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
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (knee) has been activated off the IR and will be available for Sunday's game against the Seahawks. Coleman last played in Week 2 against the Jets, where he suffered a knee sprain that kept him out until now. It's anyone's guess as to who leads this backfield after head coach Kyle Shanahan pulled a fast one on us all last week. The best guess is that Coleman leads the backfield, with JaMycal Hasty mixing in as a change-of-pace option and Jerick McKinnon operating as the third-down back. Coleman and Hasty are probably the best plays of the bunch, though they're hard to look at as anything more than flex plays against Seattle.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green will face the Titans in Week 8 fresh off two of his best games of the season. Green has at least 80 receiving yards in two straight games and has seen 24 targets over the last couple of weeks. That's elite-level volume that he may not be able to sustain with Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins both playing great football, though it's clear that he and Joe Burrow are developing a strong connection. Tennessee struggles to defend opposing wide receivers, as they've surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. Green can be started as a high-end WR3 with upside for more.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray gets a seemingly tough matchup against the Bears in Week 8. Chicago has allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs but ranks 23rd in the NFL against the run. Murray has seen at least 10 touches in all but one game this season and could see some more opportunities in this one with the Saints down a couple of pass-catchers. Look for Murray to see around 10 touches again and check-in as an RB3 for Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow gets a middle-of-the-pack matchup against the Titans in Week 8. Burrow is coming off the best game of his young career, with 406 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one interception against Cleveland. Tennessee ranks 18th in fantasy points allowed to enemy passers, though they've allowed at least 250 passing yards and two touchdowns to each of the last three quarterbacks they've faced. Burrow is coming into this one hot with a full stable of weapons, so keep him in your lineups as a solid QB1.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) has been placed on the injured reserve. Edelman had surgery on his knee and is expected to miss at least the next three games, though head coach Bill Belichick seemed optimistic about the veteran receiver returning at some point. It's safe to drop Edelman in all formats. With starter N'Keal Harry (concussion) also out, the Patriots will have to turn to Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, and Gunner Olszewski for three-wide receiver sets. Meyers and Byrd can only be used by the most desperate of fantasy managers, as the matchup against Buffalo is tough.
New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (shoulder, toe) doesn't have an injury designation and will take the field heading into a tough matchup against the Buccaneers. Shepard was limited all week in practice after sustaining a turf toe injury in Week 7 against Philadelphia in addition to the shoulder ailment- though he's evidently shown the Giants enough to be confident in his health. It won't be an easy matchup for Shepard against Tampa Bay, as they've allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts. Still, Shepard's eight targets from Week 7 indicate that he'll be a big part of the offense moving forward. Look at him as a solid WR3 option in Week 8.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (shoulder) and wide receiver Scotty Miller (hip, groin) are both good to go for Sunday. Both Gronkowski and Miller were limited on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, though they have no injury designations after both were full participants on Friday. Without Chris Godwin (finger), both players could potentially see more looks in the passing game. Look at Gronkowski as a solid TE1 and Miller as a risky WR4 against the Giants Defense on Monday night.
New York Giants running back Devonta Freeman (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This was expected, as Freeman was not able to take the practice field all week. He suffered the injury during the Giants' Week 7 contest against the Eagles on Thursday night, though the added time didn't help him heal any quicker. The Giants will turn to Wayne Gallman- who looked good in spurts against Philadelphia- as their lead back. He'll get enough touches to be started as a flex option, though it's hard to envision him finding much success against Tampa's league-best run defense.
New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (knee) is out for a key Week 8 divisional clash against the Bills. There was a glimmer of hope on Thursday when Gilmore was able to get a limited practice session in, though Friday's DNP made his status for Sunday grim. New England doesn't have much depth behind last year's Defensive Player of the Year and is inconveniently about to face Stefon Diggs. Diggs was already a must-start based on his previous production and is now arguably a top-five wide receiver this week.
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said that running back Phillip Lindsay (concussion) will go for one more post-concussion evaluation on Saturday, but the team expects him to play in Week 8 against the Chargers, barring a setback in that test. It's bad news for Melvin Gordon, who will now share touches in the backfield with Lindsay, making him more of a low-end RB2/high-end RB3/flex. Lindsay was the better runner in Week 7, too, racking up 79 yards on nine carries. He's averaging just under five yards a carry and Gordon lost two costly fumbles against the Chiefs. Lindsay will be an RB3/flex option in PPR leagues if he can pass his final concussion test.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton (concussion) has been downgraded from doubtful to out for the Sunday night game against the division-rival Eagles in Week 8. This was the expectation all along after Dalton was unable to clear the concussion protocol or practice all week. Owner Jerry Jones thinks that the signal-caller will be ready to go for Week 9 against the Steelers, but we'll have to keep a close eye on his progress in the league's protocol. If he is available next week, he'd be a low-end QB2 against a tough Steelers Defense. Rookie Ben DiNucci will make his first career start against Philadelphia this Sunday, but he's also a low-end desperation QB2 in superflex leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Ryan Succop makes for a good play in a Week 8 matchup against the New York Giants. Succop has made at least five kicks in four straight games and has at least five extra points in two straight. There's no reason to doubt Tampa Bay's offense against the Giants, even though their defense has shown signs of improvement. Fire up Succop as a solid starting option this week.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense has been one of the best options for fantasy this year. They get their best matchup of the year in Week 8 against the Giants, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. The Giants' offensive line ranks dead-last in adjusted sack rate while Tampa Bay's defensive front ranks second in sack rate. This is a dream matchup for the Buccaneers' defense, so expect more than a few sacks and a couple of turnovers forced at the expense of Daniel Jones. The Buccaneers are probably going to be the highest-scoring defense of the week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski faces a semi-tough matchup in Week 8 against the Giants. Gronkowski has at least six targets and 50 yards receiving in each of his last three contests and has scored a touchdown in two straight games. The Giants are not the soft spot they used to be for tight ends- they've allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to the position. Still, Gronkowski is too hot to bench right now, especially with how thin the tight end position is for fantasy. He has a good chance of putting up top-12 numbers at his position in Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (calf) has been ruled out for Week 8's Sunday night matchup with the division-rival Cowboys. Jeffery still has yet to make his 2020 season debut and missed practice all week. The 30-year-old miss the start of the season after having offseason foot surgery, but the calf injury is what's holding him back of late. The oft-injured veteran might not even have much of a role once he finally does return, so he's not a very attractive stash in standard-sized leagues at this point. The Eagles will be getting tight end Dallas Goedert (ankle) and rookie receiver Jalen Reagor (thumb) back in Week 8 as well. Jeffery has become a fantasy afterthought.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Tyler Johnson will take the place of the injured Chris Godwin (finger) in Week 8 against the Giants. Johnson got the start in Week 5, playing a season-high 79 percent of the snaps and putting up a 4-61-0 line. With Brady currently rolling, it's fair to consider starting a player such as Johnson. There is some risk here, as the game script may tilt this towards a more run-heavy gameplan for the Buccaneers. Still, Johnson can be started by managers who are struggling with injuries or bye weeks.
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (ankle) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the division-rival Bills. Harris was a limited practice participant all week, so he should be able to suit up on Sunday against Buffalo, barring any setbacks. New England will need as much help as possible from their backfield this weekend with both receivers Julian Edelman (knee) and N'Keal Harry (concussion) out, but the Patriots crowded backfield and their stagnant offense are both big concerns for Harris' potential upside. Harris has seen double-digit carries in two of his three games this year, but he'll need positive game script to reach his ceiling this weekend, and that might be tough going against a strong Buffalo offense. With just two catches in three games as well, Harris is an uninspiring RB3/flex in this crowded backfield picture.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox (knee) and center Ryan Kelly (knee) are both questionable for Week 8 against the Lions. Alie-Cox didn't practice on Wednesday, but he was limited both Thursday and Friday. He sat out of the team's Week 6 game and rested up during the bye last week. The 27-year-old has a decent shot at playing this Sunday against Detroit, but his moment in the fantasy sun appears to have come and gone in 2020. Alie-Cox went over 100 yards receiving in Week 2 and scored in back-to-back games in Weeks 3 and 4, but he failed to haul in his only target in Week 5 when he was injured, and he's expected to take a back seat to Trey Burton moving forward.
Las Vegas Raiders rookie wide receiver Bryan Edwards (ankle, foot) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the Browns. Edwards was limited in practice all week, so he definitely has a chance to return for the first time since Week 3. The third-rounder has caught five of his six targets for 99 yards in the first three games of his career, but he won't carry any fantasy appeal if he returns to action against Cleveland, as rookie Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow and Nelson Agholor should operate in three-receiver sets this Sunday. The Browns are an enticing matchup for wideouts; they've allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to them this year. Edwards might be able to make a splash play if he's active, but you can't trust him in fantasy lineups.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II (concussion) has cleared the league's concussion protocol and is expected to play in Week 8 against the Saints. Robinson missed practice all week, making it seem unlikely on Friday that he would be able to suit up on Sunday. But it looks like fantasy managers can return him to their starting lineups for this weekend. Chicago's offense has been stagnant the last two weeks, though, which has limited A-Rob to nine receptions for 123 yards on 13 targets in that span. The Bears need to make their top receiver a bigger part of the game plan to get back in the win column, but the 27-year-old will be a WR2 for fantasy managers against New Orleans.