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Game Preview | 49ers vs. Eagles

49ers vs. Eagles
49ers vs. Eagles

The San Francisco 49ers, after defeating the Dallas Cowboys 19-12, will be coming to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the No. 1-seeded Philadelphia Eagles.

The two best teams in the NFC through the season, a win here and a Super Bowl trip is in order.

Keys to the Game

1. Which team runs the ball better?

Kenneth Gainwell had his first 100-yard game against the New York Giants. Boston Scott had his 11th touchdown in nine career games (including playoffs) against the Giants. But the 49ers' defense, which allows just 77.7 yards per game on the ground, will be a difficult matchup for the Eagles' run game.

Miles Sanders, with 1,296 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season, will need to continue his career year against a San Francisco defense led by Defensive Player of the Year finalist Nick Bosa, who, with 18.5 sacks, was the only player in the NFL with more sacks than Haason Reddick (16) in 2022.

On the other side, the Philadelphia Eagles must contain the threat of Christian McCaffrey, who, despite being held to 35 yards on 10 carries, was still able to find the end zone for the only TD of the game.

In the 49ers' Wild Card win over the Seahawks, McCaffrey put up 119 rush yards on 15 carries.

When McCaffrey does need a rest, San Francisco has a talented backup in Elijah Mitchell, who finished Sunday's game with 51 yards on 14 attempts. Mitchell was a key factor in the 49ers' win against Seattle, where he found the end zone on a short pass from Brock Purdy. While McCaffrey is still the lead back, Mitchell has made a large impact on the 49ers' offense since his return from injury. He helped the 49ers to 181 yards on 33 carries against the Seahawks and led the team with 51 rush yards against Dallas to get them to this point.

Both teams will count on the run game. It will help keep the opposing offenses off the field and with both teams being in the top 8 in rushing on the season, it is a strength of both teams behind elite offensive lines.

2. Which defense can get to the opposing QB?

The Eagles' defense has been spoken about frequently. Seventy sacks on the season and four players in double digits will do this.

Haason Reddick was able to win his matchup against Giants All-Pro tackle Andrew Thomas last week. In doing so, he was able to get to quarterback Daniel Jones and help limit the Giants to seven points. This week, he will be going against perhaps the best left tackle in the NFL in Trent Williams. This will be another difficult challenge for Reddick as he looks to get more sacks to help the Eagles to the Super Bowl. With San Francisco looking to run the ball a lot, it will be needed for Philadelphia to get to the quarterback without having to use extra rushers. Stopping the run game will be first and foremost.

For San Francisco, Nick Bosa and his 18.5 sacks and two forced fumbles will lead the charge against the Philadelphia offensive line, which was happy to get Lane Johnson back on Saturday. Not only did his presence make the line better, but the grit he showed in even playing led the rest of the team to play tougher around him.

The 18.5 sacks for Bosa is almost half of the 44 total sacks the 49ers had as a team. With his ability to get through opposing offensive lines, the rest of the front seven was able to concentrate on run stopping. With Philadelphia coming in averaging 147.6 yards on the ground, this will be key again as San Francisco will be forced to stop a three-headed run attack in Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, and Boston Scott. Not to mention the ability of Jalen Hurts, who finished the season with 760 rush yards for the Eagles.

The NFC Championship backdrop is up and national media is in the building! Get a look inside the NovaCare Complex as the biggest game of the year inches closer.

3. Which TE will have the bigger impact on the game?

George Kittle has been stellar this season for the 49ers. This continued on Sunday with an incredible juggling 31-yard catch to continue a key drive for San Francisco. After having 20 touchdowns in his career entering this season, Kittle finished the year with 11 on 60 receptions. He has become the major beneficiary of Brock Purdy and with his outstanding blocking ability in the run game, he has elevated himself even further into the pantheon of elite NFL tight ends.

For the Eagles, Dallas Goedert, who got Philadelphia on the scoreboard first Saturday, has been a refreshing development to the offense since his return from Injured Reserve.

In 12 games, Goedert has compiled 702 yards and three touchdowns on 55 receptions. With A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith getting much of the focus, Goedert has been an important piece in the pass attack, which averages 241.5 yards per game.

The ability of both of these top-tier tight ends to find open spaces in the opposing defense will be key to not just a successful pass game, but also a successful run game.

4. Which team wins the turnover battle?

The Eagles' defense is third in the NFL with 27 takeaways. The 49ers' offense is third in the NFL, giving up only 17. On the other side of the coin, the San Francisco defense is No. 2 in takeaways with 28, while the Eagles' offense is fifth with 19 turnovers this season. With both teams exciting on offense and stingy on defense, the team who is able to win the battle of turnovers will likely win the game.

5. Which kicker will have the better day?

Jake Elliott was 1/1 on FG and 5/5 on extra points against the Giants in the Divisional Round. Robbie Gould was 4/4 on FG against the Dallas Cowboys and is 29/29 in his career in the postseason. Gould holds the record for most FG in the postseason without a miss, 12 ahead of Cincinnati's Evan McPherson, who has 17 to start his career. Both kickers in this game are elite and will be an important factor in a close game.

Key stats

1 – The Philadelphia Eagles have allowed just 301.5 yards per game to opposing offenses. This is second in the NFL. The only team better is the 49ers, who are allowing just 300.6 yards per game on the season.

3 – Three of San Francisco's four losses on the season have come on the road. With Philadelphia being the higher seed and having this game at home, the Eagles will need to take advantage of this.

12 – The 49ers come into this matchup on a 12-game winning streak. Brock Purdy has yet to lose as a starter in the NFL and the team has only lost once since acquiring Christian McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers.

16.3 – While the Eagles are third in the NFL in scoring at 28.1 points per game, the 49ers are first in scoring defense, allowing 16.3 points on the season.

77.7 – The second-ranked run defense for the 49ers has only allowed opponents to rush for 77.7 yards per game. This is slightly more than half of the Eagles' average total of 147.6 yards. The winner of the ground battle will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game on either side.

Marquee Matchup

Trent Williams vs Haason Reddick

After taking on second-team All-Pro Andrew Thomas on Saturday, Haason Reddick, a second-team All-Pro himself, will now have to take on Trent Williams, the first-team All-Pro at the left tackle position. Williams, a veteran of 12 years in the league, will be another tough challenge for Reddick, who will need to help disrupt quarterback Brock Purdy to help the Eagles win.

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