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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 â€” 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

Watch Jalen Mills pregame hype speech in Dallas

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Watch Jalen Mills pregame hype speech in Dallas

Sunday Night Football. The Eagles vs. the Cowboys. This is what football fans in Philadelphia live for.

It doesn't take a whole lot to get Philly fans fired up for an NFC East rivalry game down in Dallas at AT&T Stadium but this video of the Birds' players getting hyped themselves should do the trick.

Jalen Mills, who has stepped up nicely in a leadership role this season, took center stage to fire his team up. NSFW languange. 

Let's go #BirdGang.

Mills was also rocking a sweet new Gang Green t-shirt the defense had made. More on those here.

Sixers' future is now, but maybe not quite there yet

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USA Today Images

Sixers' future is now, but maybe not quite there yet

Wow, was that first half against the Golden State Warriors fun Saturday night or what? Going into the break up 22, with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons dominating, Robert Covington and JJ Redick hitting from everywhere and the Warriors playing at least marginally shook, looking like a team woefully underprepared for a fully weaponized Sixers squad. It was absolutely stunning seeing it all come together, since as good as the Sixers had been through 14 games so far this year, they'd still never played a full game this season with both their shooters hitting and their stars locked in. 

And they still haven't. As second quarter gave way to third, can't say for certain if the Warriors' switch was flipped, but something definitely was. All of a sudden, the paint closed off for Embiid and Simmons, Covington started clanking and trying to defend the Warriors was as fruitless as trying to save a soup with a hole torn in the takeaway carton. Philly's 22-point lead turned into a 10-point deficit, and it wasn't coming back. Final score: 124-116, Warriors. 

Once this one really got outta control — in a bad way — you kinda just had to laugh about it. The Sixers' first-half steamrolling was head-smackingly unsustainable, but to see everything good about their performance dissolve so fully and so quickly, there was nothing really to say: You just had to recall fondly how hilariously beautiful those first 24 minutes were, and know that someday we'll get a performance like that from the Liberty Ballers that extends all 48. Maybe even against these Warriors, who probably weren't gonna lose to both the present and the future of the Eastern Conference in back-to-back outings. 

As much fun as it would've been for the Sixers to jump their timeline about two seasons in one night, they're not there yet. Half their bench is out, for one thing, including that guy Markelle Fultz who should still be an enormous difference-maker for Brett Brown's crew if he ever gets his head (and his shoulders) straight. And though Simmons and Embiid already both show flashes of "Oh My God They've Figured It Out" and "We're All Doomed" with absurd frequency, to expect them to have totally solved the NBA with 59 games of Association experience between them is not terribly realistic. The team's turned a corner this season, no doubt, but there's still a lot of corners left in that treehouse for them to investigate. 

The good news? The Sixers are staying at home for a while now — after playing 10 of their first 14 on the road, they're now in the midst of eight of nine in South Philly — with challenging, but mostly winnable games coming up, including Monday night against the Utah Jazz. The Sixers are not ready to run the rest of the league off the court just yet, but they're ready to establish themselves as one of the decisively good teams, and hopefully, their home building as one of the league's obviously tough arenas. For a team where crisis forever lurks just below the surface, that would certainly be enough Process-to-Progress for one season.