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Eagles beat writers make their predictions for the 49ers game in Week 2

The Inquirer's beat writers indicate that the Eagles could pull off an upset against the 49ers.

Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (left) and cornerback Darius Slay (right) laughing during Sunday's victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (left) and cornerback Darius Slay (right) laughing during Sunday's victory over the Atlanta Falcons.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

The Eagles will play their home opener Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

Here are the game predictions from Eagles beat writers for Week 2:

Jeff McLane

It could be a battle of wills up front. The Eagles will meet their match on both sides of the line when the 49ers arrive Sunday at the Linc. Their defensive line is unlikely to have as many free passes as it did against the Falcons, and their offensive line will have to contend with one of the better front fours in the NFL. Jordan Mailata, fresh off a $60 million contract extension, will have his hands full with Nick Bosa.

Jalen Hurts may have to do a fair amount of scrambling. His wheels are an X factor. But he should have opportunities to push the ball downfield when given time in the pocket. Nick Sirianni unveiled some of his offense in Atlanta, but not all of it. He still has an element of surprise.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense is familiar, at least the pre-2021 version some teams are still copying. He’s smart enough to be one step ahead and have new concepts. But the precise zone-blocking, the marrying of the pass and run with play-action and the misdirection, are still hallmarks. Raheem Mostert may be out for the season, but rookie running back Elijah Mitchell appears to be the latest running back to benefit from Shanahan’s run calls.

But the biggest test for defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s unit will likely be tight end George Kittle. The Eagles had no one to cover him last season, when he caught 15 of 15 targets for 183 yards and a touchdown. It’ll again be a group effort, with probably a safety shaded in his direction. But that will leave receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk in one-on-one situations, and if Jimmy Garoppolo has time, Eagles corners could have a hard time holding up.

Before the season, I had Week 2 down as a sure loss. I’m not as certain now. I think Garappolo, even with a little Trey Lance sprinkled in, can be dealt with. But the Eagles had trouble stopping the run in Atlanta, and even though they turned it around in the second half, I have a feeling Shanahan will know how to exploit the linebackers at the second level.

Prediction: 49ers 27, Eagles 20

» READ MORE: Eagles win-loss predictions for the 2021 season | Jeff McLane

EJ Smith

The Eagles and the 49ers are both coming off Week 1 wins against presumably bad teams, making this game difficult to get a handle on.

San Francisco got out to an early lead against the Detroit Lions and fended off a late surge. The Niners ran for 131 yards and Deebo Samuel had 189 receiving yards, including 109 yards after the catch.

The 49ers are much better on both the offensive and defensive lines than the Falcons. The Eagles defensive front probably still has the advantage, but the 49ers pass rush, at least on paper, seems evenly matched with the Eagles offensive line. Jordan Mailata’s matchups against Nick Bosa will be an important test for the new left tackle of the present and future.

It’s easy to overreact to the Eagles’ success against Atlanta, but it’s also fair to point out the obvious: It’s all we have to go off of right now.

The Eagles answered plenty of questions last week; Nick Sirianni, Jalen Hurts, Jonathan Gannon, DeVonta Smith, and several other key figures left Atlanta with their arrows pointing up. The next question: Can they do it against tougher competition?

To do so, they’ll have to play better than they did in Atlanta. They’ll need to tackle better and clean up mental errors that caused false starts and encroachment penalties, and Hurts will likely be challenged to throw the ball downfield more accurately and more often as defenses adjust to Sirianni’s scheme.

Can they do it? I think so. The 49ers are a good team, and this game is likely a toss-up, but the Eagles have home-field advantage, healthy offensive and defensive lines, and Hurts coming off a promising game.

Prediction: Eagles 31, 49ers 27

Josh Tolentino

No team in the league rushed for more yards than the Eagles in Week 1. Quarterback Jalen Hurts and running backs Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell combined for 173 rushing yards, while Hurts had 264 passing yards and three touchdowns. The offensive line proved it was vastly underrated in preseason rankings. If the Eagles can control the trenches for a second consecutive week, establishing the run game could be the golden ticket to slowing down the 49ers pass rush.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense is complex, with plenty of moving pieces, but Eagles coach Nick Sirianni might still have some tricks up his own sleeve. He alluded to having “plenty more” in his offense’s cookbook following the Week 1 victory. So far, Sirianni’s base recipe for success has been to rely on the intermediate passing game and gush for extra yards on the ground. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has his hands full preparing for two quarterbacks in veteran Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance, but his multiple defensive fronts proved to be a headache for 36-year-old Matt Ryan. It helped that the Eagles needed to rush only four or five defenders and they were still able to create plenty of pressure. The 49ers generated the most points in the league in Week 1, but the Eagles defensive line is playing as if it has something to prove.

The Eagles are expected to have nearly 70,000 fans back inside Lincoln Financial Field. Those factors could equate to another upset.

Prediction: Eagles 24, 49ers 21