For two teams who are used to making the playoffs and play in the same conference, there isn’t as much history between the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles as one might think.
They have only faced off five times in 11 seasons, including last year’s regular-season victory for San Francisco, and this will be just the second-ever matchup in the playoffs.
We know all about how well these teams have played defense this year and the fact they both have ultra-young quarterbacks, including the 49ers’ Brock Purdy, who is making his eighth NFL start and only third on the road, and Jelen Hurts, who is in his second-ever playoff game.
Forget all the small talk. Let’s see what kind of little nuggets we can find that will help us find the right side in the NFC championship game, including – but not limited to – trends, series history, officiating crew, their road to this point and their offensive and defensive rankings.
(2) SAN FRANCISCO (13-4, W12, 13-6 ATS) at (1) PHILADELPHIA (14-3, W2, 9-9 ATS), Sunday at 2 p.m. FOX
GAME LINE: 49ers +2.5 (at even money) or Eagles -2.5 (-120). MONEY LINES: 49ers (+130), Eagles (-155). TOTAL: 46.
49ers road to the championship: Defeated No. 7 Seattle (at home), 41-23, on Jan. 14 in the wild-card round; defeated No. 4 Dallas (at home), 19-12, on Jan. 22.
Eagles road to the championship: Bye in wild-card round; defeated No. 6 New York Giants (at home), 38-7, on Jan. 21.
San Francisco rankings: 5th in total yards gained (13th passing, 8th rushing); 1st in total yards allowed (20th passing, 2nd rushing).
Philadelphia rankings: 3rd in total yards gained (9th passing, 5th rushing); 2nd in total yards allowed (1st passing, 16th rushing).
Previous meetings this season: None.
Weather forecast at game time: Cloudy with a game-time temperature expected to be around 50 and remaining constant most of the afternoon. A very slight chance of rain and winds around 10 mph.
John Hussey, who is in his 21st overall season as an NFL official, is the head referee, and his in his eighth season in such a capacity. This is his 16th overall postseason assignment, according to Football Zebras, including his role as line judge in Super Bowl XLV as a member of Walt Anderson’s crew played between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers.
49ERS (5-3 straight up and 4-4 ATS on the road)
- This is the 61st postseason game in 49ers history (37-23) overall, and they are attempting to make it to the Super Bowl for what would be the eighth time in franchise history. They are 7-10 in conference championship games, and this is the third time they have made it at least this far in four seasons and sixth time since 2011.
- Last week’s victory over Dallas marked the sixth consecutive time the 49ers won a divisional-round game dating back 20 years.
- This is the first road game for the 49ers since winning, 37-34, at Las Vegas in Week 17 of the regular season. It’s only their third game away from Levi’s Stadium since defeating Arizona in Mexico City on Nov. 21 and just their third game at another team’s home stadium since winning, 31-14, at the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 30.
- Brock Purdy is just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to win his first seven games as a starter. (Interestingly, the player he took over for, Jimmy Garoppolo, also won his first seven games.) Of the six previous quarterbacks to accomplish the feat, four of them made their respective conference championship games – Dieter Brock with the Los Angeles Rams in 1985, Daunte Culpepper with the Minnesota Vikings and Ben Roethlisberger with the Pittsburgh Steelers (won his first 15 starts) – and none of the three made it to the Super Bowl. Two – Brock and Culpepper – were shut out in the NFC title game.
EAGLES (6-3 straight up and 5-4 ATS at home)
- This will be the 49th postseason game for the Eagles in their history (24-24 overall), and is their fifth appearance in the playoffs in six seasons. They are attempting to make the Super Bowl for what would be the fourth time in franchise history, and they are 3-4 in conference championship games.
- Last week’s victory over the Giants was the team’s first playoff victory since defeating Chicago in the wild-card round in January 2019. It was their second since winning Super Bowl LI, 41-33, against the New England Patriots in February 2018.
- Like Purdy, Hurts has won seven consecutive starts, as two of the Eagles three losses this season – at the Cowboys in Week 16 and vs. the Saints in Week 17 – came with backup Gardner Minshew at the helm. Hurts is 23-11 in his career as a starter and 1-1 in the playoffs, having lost at Tampa Bay last season.
- The Eagles have lost four of their past six games against NFC West opponents, including the playoffs.
- In last week’s victory, it marked the sixth time in eight games Philadelphia has accumulated 400 total yards of offense or more and 10th time this season. They also gained 268 rushing yards, which was the fifth time this campaign they have done so. However, they have now allowed 115 rushing yards or more in six consecutive games and 12 times this year. Conversely, San Francisco has allowed more than 115 rushing yards just twice all season and once since Week 6.
49ERS vs. EAGLES SERIES
All-time: The 49ers lead the overall series, 20-14-1, with only one coming in the postseason – a 14-0 San Francisco victory in a 1996 wild-card game. This will be their first playoff meeting between them in Philadelphia. The first game between the two teams came Oct. 6, 1951, and the Eagles won, 21-14. The last time they played was Sept. 19, 2021, in Philadelphia, and the 49ers won, 17-11.
All-time in San Francisco: Series tied at 9.
All-time in Philadelphia: 49ers lead, 11-5-1.
- These teams haven’t played one another all that much as of late, as San Francisco has won three of the past five meetings since 2011. Prior to that, however, the Eagles won five in a row and six of seven going back to 2002.
- It was a lopsided series in favor of the 49ers from 1958 to 2001, as they won 15 of the 20 games played.
(The analysis and prediction are taken from Jim Derry’s AFC and NFC conference championship picks column on Bet.NOLA.com on Thursday morning. Click on the link to read his picks for both playoff games this weekend.)
On early Monday morning, after Philly opened at -1.5 and then bolted quickly to -2.5, I hopped on a 6.5-point teaser (where we’re 13-4 this year and won again last week) that included the Niners +9 and the Bengals +7.5. By Tuesday afternoon, the AFC line changed so drastically, that I was able to place another teaser with San Fran +8.5 and Kansas City +7.5.
However, the bettors and the linesmakers wisened up and made it impossible to tease anything with the AFC (and get value). In other words, the early bird gets multiple worms if you’re paying attention.
So now, we’re left with just one best bet, and although history doesn’t back up my pick here, I have to stick with what I have been saying for months: The San Francisco 49ers are the best team in football.
If one were to simply look at last week’s games – and oh so may are – they immediately would jump on Philly. And I totally get it.
Jalen Hurts looked much better than I expected, and the Eagles’ running game was unstoppable as they ran through and over the Giants. Meanwhile, I thought Dallas was overrated heading into San Francisco for a fourth consecutive road game, and that they would get crushed.
Although I was right in picking the Niners to cover, it would be the Cowboys traveling to Philly this Sunday had Dak Prescott not turned back into Dak Prescott and Tony Pollard not left the game so early.
Still, Brock Purdy made no big mistakes, and the 49ers defense was as good as ever.
That’s why I like San Francisco in this one. (Well, part of it is because Aunt Mabel and all her bar buddies are all over the Eagles.) While it wouldn’t shock me if Hurts plays as well as he did last week, one can’t expect it against this completely different kind of defense.
Also, someone needs to tell me the most impressive Philadelphia victory of the season. They lost to the Cowboys and Saints with Hurts out, and they lost handily to Washington at home in Week 10. Before the final three games of the regular season (if you so choose to throw them out), they beat Chicago by five, rolled past the Giants and Titans (without Ryan Tannehill) and defeated Green Bay at home by seven before the Packers got on a roll.
They slipped past Indy, and … well … you get where I am going. I simply can’t put all that much stock in early romps of Minnesota and Pittsburgh, because they are not the same team now.
Meanwhile, since the 49ers got Christian McCaffrey in a trade, they have been nearly unstoppable. When the defense slips a bit (in a 37-34 win over Las Vegas in Week 17), Brock Purdy and the offense picks up the slack. When the offense can only muster 13 points (against the Saints in Week 12), the defense pitches a shutout.
When it comes down to it, I trust Kyle Shanahan, who has San Francisco in this game for the third time in four seasons over Nick Sirianni, who I am just waiting to do something really dumb at a really bad time.
Although the 1-seed has defeated the 2 four of the past five times they have faced off in the NFC title game – and the only outlier was the Rams being gifted a win in New Orleans in 2019 – I have to go with what I have seen over the past 10 weeks or so and not JUST LAST WEEK.
And that tells me San Francisco is going to win. (Please don’t turn into the rookie you are, Brock Purdy.)
SCORE PREDICTION: 49ers (+2.5 at -105) 27, Eagles 22. (Over 46.)