No. 1: 49ers can win the numbers game
One can argue games are won or lost in three key elements of the game: the red zone, third downs and in the penalty department.
Interestingly enough, San Francisco and Philadelphia are similar in two of those three spots, at least with just one week’s evidence in the books.
- Red-zone scoring
- 49ers: 2-of-2 (100 percent)
- Eagles: 3-of-3 (100 percent)
- Third-down defense
- 49ers: 4-of-15 (26.7 percent)
- Eagles: 3-of-14 (21.4 percent)
The Lions were able to score on all three of their red-zone appearances, albeit notably skewed by what happened late in the fourth quarter, while Philly managed touchdowns in all three red-zone appearances versus Atlanta.
But if we grant the 49ers will put up a tougher fight, offensively and defensively, than the Falcons, it’s possible to offset that to a small extent.
One area that shouldn’t be offset, though, is in the penalty department.
Teams with first-year head coaches often struggle against the little yellow flags, and the Eagles were penalized a whopping 14 times for 89 yards, resulting in four Falcons first downs. Meanwhile, the Niners were flagged seven times for 79 yards.
Not great from San Francisco’s perspective, but the general trend is still for first-year head coaches like the Eagles’ Nick Sirianni to have to deal with this being a problem for most of the year.
Probably not the same case for Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan.
If the 49ers let Philadelphia make its own mistakes, it’ll work perfectly in the Niners’ favor.