I will be the first to admit that I had Jalen Hurts as one of the lowest-rated quarterbacks in the league entering this season but it’s abundantly clear after Week One that Philadelphia’s coaching staff has done an excellent job preparing an offensive playbook that highlights his talent. Hurts went 27-for-35 for 264 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 32-6 win over the Falcons, and he added 62 rushing yards on seven carries. His 77% completion rate was 25 percentage points higher than his rookie average (52%).
64% of Hurts’ passing yards came after the catch, which illustrates how Philadelphia offensive coordinator Shane Steichen has designed an offensive scheme that maximizes his strengths. Philadelphia led the league in vertical routes run last year but Steichen smartly abandoned that approach and implemented an offense predicated on a quick passing game (Hurts was 35th among all quarterbacks last week with 3.7 intended air yards).
From a technical standpoint, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan is a money-burning 7-17-2 ATS as a favorite in regular-season affairs, including 1-8-1 ATS as a favorite of at least seven points. San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is just 6-10-2 ATS as a favorite and he will struggle to have success through the air against the Eagles secondary. Steven Nelson and Darius Slay faced 12 targets combined last week and conceded just one first down. Philadelphia’s defense did not allow a single pass play of 20 or more yards in Week 1 against the Falcons.
Garoppolo also faces one of the best defensive lines in the NFL behind Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. Philadelphia’s defense had a 33.3% pressure rate against the Falcons and should make Garoppolo uncomfortable in the pocket this afternoon. The Eagles are also familiar with Shanahan’s offensive system and finished first in success rate on outside zone runs last season.
Philadelphia rushed for 173 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt last week and should have similar success against a San Francisco front seven that allowed the Lions to average 4.8 yards per rush attempt in Week One. San Francisco defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw missed last week’s game and is listed as questionable for Sunday (Kinlaw returned to practice Thursday and Friday on a limited basis) and his absence would be a significant loss for the 49ers’ run defense.
San Francisco linebacker Dre Greenlaw suffered a groin injury that is expected to sideline him for about two months, while defensive lineman Arik Armstead (hip/adductor) and linebacker Marcell Harris (oblique) are both listed as questionable after missing practices and/or being limited participants this week.
San Francisco is also dealing with a cluster of injuries in its secondary as starting cornerback Jason Verrett is out with a torn ACL and Emmanuel Moseley is unlikely to play (listed as doubtful) for the second straight week with a knee injury. The injuries in the defensive backfield forced San Francisco to sign Dre Kirkpatrick, who ranked 55th out of all cornerbacks with just a 48% success rate last season. Kirkpatrick was tied for sixth among all defensive players in penalties while giving up the fourth-most first downs (39) last season.
Running back Raheem Mostert suffered a season-ending knee injury. Mostert was primed to have a huge season after running so well during training camp and earning the praise of his teammates. It’s hard to believe that San Francisco is once again dealing with a host of injuries that beset the team last year. The 49ers are coming off an injury-plagued 2020 season in which they at one point had players worth more than $80 million in salary-cap space on injured reserve.
Not including COVID absences, the 49ers had 161.6 adjusted games lost last season, which was the second-most behind the 2017 Bears. The loss of three starters in their season-opener begs the question of whether the 49ers will fall into a negative “here we go again” mentality. Finally, my math model makes this game a toss-up and Philadelphia has covered the point spread in each of its last five games as a home underdog. Grab the points with the Eagles as Oskeim’s Free Pick Winner for September 19.