The Philadelphia Eagles are headed to their second NFC championship game in five years. They defeated the New York Giants 38-7, exactly five years after defeating the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 in the NFC championship game in 2018.
After a week of Giants’ praise and talk of momentum, rust, and “banged up Eagles” hyperbole, the Eagles showed they were the superior team. It is incredible that after a putrid 2020, the Eagles retooled their roster, changed quarterbacks, hired Nick Sirianni, and are now in the NFC title game.
Let’s look at the hungry dog (player/coach of the game) and bird in the doghouse (worst player/coach of the game) performances against the New York Giants. I’ll also predict the best and worst performers in the Eagles’ upcoming matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.
Divisional Round – Hungry Dog, Giants @ Eagles
Where the entire Eagles’ coaching staff was brilliant in this matchup, Shane Steichen deserves a golf clap. He’s my hungry dog of the week, and it isn’t close.
Last week I suggested that a consistent rushing game would be the key to success against the Giants, and he called a perfect game. Although Jalen Hurts’ shoulder looked fine, Steichen only dropped him back to pass 24 times. There were a few designed plays for him in the running game.
The Eagles running backs combined 44 rushing attempts for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Steichen’s game plan was crucial for preserving the health of Jalen Hurts and Lane Johnson, and he exploited a very flawed Giants rushing defense. The run was committed to consistently for all four quarters. Kenneth Gainwell averaged 9.3 yards a carry, and Miles Sanders at 5.3 yards a carry.
The Eagles’ ability to dominate time of possession in this game ensured the game stayed a one-sided affair and eliminated any possibility of a Giants’ comeback. Executing a similar game plan in the NFC championship game will all but guarantee an Eagles appearance in the Super Bowl.
Divisional Round – Bird In The Doghouse, Giants @ Eagles
The team played perfectly in all phases, so there’s no one on the team or coaching staff worthy of bird in the doghouse. I’m going to stray from the norm and give it to Nick Sirianni haters this week.
The people who predicted he’d be a bad coach based on his first press conference are the same people telling him how to celebrate wins. Sirianni is a younger coach with fire, and he’s having fun.
Why is it so wrong that he shows passion and excitement on the field? He’s earned it.
Since taking over as the Eagles’ coach, Sirianni is 23-11 in the regular season. He’s 1-1 in the postseason, with a current chance for a winning record. How do two winning seasons and multiple playoff appearances not warrant excitement or a little bit of arrogance when he was counted out from the beginning?
If he were on a media darling team, his behavior would be applauded. He has become one of the best young coaches in the NFL and is a winner. Let him have fun.
NFC Championship – Hungry Dog Prediction, 49ers @ Eagles
Even in their win over the Dallas Cowboys, the 49ers looked vulnerable in multiple units. Their special teams allowed 120 yards on kick returns and turned the ball over. Their secondary allowed big plays in the passing game, giving up 117 yards to Ceedee Lamb.
Their defensive line was successful in pressuring Dak Prescott, but they only sacked him once. Brock Purdy had a mediocre game and didn’t throw a single touchdown pass. The key to beating the 49ers is pressuring a rookie quarterback in a tough environment.
My hungry dog prediction for the NFC title game is the Eagles’ defensive line.
The 49ers’ offensive line appeared leaky against the Cowboys, and the Eagles should have success rushing four and blitzing. If they have an answer for the 49ers’ offense in the middle of the field, their day will be easier. If the Eagles win, it will be because they made Brock Purdy’s life a living hell and forced him into mistakes.
The 49ers have lost every game this season when they lost the turnover battle. The 49ers scored 22 points per game on the road, as opposed to the 28 per game they scored at home this season. They are a less effective offensive team when they leave Levi’s Stadium. It’s time for Jonathan Gannon’s defensive line to rise to the occasion.
NFC Championship – Bird In The Doghouse Prediction, 49ers @ Eagles
If the Eagles struggle or lose this game, it will happen because they did not neutralize the 49ers’ defensive line. The unit is talented up front, despite not having the Eagles’ great sack numbers. They’re tough and physical, can rush the passer, and boasted the league’s best-rushing defense in the regular season.
This is a game that not only tests the creativity of Shane Steichen but the health of Jalen Hurts and Lane Johnson. Steichen is my bird in the doghouse prediction.
I fear Steichen doesn’t try to establish the run since the 49ers are great up front, so he may drop Jalen back to pass too many times. If this happens, Lane’s side of the offensive line could crumble, not giving Hurts enough time.
Steichen has to figure out a way to neutralize Nick Bosa and the 49ers’z. RPOs, designed runs, and well-designed screens could get the job done next week. He has to find a way to dominate time of possession as he did against the Giants to counter the 49ers, one of the best teams in the league in time of possession. If the Eagles can’t control the clock or get creative, it will be a long day.
- Who would be your hungry dog and bird in the doghouse picks for the Eagles’ game against the New York Giants?
- Who do you think will be the biggest difference makers and disappointments for the Eagles heading into the NFC championship against the 49ers?