SAN FRANCISCO --Game day is here in this beautiful city under clear-blue skies and warm sunshine and the implications are very well established. Both the 2-2 Eagles and 0-4 49ers need wins. The NFC East just got a whole lot more difficult with wins posted by Washington and New York on Sunday. The Eagles are on the spot.
What will the team do to compensate for key losses in personnel (no Michael Vick, no Asante Samuel, no Riley Cooper) and what will the coaches do to off-set some of the 49ers' strengths -- an outstanding running game, a big-time tight end and a voracious defense -- and win tonight?
Some ideas ...
- I really want to see the Eagles get the ball into the hands of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Where is the three-step drop? Where is the bubble screen? What about the direct snaps to Jackson and even Maclin? Anything to put the football in their hands. It just doesn't make sense that those two players combined for 4 touches last week.
- One of the key matchups, of course, is the defense against tight end Vernon Davis. He is a great vertical threat who also makes plays catches short passes and turning those receptions into big gains. Moise Fokou starts at SAM and he has a chance to earn some trust with a strong performance tonight. Huge game for Fokou, but I think the Eagles will use a handful of defenders to contain Davis.
- It's interesting to think that Brian Westbrook will get extended playing time with the 49ers tonight. He could help teams as a third-down receiver, but in Frank Gore the 49ers already have one of the best receiving backs in the league. What is Westbrook's role tonight?
- I get it that it is a big game for Kevin Kolb tonight. The 49ers are going to come after him and, in the person of Patrick Willis, San Francisco's defense plays very fast and is physical. Kolb needs to get going early. The worst thing that can happen is that he takes hits and drops his eyes and loses confidence. It will be really telling to see what kind of early game plan the coaching staff puts together. Color me surprised if the Eagles do a lot of deep drops and risk Kolb taking shots in the pocket.
- I have seen so many Eagles fans here this weekend, it has been incredible. I was in line for breakfast and a guy walked up to me, recognized me and said he had lived in Delaware County but now was a San Francisco resident. I met a guy from Nova Scotia who made the trip to root on the Eagles. I expect a very loud and boisterous Eagles crowd for this game.
- The edge pass rush needs to make some plays tonight. Last week was too quiet. Trent Cole needs to step up and the combination of Juqua Parker and Brandon Graham must dominate. It appears, according to what Andy Reid said on Friday, that Parker is now the starter at left end, with both he and Graham sharing time.
- Ernie Sims must play well in coverage against Gore. If the Eagles take away Alex Smith's check-down safety net, the defense should have a big, big game.
- Look for rookie cornerback Trevard Lindley to play some tonight. The Eagles might want to use him in some press-coverage situations to try to take the 49ers receivers off of their timing routes.
- The challenges the offensive line have had have been well chronicled. We know the deal. I'm looking for early false starts and attention to detail tonight. Mike McGlynn has another 3-4 challenge as the 49ers are extremely tough inside.
- Chad Hall is going to play tonight and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a touch or two from the line of scrimmage. I still think Jackson is the guy on punt returns, and he is due for a big game in that department.
- Speaking of special teams, the coverage group has its hands full with Ted Ginn, Jr. He is healthy and playing, and when Ginn is on he is a game-breaking player. Big assignment for Bobby April's crew.
- There is minimal wind at Candlestick Park as I write this, an unusual thing for this stadium. Keeping an eye on the wind, just like last week ...