The San Francisco 49ers return home under the bright lights of primetime to face the Philadelphia Eagles on "Sunday Night Football." There are a number of storylines between both clubs, as the Eagles seek their first win of the season and the 49ers aim to stay competitive amid a stacked NFC West.
But no other storyline trumps the number of injuries suffered between the clubs. Between both teams, 24 players have landed on the week's injury reports. The next-man-up philosophy will be key in which team comes up victorious on Sunday. Here are five things to watch for during Sunday's Week 4 matchup against the Eagles.
Depth Will Be Tested
The 49ers are certainly dealing with their share of injuries just three weeks into the season. Last week, San Francisco pulled off a decisive victory over the New York Giants without their starting quarterback, running back, tight end, center, wide receiver, linebacker, defensive tackle, both cornerbacks and both defensive ends.
Fortunately, the 49ers have relied on depth to rally the team through the first quarter of the season. The Eagles are in a similar boat. Philadelphia had 14 players listed on Thursday's injury report ahead of Sunday's showdown, including nine players who did not participate in practice.
The Eagles are already without top pass catchers Jalen Reagor (thumb) and Dallas Goedert (foot). Receivers J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (calf), John Hightower (illness), DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and Alshon Jeffery (foot) all missed multiple practices this week.
Defensively, starting right corner Avonte Maddox is working through an ankle injury. Depth pieces on both rosters are likely to be called upon to fill various voids on Sunday night.
Deebo Samuel's Debut
Speaking of players sidelined, the 49ers opened the season without their presumed No. 1 receiver. Deebo Samuel was placed on Injured Reserve to start the season while working his way back from a foot injury. The 49ers opened his practice window heading into Week 4 with the potential to activate the wideout prior to Sunday's contest.
According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, the plan is to evaluate the receiver during the week's practices prior to making a decision to activate him ahead of Sunday's matchup.
"He's healthy, so I just want to see him out there and get back in the swing of playing football," Shanahan said. "It's been a while since he has. I know he's been working hard on his own with our trainers and everyone else with rehab. But we just need to see him go through three days (of practice) and what type of shape he's in. And if he can protect himself, he'll be out there."
Samuel is coming off of a standout first year with the 49ers. In 2019, he registered 57 catches for 802 yards and three touchdowns while adding 159 yards on the ground and three rushing scores.
The Return of Kittle
The 49ers have been without their star tight end for the last two weeks as George Kittle has been working his way back from a knee injury suffered in the season opener. The tight end returned to practice in a limited capacity last week, as the team spent time in between their East Coast matchups in West Virginia. The team opted to hold Kittle out another week, before returning to Santa Clara as a full participant at practice.
He spoke with the media on Thursday with all signs pointing to a return in Week 4. Kittle's return comes as the 49ers are down a tight end with Jordan Reed likely to miss 6-8 weeks with an MCL sprain. The team announced on Wednesday they brought back Daniel Helm from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad to a one-year deal. Helm spent the majority of last season on the 49ers practice squad. He was waived by the 49ers prior to training camp before being claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Despite resulting in a tie, Philadelphia's defense is coming off of an impressive performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. Last Sunday, the Eagles defensive line sacked Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow eight times and notched 18 quarterback hits on the day. With an offense that's decimated with injuries, the pressure is on Philadelphia's defensive line to limit San Francisco with an encore performance in Week 4.
Through the first three weeks of the season, the 49ers offensive line has allowed 26 quarterback pressures, good for 13th in the league. They'll face off against a pass rush who ranks fifth in the league in win rate according to ESPN (51 percent), headlined by Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson and Brandon Graham, who have already accounted for double-digit pressures through three weeks.
The 49ers will appear in their first of five primetime games of the season in Week 4. The defending NFC Champs were awarded the max-allotted, five primetime games (four at home) in 2020. San Francisco has won their last two "Sunday Night Football" contests while outscoring their opponents 63-29. The team will also play on Sunday night in two of the 49ers next three contests. San Francisco is 11-6 at home during Sunday night matchups.