This Sunday's game in Philadelphia will go lengths in telling us what Alex Smith is capable of doing as the starting quarterback of this 49er team. The conditions in Philly will be less than ideal, and the Eagles defense is always one of the tougher ones in the league.
Oh yeah, the 49ers are also fighting for what slim hopes they have at still sneaking into the playoffs. All these things add up to make for a tough match-up for Alex Smith, and I think this is the game that could ultimately decide his fate as the Niners plan for next year. The final two games on the 49ers schedule are relative cakewalks, as they finish up with St. Louis and Detroit, so I don't think the Niner coaches and management will be taking those games into account too much as it regards to Alex Smith and the offense. That leaves this game in Philly as sort of the final, real tough test for Alex Smith in 2009. So far, I think he's done enough to warrant being named the 2010 starter right now, and he can put the icing on the cake if he can go out and play respectably vs. Philly and carry the offense vs. an above-average defense. I'm not saying he necessarily has to win this game, as the Niners aren't up to par with the Eagles quite yet, but I do think the 49ers should play them tough, and at least give themselves a shot entering the 4th quarter.
If the Niners are going to pull off the upset, their going to have to do what they did against Arizona and hassle the heck out of Donavan McNabb. The Eagles are a rare offense in which they have almost become one-dimensional, but they are still extremely productive. They put up 45 points vs. the Giants last week, who had one of the top defenses in the league last year, and they only rushed for 77 yards in the game. A big reason for their rushing struggles is because they've been without Brian Westbrook (concussion), their best offensive weapon. Still, the 49ers secondary is a little thin right now, and the Eagles have about 5 receivers who Donavan McNabb feels comfortable with, and all of the Eagles wideouts can run. So if McNabb has time, he's going to pick the Niners secondary apart. Keep an eye on Ahmad Brooks, who's coming off his best day as a pro (3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles vs. Arizona last week) as he's been one of the teams most consistent pass rushers over the last few games. Even with the Niners riding the confidence of that big win over Arizona last week, I still think the Eagles, in Philadelphia, are going to be a little too much to handle, but it will be a good one. Eagles win 27-23.
Shark Talk: I know we call ourselves a Bay Area sports blog, and are supposed to be covering all major sports happenings in the Bay Area, we don't quite get to the Sharks to often as there just seems to be so many other things going on. And as much as I enjoy playing, and respect hockey, I don't think it quite has the following here in the Bay Area that it does in other regions of the country. We still will try out best to get into some Shark talk though and go over some of the more interesting NHL lines as they come. Right now the Sharks are atop the Pacific with a 20-8 record and a Western Conference leading 115 goals!