Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan works on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) celebrates with Brandon Aiyuk during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The script has flipped in the nearly three years since the previous meeting between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.
The Niners left Philadelphia that day after a lopsided loss as a winless team in coach Kyle Shanahan's first season with a thin roster so battered by injuries they nearly had to play a tight end at tackle.
''That was a game I've tried to forget,'' Shanahan said this week. ''That was a very miserable game.''
The 49ers returned home with an 0-8 record, acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade the next day and have transformed into a power that went to the Super Bowl a year ago.
The Eagles (0-2-1) went on to win the Super Bowl that season but enter the rematch on Sunday against San Francisco (2-1) searching for answers to reverse their worst start to a season in more that two decades.
Quarterback Carson Wentz has the lowest passer rating in the NFL at 63.9 and has committed the most turnovers with seven on a team that has done little right since taking a 17-0 lead in the opener against Washington. They lost that game 27-17, were beaten handily by the Rams the next week and tied Cincinnati in Week 3 for the team's worst start since going 0-4 in 1999.
''Right now we're not a very good football team,'' coach Doug Pederson said. ''We're not very smart. We're shooting ourselves in the foot. We're leaving touchdowns on the field offensively, and we're just not executing.''
That was the 49ers situation after losing 33-10 to the Eagles on Oct. 29, 2017, to fall to 0-8 that season. They lost a half-dozen players to injuries that game, which almost forced tight end Garrett Celek to play tackle.
The Niners have dealt with a similar spate of injuries this season with Garoppolo, All-Pro tight end George Kittle, star cornerback Richard Sherman, 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa, running Raheem Mostert and No. 1 receiver Deebo Samuel among the key players to miss time this season.
Kittle and Samuel will be back this week, while Garoppolo will miss a second straight game. But the 49ers have shown they have the depth to handle it following back-to-back lopsided wins over the Jets and Giants with short-handed rosters.
''I think we're much deeper at every position,'' Kittle said. ''We're also way more mature. We had a lot of rookies and second-year guys playing then.''
DON'T BE FOOLED
Shanahan isn't focused on Wentz's early season struggles that have included poor decisions and bad accuracy that have led to far more mistakes than usual for a player who was in MVP contention three years ago. Shanahan figures it's only a matter of time until that player returns.
''We're coaching like we're playing against Carson Wentz, who is one of the better quarterbacks in this league,'' he said. ''He was the best player in the league the year they won the Super Bowl. I think he's done a lot of good things since. I know his numbers aren't great this year and I know a lot of people are saying things about him, but when I watched the film, I see Carson Wentz.''
GIVE MILES THE ROCK
Philadelphia's Miles Sanders has 190 yards rushing in two games, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. But he only ran the ball three times out of 15 offensive plays in overtime against Cincinnati. Pederson is prone to abandoning the run quickly, but he said Sanders was fatigued late in the game for the second straight week.
Sanders missed training camp with a hamstring injury. With Philadelphia's passing game struggling, leaning on Sanders is even more important. But the Eagles can't do that if he's tired in the second half. Boston Scott (3.7 yards per carry) and Corey Clement (3.0) haven't done much when they ran the ball.
''Coaches have a game plan and we put all our trust in the coaches,'' Sanders said. ''So whatever play is called in the huddle, I'm going to run it.''
With Garoppolo sidelined again because of an ankle injury, the Niners are in more than capable hands with Nick Mullens at quarterback. He threw for 343 yards and a touchdown last week and has 2,620 yards in his nine starts. Only Patrick Mahomes (2,810) and Andrew Luck (2,631) had more after nine starts.
''Nick's as good of a pro as we have in this building,'' tackle Mike McGlinchey said. ''He's always on his preparation. The way that his mind works and the way that he's able to think through the demands of our offense is as good as anybody.''
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has faced Shanahan's offense several times over the years so he's preparing his team against the scheme more than the players, especially with San Francisco dealing with several injuries.
''We really don't concern ourselves too much with their injuries. Everybody's dealing with that in the NFL,'' Schwartz said. ''I think the biggest thing there is their scheme has a long track record. ... Whether they have a running back that's started the season or a guy that's coming off the practice squad, it really doesn't change what they're trying to accomplish in the game.''
The Niners will have a new long snapper for the game after the team's second-longest tenured player, Kyle Nelson, was released. Nelson had several bad snaps last week, leading to the change. Taybor Pepper will take over the role this week.
Five Sleepers: Week 8
The Indianapolis Colts activated rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (leg) from Injured Reserve on Saturday and waived receiver Daurice Fountain in a corresponding move. Pittman played in three games before suffering his leg injury, which required surgery. The second-round selection out of USC caught nine of his 12 targets for 73 yards in his three games before being sidelined. The 23-year-old is a big-bodied receiver than can succeed on contested catches and in the red zone, and he should immediately return to a role alongside T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal. However, Indy's slow-paced, run-first offense hasn't had the kind of passing volume under quarterback Philip Rivers to make any one receiver particularly attractive in fantasy this year. But Pittman's upside makes him a must-stash in dynasty/keeper leagues, and he's worth a pickup in deeper leagues as well for depth.
The Philadelphia Eagles are expected to activate tight end Dallas Goedert (ankle) from Injured Reserve for the Sunday night game against the division-rival Cowboys, according to sources. It's a bit of a surprise, as most expected Goedert to return closer to Week 10, but apparently he impressed the coaches and medical staff during practice this week. The Eagles could choose to limit his snaps, especially after Richard Rodgers impressed in last week's win over the Giants, but the 25-year-old Goedert should at least be considered a low-end TE1 this weekend against a Cowboys Defense that hasn't really been able to stop much of anything this year. They've given up the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Goedert's return should also make Rodgers a less appealing tight end streamer.
The Philadelphia Eagles are activating rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor (thumb), offensive lineman Jason Peters, linebacker T.J. Edwards and safety Rudy Ford from Injured Reserve on Saturday. Reagor will return for the Sunday night game against the Cowboys for the first time since suffering a thumb injury in Week 2 that required surgery. The first-round pick should be a starter this weekend, but he'll be a risky flex option in deeper leagues because of the possibility that he has his snaps limited in his first game back. The matchup against Dallas is an excellent one, too, as the Cowboys have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to wideouts in 2020. Travis Fulgham still remains Philly's highest-upside pass-catcher, though.
The Denver Broncos Defense will face a rising young star in Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in their Week 8 divisional matchup. Herbert has 12 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 108.1 QB rating in five games, and the Broncos D has allowed a QB rating of 92.5 this year. They'll be looking to limit the big play after surrendering six passing plays of at least 16 yards to the Chiefs in Week 7. Entering Week 8, Denver's six takeaways were tied for 24th in the league, their three interceptions tied for 23rd and their minus-eight differential 31st. The Broncos have actually been decent at limiting big plays by their opponents this year despite not having their top playmakers available because of injury, but their lack of turnovers has made them a low-upside streaming unit for fantasy managers. They are tied for eighth in the league with 18 sacks, so perhaps they can get to Herbert early and often and force him into mistakes.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus never had a chance to deliver for fantasy managers in Week 7 against the Chiefs in snowy conditions. A week after being the hero with six made field goals against the Patriots, McManus made one field goal and went 1-for-2 on extra points. In a Broncos offense that has been below-average through six games in 2020, the 29-year-old's six field-goal performance in Week 6 is looking like an outlier. While there should be more opportunities against the division-rival Chargers this Sunday -- the Bolts allow the ninth-most fantasy points per game to opposing kickers -- McManus is merely a streaming consideration for those in 14-team leagues this weekend.
Denver Broncos rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam has emerged in the last two weeks as quarterback Drew Lock's favorite target. Okwuegbunam made his NFL debut in Week 6 when Noah Fant (ankle) was sidelined, and he led the squad in receiving last week, catching all seven of his targets for 60 yards. He has 13 targets the last two weeks, showing the chemistry that he has with Lock from their days at Missouri. However, Fant ran more routes than the rookie last week and is getting closer to full health, which could spell trouble for Albert O. The 22-year-old is certainly intriguing, but the presence of Fant will cap his upside. If receiver Tim Patrick (hamstring) doesn't play against the Chargers this Sunday, Okwuegbunam will be an upside TE2.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (ankle) was taken off the final Week 8 injury report and is good to go for Sunday's game against the division-rival Chargers. Fant was limited in practice on Wednesday, but he got in full practices both Thursday and Friday. The second-year tight end missed Week 6 because of the injury, but he returned last weekend and disappointed with a season-low three receptions for 38 yards. The good news is he was tied for the team lead with seven targets, but rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam out-produced him and has become a favorite target of quarterback Drew Lock. That's a concern, but Fant is getting closer to full health and could see a healthy amount of targets if receiver Tim Patrick (hamstring) can't play. The Chargers also allow the 11th-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, so Fant has clear top-10 tight end upside this week despite the emergence of Albert O.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is on a roll heading into a Week 8 matchup with the Giants. After a slow start to the season, Brady has now thrown for 1,454 passing yards with 15 touchdowns and just one interception in his last five contests. The Giants have been a pleasant surprise against opposing quarterbacks for fantasy this year, though they've slipped a bit, allowing at least 250 passing yards and two touchdowns to each of the last two signal-callers they've faced. Brady can be started as a solid QB1 against New York on Monday Night Football.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver K.J. Hamler returned last week after missing a month with a hamstring injury, but he didn't do much in the 43-16 blowout loss to the Chiefs, catching two of his three targets for 24 yards. He also ran the ball once for 10 yards. Hamler saw seven targets in the Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh, but he just hasn't been involved enough in Denver's spotty passing attack to warrant fantasy attention in any single-year fantasy formats. In his four games, the second-round pick has caught eight of his 15 targets for 102 yards. The Penn State alum could find himself in a bigger role this Sunday against the Chargers if Tim Patrick (hamstring) is ruled out, but even then he'd be a desperation dart throw as a flex in deep leagues.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy showed up on the team's Week 8 injury report with a shoulder injury, but he practiced in full all week and is good to go for Sunday against the Chargers. An impressive route-runner with very quick feet, Jeudy's potential hasn't manifested itself yet through six games. He's seen only 13 targets in the last three games combined and has just six catches over that span. Jeudy had two grabs for a season-low 20 yards in the blowout loss to Kansas City last week and has seen his fantasy stock drop considerably in recent weeks. The 21-year-old has been tough to trust as a flex in Denver's inconsistent offense, but he has rebound potential this week against the Chargers if Tim Patrick (hamstring) cannot play. Jeudy will be an upside WR3/flex if Patrick is inactive.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard will once again have an expanded role. With Joe Mixon (foot) out of the equation against the Titans, his second-straight absence, the veteran will serve as the top option out of the backfield against a Tennessee team looking to rebound from its first loss of the year. Bernard filled in admirably in Week 7 against the Cleveland Browns, finishing with 37 yards off 13 carries while also catching all five of his targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. Although Cincy's offensive line is banged up, Bernard should still be considered a starting option on Sunday, especially in PPR formats, as he may get plenty of looks from rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick (hamstring) missed practice all week but is considered questionable for Week 8 against the Chargers. Patrick has been the team's most reliable fantasy receiver so far in 2020 in what has been an inconsistent offense, seeing at least four targets in each game while going over 100 yards receiving in both Weeks 4 and 6. But a full week of missed practices doesn't bode well for his availability in this divisional matchup. As of right now, you should have other options in place. If Patrick is inactive, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and DaeSean Hamilton would likely be the team's top three receivers. Check back on Sunday for the official inactives to see if Patrick is suiting up.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (concussion) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the Chargers. Lindsay did not practice on Wednesday, but he got in limited action both Thursday and Friday, at least giving him a chance to be cleared before Sunday's game. The 26-year-old was more effective than Melvin Gordon in Week 7 against the Chiefs before suffering a head injury, toting the rock nine times for 79 yards (8.78 yards per attempt). He's sporting a 5.2 yard-per-carry average in 2020, but Lindsay can't shake the injury bug, playing in just one full game to this point. If he's active against the Bolts, he'll once again be sharing touches with Gordon, making him a risky RB3/flex for this weekend.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon II could see the lion's share of the backfield work in Week 8 against his former team, the Chargers, if backfield mate Phillip Lindsay (concussion) misses another game. Because of the volume he'd see in a revenge game if Lindsay is inactive, Gordon would have RB2 upside. The first-year Bronco ran the ball 17 times for 68 yards and a touchdown in the blowout loss to the Chiefs last week, but he also lost two costly fumbles. Gordon has a potential suspension still hanging over his head after a DUI arrest several weeks ago, but he should be available for this Sunday against L.A. If Lindsay plays, Gordon will be more of a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 for fantasy managers.
Buffalo Bills TE Lee Smith was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, Oct. 30.
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock just hasn't looked good since returning from a shoulder injury two weeks ago. In a 43-16 blowout loss to the division-rival Chiefs last weekend, Lock went 24-for-40 for only 254 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for the second straight week. He salvaged his stat line by rushing for a score. He'll face a Chargers Defense this Sunday that has given up the seventh-most fantasy points per game to signal-callers, but Lock just cannot be trusted to perform for fantasy managers in Denver's inconsistent offense. The second-year QB has yet to surpass 254 passing yards in a game this year and threw for just 189 yards in the Week 6 win over New England. He's a low-end QB2 for those in superflex leagues.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Le'Veon Bell will look to have a revenge game against the Jets in Week 8. Bell made his Chiefs debut in Week 7 and saw 33% of the backfield snaps behind rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Bell saw six carries in that span and picked up 39 yards, but was not targeted in the pass game. The Jets have allowed 105 yards per game and 45 yards receiving to opposing backs and Bell would certainly like to remind the Jets of what they've missed out on. Edwards-Helaire will continue to be the lead back for the Chiefs, but Bell could see increased action this action and beyond. Bell should be considered at RB3/flex option in Week 8 and beyond for now.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill is in a prime spot to put up big numbers in Week 8 against the Jets. The Jets Defense has struggled against wide receivers and is allowing 176 yards per game to pass catchers. Hill started a new touchdown streak in Week 7 and has now scored six of his first seven games this season. This game could wild with the Chief overpowering offense versus a winless Jets team, and the speedy receiver should be a big part of the game plan. Hill should be fired up as a WR1 Sunday.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Chris Thompson was activated off the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, Oct. 30.