Three Reasons to Fear the 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers have the number one overall defense in the National Football League. They possess a rare mixture of strength and speed. The speed and physicality this defense plays with sticks out when you watch them. They have the potential to shut down any offense. Nick Bosa and Fred Warner are the two game wreckers on the Niners. If the Eagles can take Bosa out of the game and neutralize Warner, they will have a great shot at winning.
Let’s not forget about their run defense either. San Francisco’s run defense has been stout all year. They have only allowed 100 rushing yards five times all season (one game was the divisional round against Seattle). Three of those games were losses for the Niners. The fourth game was a 37-34 win over Vegas. Last week Dallas rushed for 76 yards in the loss.
San Francisco has weapons all over the field. This starts with Brock Purdy. He has made plays since he took the starting job and has shown he can use his legs to extend plays. The Eagles will need to keep him in the pocket. The other weapons are all over the field. Aiyuk, Kittle, McCaffrey, and Samuel are all to be feared. The most dangerous are Kittle, McCaffrey, and Samuel, who all have the potential to take it to the house on any play. Slowing down the talented 49ers playmakers will be a difficult but necessary task for the defense on Sunday.
Although the Eagles have some leftover experience from the Super Bowl team the 49ers have been to two of the last three NFC championship games. In 2019-20 they took down the Packers and last season they fell to the eventual Super Bowl Champions, Los Angels Rams. Once again the 49ers are in the NFC championship. This will be Kyle Shanahan’s third time coaching in this game. Sirianni has been great all year but this is the biggest game of his career. Since San Francisco has experience playing in this game don’t expect them to panic or give up all night long. This will be a hard fought game and the 49ers have more the recent experience playing in the NFC Championship or playing in this moment.
Three Reasons the Eagles Will Win
1. Offensive Line
The Eagles have the best offensive line in football. The Eagles O-Line is the best unit of any unit in the entire NFL. Not one other team has a respective position group as good as the Eagles offensive line. Hurts has been great all year behind this line. The Eagles line will have to be able to handle San Francisco’s front and pressures to give the Eagles a chance.
Even though the 49ers have a great run defense the Eagles still need to try and run the ball. If anything, the fact that teams who run for 100 yards tend to beat the Niners, means running should be a focus in the Eagles game plan. If Philly can use Hurts, Sanders, and a mix of Gainwell and Scott hopefully they can open up the San Francisco defense with the run game and then take shots down field.
2. Offensive Weapons
Just like the 49ers, Philadelphia has a plethora of weapons to choose from. Starting with 2nd team All Pro Jalen Hurts. Next, the Eagles have two thousand yard receivers in Brown and Smith. Last season against San Francisco (with Tennessee), Brown had 11 receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles should 100% be using tape from that game to see what worked for Brown. Smith also played against the 49ers last year, but only had 2 catches for 15 yards. Not that those stats will predict the stat lines on Sunday, it does show how each player performed against this Niners team last season. I expect both Brown and Smith to show up on the big stage Sunday night.
Then you add Dallas Goedert into the mix and the Eagles offense becomes unstoppable. Goedert adds a lot to this offense and we did not talk about his absence enough when he went down this season. Goedert takes the Eagles screen game to another level. Before his injury he led the league in YAC for TE’s. He is also a huge red zone threat and allows the Eagles to be creative in the red zone. Goedert lead the charge for the Eagles on the opening drive against the Giants and he will again be key in the Eagles offense.
3. Pressure/Coverage Combo
The final reason the Eagles win this game is the combo of their secondary and defensive line. Every secondary benefits from a line that gets to the quarterback. And every line benefits from a secondary that can cover. This combo allows the Eagles pass rush to get to the quarterback while only rushing four. Then when the defense brings pressure and forces the quarterback into a decision the secondary takes over and makes a play, like Bradberry against the Giants.
The Eagles defense set a franchise record and led the league in sacks with 70. They added five more against New York, bringing the season total to 75. When Dallas was able to put pressure on Purdy he struggled. Expect the Eagles defensive line to do the same and have Purdy scrambling all game.
1. Eagles will go down early
San Francisco will score quickly to take an early lead. But after that the Eagles will do what they do and take over. The defense will respond and stifle the 49ers offense. The Eagles offense will be too much in the end and San Francisco won’t be able to keep up.
2. Momentum Swinging Trick Play
I could see the Eagles pulling out a trick play this week. Sirianni had them lined up in two interesting formations during the divisional round, but didn’t end up doing anything out of them. Look for Sirianni to use a trick play to get the offense going. During the 2017 postseason a flea flicker in the NFC championship game and the Philly Special were two trick plays the Eagles pulled out. Will the Eagles add another iconic trick play to their history this Sunday?
3. Eagles Force Two Turnovers
This defense will come out ready to play behind 70,000 roaring Eagles fans. The crowd and the occasion will have this group fired, so look for the defense to force a few turnovers. Turnovers have been key to the Eagles success all year because they set the offense up with a short field. Forcing a rookie quarterback into mistakes is essential and the Eagles need to capitalize on his inexperience on the road in a massive game.
Final Prediction: Eagles: 31 49ers: 20
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