After they both won their respective Divisional Round games this weekend, the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers meet in the NFC Championship on Sunday. The Eagles drubbed the New York Giants, 38-7, on Saturday, while the 49ers snuck out a 19-12 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
The two teams have essentially been on a collision course all season as the two top teams in the NFC. It is tough to see a weakness with either squad, but that doesn't mean they don't have ones to exploit. The only time these teams met in the playoffs was a forgettable one for the Eagles, as they lost 14-0 in a 1996 wild card game. It was and still is, the only time Philadelphia has been shut out in the postseason. The clubs were the only two teams to rank in the top five in both offense and defense; the Eagles were the number two defense and number three offense. The 49ers were the the number one defense and number five offense.
Date: Sunday, January 30
Start Time: 3:00 EST
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Stadium: Lincoln Financial Field
TV Info: FOX
Eagles Offensive Line vs. 49ers Defensive Line
When you have the top defense and a top three offense facing off, the game will be won in the trenches. The San Francisco defense is led by first-time All-Pro edge rusher Nick Bosa and two-time All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner. That defense will be gunning for first-year Pro Bowler Jalen Hurts behind an extremely tough offensive line that is once again at full strength. After missing the Eagles' last two regular season games, Lane Johnson was back against the Giants in the divisional round. Johnson, who is the best right tackle in the league, was fighting through a groin injury. But the fierce competitor in him allowed he and the Eagles to bully the Giants' defensive line.
Now, the 10-year veteran will be trying to stop the future NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Bosa from getting to Hurts. Bosa recorded 18.5 sacks and 48 quarterback hits during the season. However, the first-time All-Pro edge rusher was held in check last week by Cowboys' tackle Tyron Smith. Bosa finished with just two total tackles and one quarterback hit. If he thought Smith was tough, Johnson is gonna be another whole beast to tame. The right tackle hasn't allowed a sack since 2020. It is tough for a game wrecker like Bosa to be kept in check for two weeks in a row. But if anyone can do it, it is Johnson.
The other protectors of Hurts are center Jason Kelce, an absolute dynamite blocker and future Hall of Famer, bulldozing left tackle Jordan Mailata, left guard Landon Dickerson, and right guard Isaac Seumalo. Kelce also hasn't allowed many QB hits or sacks at all for the last two-plus seasons. Kelce, Dickerson, and Johnson were all voted into the Pro Bowl this season, but are looking to avoid going of course. According to ESPN Analytics, the Eagles were ranked second in run block win rate and 12th for pass block win rate. But Hurts were also sacked 38 times this season and only seven quarterbacks in the NFL were sacked more. San Francisco has a very dominant defense, as mentioned, and once they are able to get a hand on the runner they don't let them go. They only gave up 58 yards after contact per game during the regular season. This game will be won in the trenches and rightfully so when you have two top tier lines on both sides of the ball facing off.
Nick Sirianni/Shane Steichen vs. Kyle Shanahan
When it comes to winning big games, coaching and play calling are as important as ever. Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni may not be calling plays, specifically, as that duty goes to offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. But that doesn't mean that the high-energy coach doesn't have a say in how aggressive they are. All season, the Eagles have had the tendency to often go for it on fourth down. They went for it 32 times and converted it 22 of those times in the regular season, both of which were fourth in the NFL.
On the other hand, Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers haven't been nearly as aggressive. They have gone for it just 17 times and converted seven of them. Shanahan might have Sirianni beat out in experience, as he was an offensive coordinator or head coach since before the latter was in the NFL. This will be the former's ninth playoff game as a head coach. But experience doesn't always translate to having the upper hand in the coaching aspect of a playoff. Shanahan is one of the worst time managers in the league, almost like he gets gun shy after being the OC on the Falcons during the worst playoff choke job of all-time in Super Bowl 51. He waits way too long to use timeouts and is excessively conservative; this is the complete opposite of what Sirianni is. The fact that San Francisco so narrowly escaped with a win over the Cowboys had a lot to do with the decisions Shanahan made, most notably towards the end of the game.
Eagles Playmakers vs. 49ers defense
The 49ers might have the best defense in the NFL, but they haven't faced such a balanced offense like the Eagles in some time. They have rushed the ball an average of 32 times per game, nearly the same amount that they have passed it. Last week against the Giants, Philadelphia ran for 268 yards on 44 carries, including 112 yards from Kenneth Gainwell and 90 yards from Miles Sanders. Gainwell and Boston Scott each had a touchdown, along with Hurts who added 34 yards on nine runs. The thing with this Eagles' offense and Hurts is that when the second-year starter runs it's by choice. There are rarely any times that he will have to run for his life which is a testament to the aforementioned offensive line.
Designed runs are made for Hurts and create something extra for the opposing defense to account for. The 49ers have struggled when facing running quarterbacks and the only one they have faced who is even close to Hurts is Justin Fields. That was in Week 1, when Fields hadn't been close to the player he wound up becoming by season's end.
The Niners also struggle against short yardage running teams, and the Eagles do a lot of that. Specifically, on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 situations they do their "sneak" that really isn't a sneak as much as it is a push. Everyone in the entire world knows it's coming, yet they have been successful on it over 90 percent of the time this season. All of that is without even mentioning any of the weapons at the disposal of Hurts. First, you've got A.J. Brown who didn't have the best game last week but comes into this one extra motivated. He's been a stud for Hurts all season since the Eagles traded for him during the 2022 Draft. Then there's DeVonta Smith, a second-year receiver who is certainly not "too small" for the NFL. He and Brown have been one of the best receiving duos in the league this season.
Tight end Dallas Goedert is another problem, and the tight end battle in this one will be a fun one with George Kittle on the other side. The 49ers are a team that can get beat deep, as they have given up catches of at least 46 yards in each of their last five games. The 49ers have played seven one score games, and in five of them an opposing receiver had a big game. CeeDee Lamb had his third most yards this season in the Divisional Round last week with 117 yards. Brown or Smith could be bound for a big day at The Linc. Since the 49ers are so susceptable to the deep ball, the Eagles probably won't rely too heavily on the run game early. Especially with the 49er defense being so dominant.
Points Spread: SF +2.5| PHI -2.5
Moneyline: SF (+132) | PHI (-156)
Over/Under: O 46.5 (-104) | U 46.5 (-118)
This game has bounced between Eagles -1.5 and -2.5 and the better route to go is to just roll with the Eagles straight up. This game could easily be as close as one point and taking the Eagles outright is the much less sweaty option. The 49ers aren't great on the road and haven't faced a raucous crowd like the Philly faithful all season. In fact, San Francisco hasn't played many road games at all of late. They have only played three true road games in the final 11 regular season games. The Niners were 10-2 ATS at home/neutral site, but just 3-4 ATS on the road, with three of their four losses coming away from Santa Clara. The crowd noise will get to Brock Purdy and he will make mistakes against the Eagles solid defense. The Eagles will give the tough Niners defense just a little too much to handle.
Prediction: Eagles 24, 49ers 23