Eagles QB Donovan McNabb vs. 49ers defense
McNabb held a team meeting the day after the Eagles’ most recent loss. Although he probably will be without running back Brian Westbrook (ribs, ankle) in Week 6, McNabb is publicly invested in turning the season around this week, before the Eagles’ bye. Teammates expect him to be at his best against the league’s 19th-ranked pass defense. McNabb’s chest injury, a hindrance the past few weeks, seems better now. Don’t be surprised to see him try to run a little, since defenses no longer seem to be expecting it.
49ers QB J.T. O’Sullivan vs. Eagles pass defense
O’Sullivan was off to a strong start, but he has cooled down in the past two weeks. He has six interceptions on the season, and five of them have come in the past two weeks. The Eagles will try to pressure O’Sullivan into poor decisions. Free safety Brian Dawkins will try to deceive O’Sullivan with his coverage. O’Sullivan has been sacked a league-high 20 times, but the 49ers are tied for fourth in the league with 21 pass plays of more than 20 yards. San Francisco is hoping that O’Sullivan will be able to make the Eagles defense pay for its aggressiveness.
49ers RB Frank Gore vs. Eagles run defense
The Eagles like to blitz, and the 49ers want to slow down the pass rush with Gore. Philadelphia has done a good job defensively, especially against the run. They have allowed just 3.3 yards per rushing attempt. Gore is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He showed his versatility last week when he split out wide and ran a post pattern for a 16-yard touchdown. The 49ers will try to get the ball in Gore’s hands a lot.
49ers TE Vernon Davis vs. Eagles safeties and linebackers
Davis has been the forgotten man in the 49ers offense. He has just five catches this season, for 87 yards, and just two in the past four games. Davis and O’Sullivan have been spending time after practice working on their timing in an attempt to generate chemistry. That work has yet to pay off, but it is possible that the 49ers will make more of a concerted effort to get the ball to Davis in this week’s game. Opposing tight ends have 33 catches for 428 yards in five games against the Eagles this season. That’s 6.6 catches and 85.6 yards per game, so Davis might be busier Sunday.