A spot in Super Bowl 57 is on the line as the Philadelphia Eagles host the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game at Lincoln Financial Field.
The two teams have clearly been the conference’s most dominant powers this season. The Eagles (14-3) had the NFC’s highest-scoring offense during the regular season, averaging 28.1 points per game. Meanwhile, the Niners had the NFC’s stingiest defense, yielding just 16.3 points per contest.
The top-seeded Eagles earned a bye in the wild card round and are coming off a 38-7 shellacking of the New York Giants in last week’s divisional playoff. The Niners defeated the Seattle Seahawks 41-23 in the wild card round and edged the Dallas Cowboys 19-12 in their divisional playoff game.
According to Tipico Sportsbook, the Eagles are 2.5-point favorites with the over/under at 45 points.
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Niners may lean more on McCaffrey with Mitchell inactive
Both teams have announced their inactives for the NFC title game and perhaps the biggest name on the list is San Francisco running back Elijah Mitchell, who will miss the game with a groin injury.
Mitchell and starting running back Christian McCaffrey were held out of drills on Wednesday and Thursday, but unlike McCaffrey, Mitchell was unable to make it on the field on Friday. USA TODAY’s Nate Davis reports McCaffrey (calf) seems to be moving well in pregame warmups.
With Mitchell out, McCaffrey could see an even heavier workload against the Eagles. Meanwhile, wide reciever Deebo Samuel (ankle), along with backup RB Jordan Mason, might see additional action in the backfield with rookie RB Tyrion Davis-Price also inactive.
— Steve Gardner
Previewing the NFC championship game
Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts, 24, and San Francisco’s Brock Purdy, 23, will be the youngest quarterbacks, in terms of combined age, to start in the championship round. While their playing styles are different, their teams have much in common.
Hurts and Purdy are both highly mobile, though Purdy uses his legs to extend plays from the pocket – which Hurts can obviously do, though he also set sail for 760 yards and 13 TDs on the ground.
The backfields are headlined by San Francisco’s Christian McCaffrey and Philadelphia’s Miles Sanders but expect plenty of others to get carries. The Eagles’ A.J. Brown and Niners’ Deebo Samuel are listed as wide receivers but are hybrids who are among the most punishing runners in the league with the ball in their hands, Samuel a significant component of the 49ers’ run game.
WR2s Brandon Aiyuk (49ers) and DeVonta Smith (Eagles) and TEs Dallas Goedert (Eagles) and George Kittle (49ers) can all feast in their own rights, but especially so if too much defensive attention is focused on Brown and Samuel.
The two teams combined to produce 14 Pro Bowlers and 12 All-Pros (first- or second-team) during the 2022 season. The success of each is largely rooted in the trenches. Eagles RT Lane Johnson, Eagles C Jason Kelce and 49ers LT Trent Williams are widely recognized as the premier players at their respective positions, the latter two on a Hall of Fame fast track.
But these clubs also roll deep on their defensive lines. The Niners feature league sack leader and likely NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa. The Eagles’ 70 regular-season sacks nearly toppled the league record, but they were the first team to feature four players with at least 10 sacks apiece – and Haason Reddick, Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham each had a minimum of 11, Reddick’s 16 trailing only Bosa’s 18½ league-wide.
Behind both D-lines, an exceptional group of playmakers – the Niners’ linebacking corps arguably the NFL’s best, the Eagles’ featuring what’s probably the league’s top group of corners.
– Nate Davis
WINNING UGLY: Eagles show their dominance in the trenches
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Story Credit: usatoday.com