By Conor Perrett
The time has come for the NFL Conference Championship games, and in less than 24 hours we will know which two teams will meet in the Superbowl.
The first game on the schedule is in the NFC as the No. 1 and 2 seeds meet. The Eagles and 49ers have been the two most impressive teams on this side of the bracket, but they’ve both got here with different styles.
Now only one of these teams can represent the NFC in the main event in two weeks.
No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia has been the best team in the league for the majority of the season, with them being special on both sides of the ball.
On offence, Jalen Hurts was in the MVP conversation before his injury, while their defence may just be the second best in the league to the team they will be facing at 8.00 pm tonight (GMT).
What this game might be influenced by is the health of these players.
Towards the end of the year injuries were starting to add up and it was getting a bit worrying after Hurts and left-tackle Lane Johnson both went down. They’ve had a few weeks to rest, but we don’t really know where Philly stands currently.
The Eagles dispatched of the Giants easily last week with a highly- impressive performance, but it was against a team they had beaten twice already and the weakest remaining team in the playoffs.
What we do know is this team will look to come out the blocks fast and if they can play anywhere near to how they were in the first half of the season, Philadelphia may well find themselves in the Super Bowl.
Matchup to keep an eye on – Stopping the 49ers’ run game: If there has been one weakness to the Eagles all year it’s been their run defence. Their defensive-line is stacked with talent, but stopping interior runs has been a problem. It just so happens that this is the Niners strength, with them taking a focus to the run game. While on paper Philly has more talent on that side of the trenches, stopping the run and forcing Brock Purdy to throw into a tough secondary will be the game plan for this Eagles’ defence.
No. 2 San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan has come from a family famous for its NFL coaching and it’s led to him being one of the best offensive play-callers in the league.
Alongside General Manager John Lynch, they have built a team in San Francisco that is strong of both sides of the ball. But on the offence side where Shanahan specialises, his style has allowed for them to get this far despite starting a quarterback that was taken last at pick 262 in the NFL Draft just nine months ago.
Brock Purdy stepped into this offence when previous starters Trey Lance and Jimmy G went down with injuries and hasn’t looked back since. With an array of weapons that includes Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey and many more, the Niners play-action focused playing style makes them a tough team to stop.
Last week against the Cowboys we saw this team take on a top defence and still come through unscathed. Now, they will have to do it again, but they won’t have the luxury of facing an inconsistent offence this time round.
Matchup to keep an eye on – 49ers’D-Line vs Philly’s O-Line: Both of these positioned groups are regarded as their best respected positional groups in the league. San Fran has talent all over the line including potential DPOY Nick Bosa, while the Eagles have two players in Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson who may just be the two best offensive linemen in the league. This battle in the trenches will be a brawl all night long in the run and passing game, and the winner may just determine the outcome of the game.
Hurts’ mobility is what makes his offence so electric and if the 49ers’ feisty defensive-line can pressure him, it could be a recipe to success.
Week 2 – 49ers @ Eagles, 17-11 49ers Win
These two teams last met during Week 2 of last season, in the exact same destination of the Conference Championship. Despite this, both teams looked a lot different with this being the start of a three-game losing streak for Philadelphia. They were in their first year under head-coach Nick Sirianni, while the Niners had Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting QB.
NFC Championship Game Prediction
As you can see I have laid out why both of these teams have gotten this far and why this matchup is so close.
The Eagles have been the most dominant team all year long, while on the other hand the Niners are the hottest team down the stretch. With the game being in Philadelphia I think the crowd will play a part with its noise and is a reason why the Eagles are considered 2.5 points favourites.
I feel this game could be a bit like the Niners and Cowboys game last week with it being a battle of the defences and fairly low scoring. Both teams have very few weaknesses, but if I had to look at where something could be taken advantage of, it’s Philly’s run defence. I fear this may be the game where Purdy will look like the seventh-round rookie he is, but the Niners run the ball so well.
In the end I’m going to back the Niners who I predicted to win the Super Bowl, but Philly will take this to over-time where it will be a classic of a game.
49ers 21-18 Eagles