January 27, 2023
The Eagles have played a modest schedule, with just six of their 17 games coming against eventual playoff teams — and four of those coming in their two matchups each against the Cowboys and Giants.
Philly could only play the opponents on the schedule, and a 14-3 regular season record is nothing to sneeze at. But the competition they'll face in the NFC Championship Sunday, with the 49ers coming to town, will offer them a different kind of challenge.
Are the Niners indeed the best team Philadelphia will face all season/postseason? What makes them better teams Philly beat like Detroit, Minnesota and Dallas, and by how much?
Here's a look at some of the ways in which San Francisco will be a new kind of test:
(Next best faced — Cowboys, 6th)
The Bills boast the best overall DVOA in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, with the Niners second and the Eagles third. That basically means that San Francisco is an all around good team. Their defense is first by a substantial margin.
(Next best faced — Saints, 7th)
The 49ers don't necessarily throw the ball deep — that's not entirely Brock Purdy's specialty, nor was it Jimmy Garoppolo's — but the skill players they have are able to turn modest gains into substantial ones. Tight end George Kittle is a tackle breaking monster, while Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel are YAC machines. And throws to Christian McCaffrey have averaged 8.9 yards per reception. As a team, the Niners average 12 yards per completion, better than anyone else the Eagles have faced.
(Next best faced — Lions, 5th)
As we hinted at before, the 49ers have had three different starters at quarterback, and somewhat surprisingly they've combined for a 102.3 QB rating during the regular season, second only to the Chiefs in the NFL. Jalen Hurts and Gardner Minshew combined for 6th best at 99.0. Purdy, Garoppolo and Trey Lance combined to throw only nine interceptions to 30 touchdown passes, and completed 66% of passes, all numbers near the top of the stat sheet.
(Next best faced — Lions, 4th)
The Niners average the 32.2 yard line to start their drives. The short field has been an asset to their offense as they are the sixth highest scoring offense in the NFL. On the other side of the football, the 49ers' special teams is an elite unit as their opponents average the worst starting field position of any, at their own 25.7 yard line.
(Next best faced — Commanders, 4th)
San Francisco has the only defensive unit in football that has allowed fewer yards this season than the Eagles. They also have 30 takeaways, second most this season behind the Cowboys' 33. They have 20 interceptions, the most in the NFL. And to add more stats to this breakdown, they've allowed the second fewest first downs this season. The numbers are intimidating and this is by far the best defense the Eagles will face.
(Next best faced — Titans, T-1st)
Over the course of the regular season, the 49ers allowed 3.4 yards per carry, tied for the least in the league. The Eagles will have to try and avoid being one dimensional, which is how the Niners have been able to win a lot of games this season. Having Jalen Hurts even the playing field — with an extra blocker for QB runs — could be key in opening up the offense for Philly.
(Next best faced — Cowboys, 5th)
The 16.3 points per game allowed by the Niners is the best in football and best in the NFC by a long shot. A low scoring game will most likely favor San Fran.
(Next best faced — Cowboys, 3)
The Niners have twice as many All-Pro players as the Eagles next toughest opponent the Cowboys. San Francisco boasts Trent Williams and Kittle on the offensive side, Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and Talanoa Hufanga on defense and George Odom on special teams.
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