NFC Championship Preview: 49ers @ Eagles

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.

Previous Matchups

2021 Season:

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

Jimmy G leads Touchdown fiesta 

By David McDonnell 

Jimmy Garoppolo with his full complement of stars on offences all fit and healthy for the first time this season, served up a touchdown fiesta in Mexico against an under-performing Cardinals. 

It took until the start of the second quarter, until San Francisco got on the board when Jimmy Garoppolo found Brandon Aiyuk in the endzone for their first touchdown of the night. 

On the next 49ers drive Jimmy G then found George Kittle on another third down and the tight-end broke a tackle, before high-stepping into the endzone for a 39-yard touchdown. 

It wasn’t looking good for the Cardinals in Mexico but Colt McCoy found Greg Dortch who then torched the San Fran defenders on a big run into the redzone. The speedy wide receiver then brought play to the goal-line, where James Connor punched it in.

It left four points separating the sides and in hindsight it was as good as it got for Arizona who were playing a home fixture in Mexico. 

Deebo Samuel was having a quiet night until the start of the third quarter when he got a few upfield blocks and rushed for a 39-yard touchdown. 

The 49ers game plan was unpredictable as Kyle Shanahan used all his play-makers. At the end of the third quarter, Jimmy G read the blitz and found Aiyuk for a second touchdown. 

George Kittle also got his second of the night as the 49ers stretched their legs in the fourth. 

Arizona were falling off tackles, which is never a good look and such displays understandably put a lot of attention on head coaches. Kliff Kingsbury will be sweating coming home from Mexico and it won’t be from eating hot chilies but from the roasting his team got on prime time against a division rival.

Deebo steals the show 

By David McDonnell

The 49ers were on top for most of this episode of a NFC West rivalry that continues to grow with every meeting.

In the first quarter, running-back Jeff Wilson ran untouched from 32 yards for the opening touchdown of the game. 

Then in the second quarter came the score of the game, hold on, make that the score of Week 4. 

It was a show stealing-moment from Deebo Samuel. First he stretched up to catch a pass under pressure on the left side of the midfield and then he tore across the field, side-stepping would-be blockers with the majesty of a shuffle dancer, before sprinting into the right corner of the endzone for a sensational score.

Deebo was on form all night and by the end he had over 100 yards after the catch, which again outlines how dangerous he is in possession. 

By the end of the third quarter it was a five point game, when the Rams made a goal line stand. A Robbie Gould kick made it 9-17. A few minutes later Gould missed a kick to leave eight points between the sides with under eight minutes left. 

Matt Stafford was having a difficult night finding anyone other than Cooper Kupp who had 14 catches and Tyler Higbee who was prominent in the first half. This time however, second-year linebacker Talanoa Hufanga anticipated a quick throw for a pick-six. 

Hufanga has caught the eye a number of times this season as he continues to carve out a highly-regarded reputation as a smart no-nonsense linebacker. 

The game finished 9-24 for the home side, which saw the Rams finish the game without a touchdown, for only the fourth time in head coach’s Sean McVay’s head coaching career.