vikings to win the NFC Championship.

In the spirit of truly having a blast watching yesterday's game and partying on Broad Street after, here's some of the killer content the Eagles shared on their social media. Their social team was as red hot as Nick Foles. Tough to beat good access. This stuff is just fun to relive.

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Doug Pederson's postgame speech. The look on his face after he says it! Goosebumps.

The Roots! Many fans at home were bummed that the FOX telecast did not show The Roots halftime performance. Thankfully, you can watch it in full below. It ends with a fantastic rendition of the Eagles' fight song.

The Merrill Reese Cam. Needs no description.

Nick Foles just one more thing Chip Kelly got wrong

Nick Foles just one more thing Chip Kelly got wrong

Imagine having ever doubted Nick Foles. Well, OK, that puts you in a group with roughly 99 percent of the general public. But imagine having ever traded Foles away, thinking he wasn’t good enough to get the Eagles to the Super Bowl.

There are a select few talent evaluators on the face of this earth who have gone so far as to actually get rid of Foles, and just one man who swapped him for another quarterback. Take a bow, Chip Kelly. Your brief tenure as coach of the Eagles and even briefer stint as personnel czar only continue to look worse with time.

It’s not news Kelly was a failure as an NFL head coach or that his one year as the Eagles’ general manager was disastrous. Fans had to relive one mistake after another as vice president of football operations Howie Roseman spent the last two years undoing the damage, move by move.

Yet, little else was thought of Kelly’s call to send Foles packing, until now. To the contrary, it was one of the few decisions where the disgraced coach appeared justified. It took Foles less than one season to flame out with the Rams and wind up a journeyman backup. Anybody who thought it might be a bad idea at the time had no room to talk.

Now that Foles has done his part to guide the Eagles to a conference championship, it’s time to revisit that decision. And at the time Kelly traded Foles, he had a 14-4 record in his previous 18 starts. He had set an NFL record with a 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2013 (since broken by Tom Brady). He walked off the field with the lead in a wild-card playoff game.

Maybe Foles was a victim of playing behind a patchwork offensive line in 2014 when he turned the ball over 13 times in eight games and suffered a season-ending injury. Maybe he seemed like a flash in the pan with the Rams because there was no talent around him in an offense that finished no better than 21st in the league from 2007 to 2016.

Maybe Foles has been pretty good all along, and Kelly and all the doubters were simply wrong. Actually, that’s a fact.

Not only did Kelly send Foles packing, he dealt him for Sam Bradford, who, ironically, was sitting on the opposite sideline in the NFC Championship Game. Bradford may, in fact, be more talented but was coming off consecutive ACL tears and hadn’t played competitive football in nearly two years. Bradford, who was on the Vikings’ sideline because he got hurt again.

It wasn’t even Foles for Bradford straight-up. Kelly agreed to send second- and fourth-round draft picks in the deal, too, getting only a fifth in return. Like almost all of his moves, this has not aged well.

Kelly traded a potential franchise quarterback, a guy who had won him a lot of games, who looked like he could win in the postseason. A perfectly safe, reliable option, if not exactly oozing greatness — all for a glorified lottery ticket.

Bradford was fine. If he could stay healthy, he would probably prove, like Foles, he never had a shot while playing for those awful Rams teams.

But was Bradford worth the gamble? Opinions were mixed at the time, but that’s because, like Kelly, there were a lot of folks who were ready to give up on Foles. Three years later, it was just one more needless, horrendous decision.

Fortunately, the universe has a way of correcting itself sometimes. Or maybe that’s just Roseman hard at work, the other enormous mistake in Kelly’s NFL tenure that went largely glossed over. Whatever. The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl, with Foles at the helm, and Kelly is back to coaching college football — which is the way it always should’ve been.