The Philadelphia Eagles made extremely (almost shockingly) easy pickings of the Giants last weekend, beating them 38-7 in a game that was just flat out non-competitive from the second it started. The Eagles went back to looking like the team from early Fall that was beating every team handily week in and week out, and that particular version of the Eagles is capable of beating any team in the NFL. They have one final obstacle to overcome in order to earn a return to the Super Bowl, and it is probably their toughest task of the season in the San Francisco 49ers, who have won 12 straight games.
This 49ers roster is loaded to the brim with talent. Offensively, they have three tackle-breaking, YAC-earning monsters at three different positions in Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle. Brandon Aiyuk has really come along as a great WR2, especially for a run-heavy offense, and they also have maybe the best left tackle in the NFL in Trent Williams. This team runs the ball extremely well (while utilizing several different players), and then uses it to open up the short to intermediate passing game, putting the aforementioned tackle-breakers in open space and daring your linebackers and defensive backs to tackle. The Eagles have had some instances this season where they tackled very poorly. They absolutely can not let this game be one of those games, because no one makes you pay for bad tackling more than San Francisco. The Niners are on their third starting quarterback of the season in Iowa State seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy, and he has quickly become the boy wonder of the league after starting his career with seven straight wins. Purdy is playing better right now than he ever did in college, a testament to Kyle Shanahan as well as his supporting cast, but he gets paranoid in the pocket and has gotten lucky in the playoffs that a few bad throws were not intercepted. The Eagles defensive line generating consistent pressure on Purdy so that he can’t hit his pass-catchers in stride is paramount to containing this offense. The 49ers offense is designed to make the quarterback’s job extremely easy and let the YAC monsters do the work. Make the rookie playing in his first road playoff game have to shoulder the load instead.
Not challenging enough of a task? The 49ers also have the top defense in the NFL in both points and yards allowed. In the front seven, pass-rusher Nick Bosa is probably going to win Defensive Player of the Year, Arik Armstead is a great run defender, Fred Warner might be the best linebacker in the NFL, and Dre Greenlaw is also having a breakout season. Cornerback Charvarius Ward and safety Talanoa Hufanga both enjoyed breakout seasons of their own as well. It is a tremendous unit that attacks the ball and plays extremely hard for defensive coordinator (and Eagles legend) DeMeco Ryans. The Eagles offensive line is both the best and deepest in the league, but they have yet to face a front seven like this one. Lane Johnson vs Nick Bosa will certainly be a matchup to watch.
Deebo Samuel basically dared Lincoln Financial Field to be even louder this Sunday, and I am sure the fans will happily oblige. If this game was in San Francisco, I would be really torn, but I am honestly fairly confident that the 49ers are going to have a really difficult time stealing this game in Philadelphia. The Cowboys showed that Purdy is very vulnerable if he gets pressured consistently, and if we are being honest Dallas would probably be the Eagles’ opponent this week if Dak Prescott did not have maybe the worst game of his entire career. The Eagles have the defensive line depth to apply said pressure and the secondary to run with Samuel and Aiyuk if need be. I also just think playing the NFC Championship in Philadelphia is going to rattle Purdy at least a little bit, given this is probably the most difficult, or at least substantial, game of his entire life. Offensively, the Eagles are just too talented when fully healthy to not put up points, regardless of the defense. Balance the attack and maintain possessions, and I think the Eagles should punch their ticket to Arizona.
Prediction: Eagles win 27-17, and cover the spread
Photo: Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports