Playoff Preview: NFC Championship Game San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles
We’re somehow at the point of the season where there are only three games left (what the heck happened?!). And one of those three games is this week's NFC Championship featuring the second-seeded San Francisco 49ers visiting the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have been one of the (if not THE) best teams in the league this year. And the 49ers have been the hottest in the league over the last three months. Something will have to give at Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday.
NFC Conference Championship Best Bets
I did well picking both the 49ers and Eagles last week, so I’m having trouble deciding which way to go this week. Philadelphia has the obvious advantage of hosting the game, but the 49ers have now won 10 games in a row so they’re going to be hard to pick against.
Let’s start with the 49ers. They’re on the aforementioned 10-game win streak. They led the NFL in point differential with +173. They allowed the fewest points in the league with 277 on the season. They scored the sixth-most points in the league. They led the league in turnover differential (while finishing second in takeaways). And they went through THREE starting quarterbacks – one of whom was a seventh-round rookie and will be starting for them this week.
There’s a lot to unpack in the paragraph above, but it really boils down to this: the 49ers have a great coaching staff, one of the most talented rosters in the league (including the best collection of skill players), and a rookie quarterback in Brock Purdy. This game is likely going to come down to one of two things. 1. Can Brock Purdy look better than the rookie he’s looked like over the last few games? 2. Can the rest of the 49ers roster (and coaching staff) overcome it if he can’t?
On the Eagles side of the ball, we’re looking at a team that more or less coasted through the season. Some would argue their schedule was easy (it was), but you don’t control who you play, and the Eagles were a Jalen Hurts injury from likely only losing one or two games all year. Hurts is in the running for an MVP trophy. The grouping of Miles Sanders, A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert isn’t quite Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle, but they’re not super far off either. And their defense has been solid all year. The team finished second in the league in points scored while finishing third in both point and turnover differential.
To put it succinctly, the Eagles have been a wagon. They’ll get to face the 49ers at home, where they’re 7-2 on the season, and are a -2.5 favorite this week. While I think the 49ers have a great chance (and this spread means Vegas basically thinks this game is dead-even), I’m leaning into the Eagles and their home-field advantage when it comes to the spread. I’m also taking the under here as I think the elite defenses will slow down the elite offenses enough to keep the score low. I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking the 49ers Moneyline (so I’ll put that below as a one-off recommendation), but I’ll be parlaying the Eagles spread with the under here.
Spread: Philadelphia Eagles -2.5 (-115)
Over/Under: Under 46.5 (-110)
Moneyline: San Francisco 49ers (+126)
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Player Props of the Night
Prop #1: A.J. Brown, Over 70.5 Receiving Yards (-120)
I’m always on the lookout for totals that are too low, and this one immediately jumped off the page for me. Brown didn’t see a ton of work last week due to the score, and he made his displeasure known this week. Outside of the squeaky wheel narrative, Brown is going to be a big piece of what the Eagles do this week and we can expect them to force-feed him the ball. He’d gone over 90 yards in each of his two previous games, and our Prop Bet Tool has him projected at 90.1 yards, so the A.I. agrees with me here too.
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Prop #2: Christian McCaffrey, Over 31.5 Receiving Yards (-120)
This is another total that jumped out to me as too low. Our Prop Bet Tool has him projected at 44.7 yards, and I think we’ll see the 49ers utilize McCaffrey quite a bit this week. The Eagles have a good pass rush and Purdy is going to need outlets. While CMC hasn’t gone over this total in the playoffs, he saw eight targets last week and went over 34 yards in each of his last two regular season games. The calf injury from last week is a tad worrisome, but there's nothing to hold back in what could be the final week of the 49ers season.
Prop #3: George Kittle, Over 45.5 Receiving Yards (-120)
Speaking of outlets, Kittle quickly turned into Purdy’s security blanket when he was struggling and more or less jumpstarted the 49ers offense to a win over the Cowboys. Kittle’s circus catch was the one to remember, but that was part of a string of catches that got the 49ers offense somewhat on track after a slow, slow start (and beyond) to the game. While he’s only seen seven targets so far in the playoffs, Kittle is putting up over 19 yards per catch. This isn’t a slam dunk (what is?), but our Prop Bet Tool is with me here as it’s projecting Kittle for almost 66 receiving yards this week.
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