It’s still unbelievable that our beloved Philadelphia Eagles are playing in the NFC championship game. On Sunday, they will host the San Francisco 49ers with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
If the Eagles are victorious, it will be their second trip to the Super Bowl in 5 seasons, with a different coach and quarterback combination. Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts have the opportunity to silence the haters in their toughest matchup of the season.
The 49ers are a tough opponent with a top defense, fantastic skill players, a tenured and respected coach, and a quarterback who has yet to make mistakes. The national media may sell the 49ers as the better team, but I’d like to explain why Eagles fans and media should not worry.
The Eagles Have Multiple Advantages
The 49ers’ defense is good. You can argue the Eagles’ defense is just as good, if not better, in multiple areas. Defensive end Nick Bosa led the league in sacks during the regular season, but the Eagles as a team led the entire league by 15 total sacks. Bosa is the only 49er with double-digit sacks. In two postseason games, however, Bosa has yet to record a sack.
In just one postseason game, the Eagles defense has five sacks combined between Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, and Fletcher Cox. The 49ers are better at defending the run, but the Eagles are better at getting to and pressuring the opposing quarterback. The Eagles ended the season as the league’s best pass defense. The 49ers passing defense ranked in the league’s bottom half, allowing the most plays over 50 yards, eight total.
The Eagles have the personnel to go deep and expose this secondary if Jalen Hurts is given adequate time. The 49ers’ defense has struggled with elusive quarterbacks, as shown in their losses to the Bears, Falcons, and Chiefs. The Eagles’ only defensive disadvantage in this matchup is defending the middle of the field.
The Eagles roster is better, period.
We’ve been hearing about Brock Purdy, the rookie of the year candidate. Purdy put up solid numbers in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, yet Jimmy Garoppolo had success there too. Where Purdy has been successful, he hasn’t been asked to do much and appears to be a product of Shanahan’s system. Brock Purdy didn’t play good football in the first half against Seattle, and the entire Cowboys game this postseason.
He had multiple dropped interceptions and appeared rattled when rushed. Jalen Hurts has been a playmaker, driving the Eagles’ offense with his elusiveness and accurate arm, and is the better quarterback of the two. The 49ers’ red zone offense ranked 20th in the league, and the Eagles ranked 3rd. The Eagles have the advantage on the offensive line and at wide receiver. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are tremendous talents but combined for 1,647 yards and ten touchdowns. AJ Brown and Devonta Smith combined for 2,692 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The only advantages the 49ers have on the offensive side of the ball are coaching, time of possession, and the tight end position, but it’s clear that Shane Steichen and Dallas Goedert have held their own. Christian McCaffrey is a more explosive talent at running back than Miles Sanders, but he’s likely to be playing this game with a calf contusion. Elijah Mitchell, the 49ers second-string running back, is dealing with a groin injury. The 49er’s run game could struggle as a result, and their offense could become one-dimensional and affect that time of possession.
Best Fans In Football
The Eagles are home, which is the most important advantage of all. The Eagles went 7-2 at home this season, one loss with Gardener Minshew starting at quarterback. The 49ers were a 5-3 road team, and it should be noted that their offense scored nearly a touchdown less on the road this season.
The 49ers played 9 of their last 13 games at home, and haven’t left the west coast since October. Traveling to Philadelphia with one less day of rest could be a factor, along with cooler weather. In college, Brock Purdy led teams that were 21-4 at home and 10-13 on the road.
The Eagles Are Battle Tested
The turnover battle tells a big story. The 49ers depend on turnovers, 4-3, when they get one or less. The Eagles are 9-0 when they force one turnover or less on defense.
There has been a ton of talk about the Eagles’ schedule this season, but the Eagles went 7-1 in their matchups this season against teams above .500, including the playoffs. The 49ers went 6-1 against teams above .500, including the playoffs. Their opponents had an overall lower winning percentage than the Eagles’ opponents.
The Eagles Are Healthier Than Everyone Thinks
The Eagles’ matchup against the Giants showed that Jalen Hurts is healthy enough to play at a high level. Although he didn’t have to pass all game, he made excellent and accurate throws. He showed no pain on designed runs and rollouts. Lane Johnson visibly limped against the Giants between plays, but he didn’t allow a sack or quarterback pressure.
It’s clear Lane has a high pain tolerance, and even if he gives an average performance, the Eagles’ offensive line is in great shape. AJ Brown appears to be ready for Sunday. The only starter the Eagles could miss again is Avonte Maddox, who participated in the Wednesday walkthrough. There is a possibility the Eagles could have all 22 starters on the field on Sunday, the healthiest they’ll have been all season.
The Eagles WILL win this game if they hold on to the football and the offensive line holds up. I have no doubts the defense will rattle Brock Purdy and force a turnover or two. It’s time to show him what a real atmosphere is. Let’s get back to the big dance.