NFL Playoffs

By Steve Tsilimos | Posted 1 year ago

The NFL is down to its final four teams, and the winners of Championship Weekend will meet in Arizona for Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12. The cream separated to the top as three of the four teams in the Conference Championships made it this far last season – all except the Eagles. The NFC Championship Game features the coveted 1-2 matchup that seemed inevitable when the playoffs started. 


The NFC has the hottest team in the NFL, the No. 2 San Francisco 49ers, heading to Philadelphia to take on the No. 1 Eagles on Sunday afternoon. Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers core group are no strangers to this stage, as they are heading to their third conference title game in four years. The Eagles have made the playoffs four out of the past six seasons but have not made it past the Divisional Round since their Super Bowl victory in 2017. 


The two teams left in the NFC are perfect examples of what a successful NFL organization looks like in the modern era of football. They are two teams built to win the battle in the trenches, resulting in stellar defenses and offenses geared toward running the ball. Also, they each have a great offensive-minded head coach who prioritized filling out their offensive rosters with top-tier playmakers to surround their young-QBs that are on rookie contracts.


Like most NFL games, it will probably come down to which team can win the turnover battle and get key stops on third downs. This means the game will probably come down to which QB can make the throws under pressure and not turn the ball over. Let’s look at how these two teams compare and who has the advantage.

(2) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Philadelphia Eagles 

• Sunday, January 21, 3:00 p.m. ET on Fox – Lincoln Financial Field
• Opening Line: Eagles -2.5



Points Per Game



Points Allowed Per Game



Total Yards



Yards Passing



Yards Rushing



Yards Allowed



Pass Yards Allowed



Rush Yards Allowed




First Look

If the NFC Championship Game does not excite you, then football must not be your thing. Lincoln Financial Field will be covered with All-Pros led by two of the best NFL coaches. 


These organizations must be firm believers in the age-old saying, ‘defense wins championships.’ The 49ers sit atop most defensive categories, while the Eagles are not far behind and led the NFL in sacks this year with 70 (third-most sacks by a team ever). The defenses have been a huge part of the success of these teams, but the offenses have shined as well. The offensive units in this game have some of the best players in the NFL at RB, WR, and TE. But as we all know, NFL success is linked to the team's QB. 

QB Comparison – Hurts vs. Purdy

Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts has developed into one of the league's best players over his three years in the NFL. Hurts’ fantastic third season makes him a frontrunner for league MVP and has Eagles fans feeling good that they found their franchise QB. After the Eagles' 38-7 dismantling of the Giants in the Divisional Round, coach Nick Sirianni was asked about what it’s like having Hurts as his QB. 


Sirianni used a basketball comparison that feels a bit premature to me, saying, “it's like having Michael Jordan out there.”


I think Hurts could dominate this league for many years to come, and when Sirianni looks around at other QBs and compares them to Hurts, it does feel like he has a special player – but it’s still a little early to compare Hurts to Jordan. Nevertheless, Hurts put together one of the best seasons ever by a dual-threat QB, doing things rarely seen in the NFL.


At the helm of San Francisco’s offense is rookie seventh-round pick Brock Purdy who has proven that the stage is not too big. ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ has become relevant by leading the 49ers to the Conference Championship Game, setting many playoff records by a rookie QB along the way. Purdy continues to silence the doubters with his solid play by playing within himself and the offensive scheme. 


Hurts’ MVP level of play definitely gives him the advantage over Purdy in this matchup, but Hurts is less than 100%. Hurts did not need to do too much as the Eagles ran the ball 44 times in their win over the Giants last week. He will be relied upon more this week, as the Eagles will not be able to run the ball down the throat of the 49ers. 


Hurts’ legs will hugely impact this game and could be the x-factor, but I'm sure the Eagles' coaching staff will be slightly more conservative, not wanting their QB to take any extra hits. Hurts will need to play a great game to outplay Purdy because I think Purdy will take care of the ball and continue to do what he has done – take what is there and make some big plays along the way. 

Defensive Comparison

So what happens when two of the best defenses in the NFL are tasked with stopping offenses that can beat you in many ways? The key for both of these defenses is stopping the run. Whichever defense can do better at slowing down the rushing attack will be able to force the opposing offense to be more one-dimensional. 


Neither coach will abandon the running game, and they are both masters of creating schemes to attack the defense from all angles. The 49ers have the league's No. 1 rush defense, only giving up 90 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles have the best pass defense in the league and have forced people into passing because their offense has been nearly impossible to stop. 


But when it comes to stopping the run, the 49ers have a clear advantage. During the regular season, the Eagles had 12 games where they gave up over 100 yards on the ground compared to the 49ers' four. This is key because the Eagles were severely outgained on the ground in their three losses this season.


The 49ers will need to ensure they do not give up big plays and keep the game close because they have the advantage in the running game. If the Eagles can play with a second-half lead and force the 49ers into clear passing downs, then their pass rush/secondary will be able to take advantage of the 49ers’ rookie QB.

Coaching Comparison – Front runners for Coach of the Year

Kyle Shanahan is following in his father, Mike Shanahan’s footsteps, by becoming one of the best head coaches in the NFL. Just like his father, Kyle is a master at offensive scheming, especially in the run game. The Shanahans have been developing run-blocking schemes in the NFL for decades now. Shanahan is a master of the numbers game, using motion and misdirection to get more blockers than defenders where the ball is going.


Nick Sirianni, like Shanahan, is succeeding as a first-time head coach. Sirianni took over the head coaching position in 2021 and took the Eagles to the playoffs in his first year. He has done a great job at developing Hurts. He is also a master of developing well-rounded offensive game plans that have made the Eagles so potent this season. 


I give the edge to Shanahan because he has already coached in the Super Bowl, and this will be his third time competing for the Conference Championship. Playoff experience goes a long way when a coach prepares their team and deals with the immense pressure during the game.


49ers RB Elijah Mitchell

Christian McCaffery has been the 49ers' workhorse since they acquired him midway through the season, but that was because Mitchell was dealing with injuries and could not suit up. Now that Mitchell is healthy (kind of), he is getting more touches. He had 14 rushes compared to McCaffery's 10 in the 49ers' 19-10 victory over the Cowboys last weekend. If Mitchell is healthy, then I expect him to have a huge impact on this game by wearing down the Eagles' defense in the second half.


Eagles WRs A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith

I couldn’t pick just one because both WRs will need to have a big day to beat the 49ers. One of the weaknesses of the 49ers’ defense is defending the long ball. They have struggled to defend the deep pass all year when they cannot get pressure on the QB. San Francisco plays a lot of zone defense, which means they can be exploited with multiple deep routes. There is no better-receiving duo in the game at getting open deep than Brown and Smith. Both WRs went over 1,000 receiving yards this season because they can beat defenses at all levels, especially deep. The 49ers gave up the 6th most yards to WRs this season and have yet to face anyone like Brown and Smith. 

Final Thoughts

The parity in the NFL is minimal, especially at this stage in the season. The margin for error is slim for both of these teams. I do think the Eagles have a bit more room for error because Hurts is the better QB, and the Eagles can score in a hurry if they need to. That being said, I think the 49ers take the air out of the ball and control this game with their rushing attack. 


Prediction: 49ers make a late stop and are able to run out the clock to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl 21-20.


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