This year’s NFC championship features two of the best teams in football, the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers. Both franchises are huge juggernauts in the NFL and seem to have no glaring weaknesses on either side of the ball. It should be a great game tomorrow, and with the skill so evenly matched, the game could very well be decided by whoever holds the final possession of the game. We’ve got two young QBs with very little playoff experience, so it’ll be very interesting to see who has more poise under the bright lights. Let’s break it down.
San Francisco 49ers
The red-hot 49ers trot into Philadelphia with their season in the hands of surprising Brock Purdy. The last pick in the 2022 draft has been anything but irrelevant, posting a sparkling 7–0 record in all of his career starts. He’s tossed for 14 touchdowns while only turning it over 2 times in his starts this year. The team has obviously taken a liking to Purdy, and it seems his leadership will be in the recipe for success for ‘Frisco. Mid-season acquisition Christian McCaffrey has established the ground game for the 49ers, and the best scoring defense in the league (16.4 PPG) has stifled the opposition. They are insanely stout, and the Eagles will probably get nothing going on the ground (49ers allowed 79 rushing yards per game on the season), but there is a slight blemish. Their ability to stop offenses when they go through the air has been subpar, as they rank 19th in the league in passing YPG. They are also a middle of the road team when it comes to sacks, and only got one off the Cowboys in their Divisional Round win. If the 49ers want to win, Purdy will most definitely have to show calmness and ability to perform under pressure. The young QB has almost no room for error, as we all know the Eagles will punish you on any mistake. He’s got one of the best coaches in the league to guide him, and so far the combo has been golden. He’ll have help in his 1–2 wideout punch of Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, while McCaffrey will try to ease some of the pressure on him by grinding it out on the ground against a mediocre Philly rushing defense (16th). A clean game from Purdy and pass defense just barely good enough to slow Hurts and the dynamite Eagles’ offense will be crucial to victory if the 49ers want to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
The home team also features a young QB in Jalen Hurts. The Oklahoma product has had a breakout campaign, tossing for over 3500 yards and owning a sweet 22–6 TD-INT ratio. RB Miles Sanders had a wonderful season as well, pushing for over 1200 rushing yards and 11 TDs on the season. Hurts and Sanders complement each other well, as they lead a top 5 rushing offense. The nasty receiver core of Philly makes opposing secondaries quiver, as they have to deal with both A.J Brown and Devonta Smith. The Eagles are known for being explosive, and rightfully so as they are 2nd in scoring offense, which detonated on the New York Giants last week in the 38–7 Divisional Round blowout. Their defensive advantage comes in the form of the best air defense in the league, holding opponents to the least amount of yards (175.9) and averaging the most sacks per game (4.2). The Eagles pass rush will meet a tough San Francisco O-line allowing a meager 5.62% sack percentage on the year. The battle in the trenches will be one to keep an eye on all night, as it could very well decide the outcome of this game. The Eagles recipe for success will rest on the shoulders of Hurts and the offense. Jalen will need to be smart on the field, and find a way to scramble for a couple of 1st downs against the 2nd best rushing defense in the country. The 49ers weakest link is in their secondary, and equipped with the weapons to sever it, Hurts can definitely expose it.
Both teams are insanely strong and it truly is anyone’s game. You could decide this game with a coin flip, they really do match each other punch for punch. While the 49ers run has been magical behind Brock Purdy this season, I believe Purdy’s Cinderella Story finds its end in Philly. The best passing defense in the country will find a way to fluster Purdy, and especially with his lack of experience, I don’t see how he can overcome this humongous challenge on the road. The kid’s got a bright future ahead of him, and the 49ers must already be happy with what he’s given them this season, but the Eagles will surely outmatch him. While the 49ers defense is crazy strong, especially on the ground, Hurts’ ability to make plays out of nothing and expose a mediocre San Francisco secondary will edge the Eagles to a victory in front of the home crowd. Inside, I’d love to see the underdog win and prove everyone, including me, wrong, but I seriously just don’t see it become reality. Give me the Eagles to edge out in a close one.