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Eagles-49ers scouting report

Recent history: The Eagles won at San Francisco on Oct. 12, 2008, 40-26. The 49ers lead the series, 17-10-1. OFFENSE

Alex Smith, who struggled early in the season, has turned it on lately and is looking to continue his recent success against the Eagles on Sunday. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Alex Smith, who struggled early in the season, has turned it on lately and is looking to continue his recent success against the Eagles on Sunday. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)Read more

Recent history: The Eagles won at San Francisco on Oct. 12, 2008, 40-26. The 49ers lead the series, 17-10-1.


Eagles: 360.2 yards per game (11th)

49ERS: 288.6 yards per game (27th)


Eagles: Donovan McNabb is playing some of the best football of his career. His 95.9 passer rating is the second-highest of his career. His 8.04 yards-per-attempt average and .613 completion percentage both are the third-highest. He doesn't run much anymore, but still is good at extending plays, giving receivers time to get open.

Niners: Benched and given up for dead, Alex Smith was given the starting job in October and has played OK. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is trying to cater to Smith's strengths, which is a lot of shotgun and a passing game that focuses on short- and intermediate-range routes. He gets the ball out quickly.


Running back

Eagles: FB Leonard Weaver's role has grown significantly as the Eagles have utilized him more and more as both a runner and pass-catcher out of one-back sets. He's had 47 touches in the last seven games after getting just 11 in the first six. He's averaging 6.8 yards per touch over the last seven games.

Niners: Frank Gore is a physical runner with good feet and excellent vision. He's been curiously underused much of the season, averaging less than 14 carries per game before his 25-carry, 167-yard performance Monday vs. Arizona. Gore has caught at least 43 passes each of the last 4 years.



Eagles: DeSean Jackson is averaging a league-best 18.9 yards per catch. He has nine 40-plus yard receptions, including six for TDs. Jeremy Maclin's expected absence will make it a little easier for the Niners to double-team Jackson, which should open the middle of the field for TE Brent Celek and slot man Jason Avant.

Niners: TE Vernon Davis is hitting his stride. A phenomenal physical specimen with excellent speed, he has a league-best 11 touchdown catches and leads all NFC tight ends with 815 receiving yards. Rookie WR Michael Crabtree is big (6-2, 215), strong and fast, but the rest of the WR corps is below average.


Offensive line

Eagles: This unit allowed only one sack vs. Giants and has given up just 10 in the last five games. Their consistency level continues to improve with each game. They've been a big part of the screen-game success and have spearheaded the offense's dramatic red-zone improvement.

Niners: The Niners have been without their best lineman, LT Joe Staley (knee), for the last six games, but there's a good chance he'll play. The rest of the line is serviceable. They have bulk inside with guards David Baas (330) and Chilo Rachal (315) and center Eric Heitmann (315) that they rely on in the running game.



Eagles: 320.1 yards per game (10th)

49ERS: 338.6 yards per game (18th)

Defensive line

Eagles: Niners like to spread out defenses, which potentially creates bigger run lanes for the explosive Frank Gore. DTs Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson could have trouble getting penetration vs. the Niners' interior big bodies. RE Trent Cole should have a pass-rushing advantage over LT Joe Staley.

Niners: Niners' base defense is a 3-4. Their front three of NT Aubrayo Franklin and DTs Justin Smith and Isaac Sopoaga all are solid run defenders on a unit that is third in the league in yards allowed per carry (3.7). Smith moves inside on passing downs. He leads the Niners in quarterback pressures (58) and QB hits (39).



Eagles: Akeem Jordan still isn't all the way back from his knee injury, and won't go back to WILL until he is. So Jordan likely will rotate in the middle with Jeremiah Trotter for the second straight week and Will Witherspoon will stay on the weak side. Niners likely will try to attack Trotter in the passing game.

Niners: ILBs Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes anchor a solid unit that has held opponents to 95 rushing yards a game. Willis, who made the Pro Bowl in both of his first two seasons, is a tackling machine who has registered 10 or more tackles in 34 of 45 starts. OLB Ahmad Brooks has provided a big boost to the pass rush.



Eagles: Safeties Quintin Mikell and Sean Jones both missed a ton of tackles last week and can't afford a repeat performance against a receiving corps that gets much of its yards after the catch. The Eagles are fourth in the league in interceptions (20), but didn't have any last week for only the third time this season.

Niners: The 49ers' numbers vs. the pass don't compute. They're 27th in the league in pass defense and 23rd in yards allowed per pass attempt (7.03), yet just one team has given up fewer touchdown passes (13). FS Dashon Goldson is a turnover-maker who has three picks and three forced fumbles.


Special teams

Eagles: PR DeSean Jackson, who has two returns for TDs and leads the league with a 17.8-yard average, is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. In the five games since KR Ellis Hobbs went down with a season-ending spine injury, the Eagles have averaged just 21.5 yards per KR.

Niners: Niners waived PR Allen Rossum and gave the job to Arnaz Battle, who is averaging 0.8 yards per return and had a fumble last week vs. Arizona. P Andy Lee is second in the league in punting (47.8), but has had 61 percent of his attempts returned; the Niners' 14th-ranked coverage unit may have to deal a lot with DeSean Jackson.


Key matchups

1. Eagles WR DeSean Jackson vs. Niners CB Shawntae Spencer: Jackson leads the league in yards per catch. Spencer did a pretty good job on Larry Fitzgerald last week with bracket help from a safety. Advantage: Eagles

2. Eagles FS Sean Jones vs. Niners TE Vernon Davis: Eagles have struggled vs. TEs all season, and there aren't many with the athleticism and speed of Davis, who has a league-high 11 touchdown catches. Advantage: Niners

3. Eagles LT Jason Peters vs. Niners OLB Ahmad Brooks: Brooks owns a pretty good combination of size and speed. He had three sacks and two forced fumbles vs. Arizona on Monday. Peters showed his '07 Pro Bowl form vs. Giants. Advantage: Eagles

Hot and not


Eagles: WR/PR DeSean Jackson. Had six catches for 178 yards last week, including one for a 60-yard TD. Also had a 72-yard PR for a TD.

Niners: LB Ahmad Brooks. Had three sacks and two forced fumbles in win over Arizona Monday. Has four sacks in the last two games.


Eagles: SS Quintin Mikell. Was flagged for three penalties and had a pair of costly missed tackles last week, including one on a 68-yard TD catch and run by Hakeem Nicks.

Niners: QB Alex Smith. Has a .578 completion percentage and a 5.9 yards-per-attempt average in the last four games.

Domowitch's prediction

Eagles 34, Niners 17