2022 NFC Championship Preview: San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles
Another great week of playoff football has come and gone and now, just four teams remain in the hunt for the Lombardi trophy. But before we get to that stage, we still have two games to decide who will be representing each conference. Let’s kick things off in the NFC, with the San Francisco 49ers traveling to Philadelphia to take on the top-seeded Eagles.
It’s a highly anticipated matchup that analysts have talked about for months on end as a potential NFC Championship clash. Months later, here we are with that very said matchup.
With all that in mind, let’s go over some ways each team can win this game and predict who will be playing in Super Bowl LVII.
What to know:
San Francisco 49ers (13-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (14-3)
Sunday, Jan. 29, 3:00 p.m. ET on Fox
Spread: Phi -2.5; Over/Under 45.5
How the 49ers can win
- Dominate time of possession
The Eagles are a team who have not lost a lot of games — only three to be exact. But in those three defeats, there was a clear path to beating this Philadelphia squad: Dominate the time of possession. In the Eagles’ losses to the Commanders and Saints, both teams did a great job winning on the ground and milking drives out for as long as possible.
Getting into a shootout will probably not bode well against this Eagles team, so the best or easiest way to limit this offense is to have the ball for extended periods. Doing this also tires out the Eagles’ defense, allowing opposing teams to open up the rest of the offense.
In short, let Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell feast, while doing your best to make the scoring drives take as long as possible. Because if you allow this Eagles offense to get into an early rhythm, you put yourself in quite the hole.
2. The Shanahan scheme
I don’t think it’s an overreaction right now to say that Kyle Shanahan is one the brightest offensive minds we have in the NFL currently. His ability to scheme different players open is truly second to none and is proven by the explosiveness this offense has shown under three different quarterbacks.
With the weapons he has at his disposal, he surely feels like a kid in the candy store. Any given week you can’t truly know who is going to be one to give you problems. One week it’s McCaffrey, next it’s Deebo Samuel, then Brandon Aiyuk, and then George Kittle comes in and re-establishes himself as one of the best tight ends in the league.
Shanahan and this Niners squad will certainly be the biggest test for the Eagles this season. And I’m sure Shanahan right now is in some room drawing up a scheme that puts San Francisco in the best position to win.
3. This defense is actually insane
Listen, I could do an entire blog on how dominant the Niners defense has been this season. But at this point, we all know the effect this unit can have for the team. At all levels, there are playmakers, including Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, and the emerging star, Talanoa Hufanga.
All of these guys have the potential to change the outcome of a game. If the Niners want to make another journey to the Super Bowl, they are going to likely need big games from a couple of these guys.
This is a huge test for both of these units. Power meets power, Tyson vs. Ali. Two heavyweights who will attempt to impose their will on the other. The question becomes, is this Niners defense up to the task?
How the Eagles can win
- Use Jalen Hurts and his legs
For how dominant the Niners’ defense has been for the last few years, there is one thing they struggle with: Containing running quarterbacks.
With how dominate this defensive line is, you would think that’s not the case. But when constantly giving your all to go after the guy under center, you open up potential running lanes for the quarterback to escape through.
This year, the Niners haven’t really been tested with a scrambling quarterback. They had Justin Fields in that Week 1 monsoon game, so I’m not really counting that. But for the most part, San Francisco has avoided having to go against rushing-oriented quarterbacks.
It will be interesting to see how the Niners gameplan for Jalen Hurts and his legs, but If I’m the Eagles, I’m using the one thing that could be a potential weakness for this vaunted defense. The threat of a running quarterback forces edge rushers to respect the fact that they can run and therefore aren’t as focused on actually getting the sack.
Overall, using Hurts and his legs should help a ton in countering this pass rush and should help the Eagles create more big plays downfield.
2. The Eagles have a historic defensive line
When looking at the 2018 Super Bowl champion Eagles roster and this current one, you may notice one similarity: the dominance of the defensive line. Howie Roseman loves using picks on fortifying the defensive line and having a constant rotation of guys that can make life for an opposing quarterback a living hell.
This year, the depth of this unit was put on full display. The Eagles became the first team in NFL history to have four guys with over 10 sacks.
There isn’t just one guy on this line who can beat you. You gameplan to stop Haason Reddick, fine, Javon Hargrave and Brandon Graham will simply go off. This Niners offensive line isn’t a slouch either, but they simply don’t have the firepower on that line to limit all these pass rushers.
Jonathan Gannon almost never blitzes and it’s pretty clear to see why. Why send extra rushers when you can send four and get to the quarterback just as easily? This defensive line is a multi-headed monster that will need to continue its dominance to rattle a young and inexperienced Brock Purdy.
3. Home field advantage
Now, usually in a championship game like this, home field isn’t as much of a factor as it usually is. Usually by this point you have experienced team, coaches and quarterbacks who are better equipped to deal with the hostility in an away atmosphere.
The big factor in this game is whether Purdy’s lack of experience hinders the Niners. He has absolutely played his tailed off and might have earned that starting job for at least the next season, but the fact is, the man has no playoff experience prior to this year and barely any experience in general.
Philadelphia is notorious for being a tough place to play. The fans are extremely passionate and show that passion by making communication very difficult for opposing teams. It’s very possible that the moment becomes too big for Purdy; the home field advantage becoming too much for him to deal with.
This is a young quarterback coming into a hostile stadium, and when those two things mix, it usually doesn’t bode well for said player. The Eagles are going to want to rattle Purdy early and often and throw off the rhythm of this explosive offense.
Well maybe I’m just being biased here again, but I’m taking the Eagles to win again. I think both teams are extremely close in talent on both sides of the ball, but I feel that the gap between Purdy and Hurts will be too much for the Niners to overcome.
This will be a close game; I am almost certain of it. But the edge the Eagles have at quarterback will, in my opinion, be enough to give them the slight edge.
Score Prediction: 24-21 Eagles
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