NFC Championship Game
Here's everything you need to know for the AFC and NFC title games, including how each of the four teams can win and reach the Super Bowl.
(2) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, Jan. 29, at 3 p.m. ET (Fox)
Opening line: PHI -2 (45.5)
FPI projection: PHI, 64.4% (by four points)
What to watch for:
This is how it was supposed to be. We have the two most dominant teams in the NFC meeting with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The 49ers and Eagles haven't faced each other this season, so it'll be a clean slate for each side. Philadelphia has the advantage of a more experienced quarterback in Jalen Hurts, who has a great supporting cast that includes wide receivers DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown, tight end Dallas Goedert and running back Miles Sanders. But he's still recovering from a right shoulder sprain suffered more than a month ago.
And while the 49ers are on their third starting quarterback in Brock Purdy (the 2022 draft's Mr. Irrelevant), Kyle Shanahan's quarterback-friendly system and the 49ers' plethora of offensive playmakers -- tight end George Kittle, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and running back Christian McCaffrey among them -- make San Francisco's offense plenty potent even with a rookie quarterback. There is an outside chance quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could be ready for the NFC Championship Game, too, but Purdy has helped the 49ers get this far after the veteran went down in Week 13 with a broken foot. Purdy, though, hasn't faced a defense like Philadelphia's unit -- one that held teams to a league-low 5.5 net yards per pass attempt and 3,057 passing yards in the regular season.
Meanwhile, the 49ers' defense allowed 6.4 yards per pass attempt and a league-low 3.4 yards per carry, and it had 20 interceptions to the Eagles' 17. In a game so evenly matched, this one could come down to experience, and while the 49ers were in a Super Bowl more recently than the Eagles, Hurts' relative experience to that of Purdy could be the difference-maker.
Why the Eagles will win:
The 49ers have the only roster that can even compare to the Eagles, but in terms of the full 53-man lineup, Philadelphia still has the edge. That's especially evident in the trenches. The Eagles have the superior pass block win rate and pass rush win rate, and Haason Reddick (17.5 sacks, postseason included) should be set up for another big day. He will face Mike McGlinchey, not Trent Williams. And while the 49ers' offense has been mostly great with Purdy at the helm, no one's doubting who's the better quarterback in this matchup. It's Hurts, and that will matter.
Why the 49ers will win:
The unique attributes of the San Francisco offense will limit the effectiveness of the normally dominant Eagles defense. That so much of the 49ers' receiving production comes from McCaffrey, Samuel and Kittle will mitigate the effect of the superb cornerback duo of James Bradberry (who led all corners in fewest yards per coverage snap allowed, per NFL Next Gen Stats) and Darius Slay. And edge rusher Nick Bosa can beat Jordan Mailata, who ranked 56th out of 64 in pass block win rate this season.