Eagles vs 49ers: 4 Matchups that will decide the NFC Championship Game

Nick Bosa (R), Jordan Mailata (L) Philadelphia Eagles (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Nick Bosa (R), Jordan Mailata (L) Philadelphia Eagles (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

There’s a bittersweet feeling in knowing the Super Bowl approaches. On one hand, another Vince Lombardi Trophy is within reach for the Philadelphia Eagles. On the other, there are potentially two games remaining in the Birds’ season before they leave us for a while.

Sure, we’ll be busy with the NFL Combine and, eventually, the NFL Draft at that point, but we’re going to miss Josh Sweat’s sack celebration and seeing Jalen Hurts toss TD passes to A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. With that being said, let’s focus and enjoy the ride that we’re on.

First things first. Perhaps you’ve heard, but Philly has a pretty big game coming up on Sunday. If they hold serve and win, they’ll be playing in Super Bowl LVII.

Before we get to Glendale, Arizona, there’s still work to be done. The obstacle standing in Philly’s way is a huge one. It’s the second-seeded San Francisco 49ers. This is the 36th meeting between these franchises overall.

To date, Philly’s most impressive win of the series so far was a 40-8 blowout win over the eventual Super Bowl champions on October 2nd of 1994. If the Birds win on Sunday that will no longer be the case. The George Halas Trophy is on the line.

NFL games are about matchups, and the Eagles versus 49ers NFC Championship Game is loaded with subplots.

It’s hard to find comparisons that do this game justice. Would it be a stretch if we started to bring up fights like the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, Muhammad Ali’s clash with George Foreman? From a football standpoint, this is just as intriguing.

The Eagles and 49ers are home to two of the most passionate and loyal fan bases in all of sports. This one’s being played at Lincoln Financial Field. Expect the hometown contingent to play a role in this one’s outcome.

Here are four of about 20 matchups that will tell the NFC Championship Game’s tale.

Jonathan Gannon versus Kyle Shanahan

Whether you’re a fan of his or not, we’ll know a lot more about Jonathan Gannon at about 6:15 p.m. EST on Sunday than we do right now. He faces his biggest test, matching wits with one of the NFL’s brightest offensive minds, Kyle Shanahan on the largest stage on which he’s ever been asked to coach.

The 49ers enter the NFC Championship Game with a white-hot rookie quarterback who boasts a perfect 7-0 record as a starter. They have stars everywhere on their offense (George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, and Christian McCaffrey). Here’s where we stand. If J.G.’s unit holds the Niners’ offense in check, we had better not hear anything negative about Gannon again.

Shane Steichen versus DeMeco Ryans

One good turn deserves another. We love former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans. We just don’t love him right now.

Shane Steichen has the tools and the offensive weaponry: Jalen Hurts, Miles Sanders, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert among others. If Philly doesn’t turn the ball over or if Shane doesn’t outthink himself (or ignore the running game). Philly’s offense should be fine.

The Eagles rushing attack versus the 49ers rushing defense

When we’ve seen other teams that feature similar offensive rushing attacks to the Eagles match up with the Niners (the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears), those teams beat San Fran this season, but that was also a long time ago.

Sure, this is a classic strength-versus-strength matchup. The Eagles are the NFL’s best rushing team. The Niners are pro football’s best team at stopping the run, but here’s the wild card, Jalen Hurts. San Francisco struggles with dual-threat quarterbacks.

Justin Fields and Marcus Mariota both took the Niners apart with their legs this season, but neither of those guys is advanced as Jalen Hurts. Don’t be shocked if the Eagles’ offense has a huge outing on the ground and if Hurts is a big part of that.

Simply put, if Philadelphia finds success with its running game. The Niners might be in some trouble.

Lane Johnson/Jordan Mailata versus Nick Bosa

Though it seems like Nick Bosa should spend most of his time on Lane Johnson‘s side of the field, he lines up on both sides of the formation. That means the expected NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Jordan Mailata will get very acquainted in this one as well.

If Bosa is allowed to have a field day and get pressure on Jalen Hurts, that will cause Philadelphia’s offense some issues. Normally, no one would be sweating if we knew Lane was fully healthy, but we know he’s playing hurt. Keep a close eye on this battle as it’s expected to earn some attention.

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