NCAA Football

Eagles vs. 49ers, how to watch: time, channel, stream, key matchups for the 2023 NFC Championship Game

Eagles vs. 49ers, how to watch: time, channel, stream, key matchups for the 2023 NFC Championship Game

Let’s not waste time on a long preamble. Championship Sunday in the NFL. In the NFC Championship, the No. 1 seed and NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles will host the No. 2 seed and NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers.

These have been the top two teams in the conference for a large majority of the season, and they will be fighting for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Before we break down the match, here’s how you can watch the game.

How to watch

Date: Sunday, January 29 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
Location: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)
TV: Fox | Stream: fuboTV (try it for free)
Coefficients: Eagles -2.5, O/U 46 (Courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook)

Selected game | Philadelphia Eagles vs. San Francisco 49ers

When the 49ers have the ball

Let’s start by talking about Brock Purdybecause how he handles Philadelphia’s pass rush could be the turning point of this game.

Before last week’s game vs CowboysPurdy has dropped back to pass 177 times since taking over Jimmy Garoppolo still in the 13th week. He completed 110 of 161 passes (68.3%) for 1,308 yards (8.12 per attempt), 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He was sacked 11 times and faced pressures almost exactly at the league average (32.8% vs. 32.6%). Dallas was able to get after Purdy a bit more regularly last week (48.5% snaps, according to Tru Media), and while Purdy was only sacked twice and wasn’t picked off (though he did have one potential interception), his efficiency increased (7 .38 yards per attempt).

During the regular season, the Cowboys were the best team in the league in receiving pressures (43.3% of opponents’ turnovers), but the Eagles were right behind them in second place (38.4%). And the Eagles were slightly better at converting pressures into sacks, with 11.2% of Philly’s pressures resulting in quarterbacks (first in NFL), compared to Dallas’ 8.9% pressure (second). That difference could be incredibly important in this matchup.

The Eagles can throw even more bodies on passes than the Cowboys. Jonathan Gannon will spin through Hassan Reddick, Josh Pott, Brandon Grahamand Robert Quinn on the edge, bringing (mostly) Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave up the middle. San Francisco has an elite left tackle Trent Williams on the left side of the line, but Mike McGlinchey can be vulnerable in the case and guards Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford better at blocking the run than protecting the pass.

Of course, Kyle Shanahan is arguably the league’s top rusher at the moment, and he will undoubtedly create an advantage for Purdy. Shanahan has plenty of tools at his disposal to create wide throwing lanes, with only 9.4% of Purdy’s passes being thrown in tight ends this season, according to Next Gen Stats, good for the second-lowest mark in the NFL. These wide lanes are often liked Maybe Samuel, Brandon Ayuk, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey plenty of room to run with the ball, making Purdy third in the NFL behind only Garoppolo and Patrick Mahomes in yards after the catch per completion (6.45).

Shanahan plans to move Samuels and Ayuk around the lineup to keep them from getting consistent exposure. Darius Slay or James Bradbury on the outside, but the expected return of the Eagles slot corner Avonte Maddox softens this strategy a bit. Philadelphia ranked 27th against the slot when Maddox was off the field this season, according to Tru Media, and first when Maddox was on the field. Getting him back in the lineup should make a big difference.

We know that San Francisco’s offense is designed to run up the middle of the field, and it’s likely that Shanahan, Purdy and company will try to take advantage of Philadelphia’s defenders. (Kittle should be featured heavily here.) Still, much of this midfield passing game is based on offense, and Philly was first in the EPA this season in opposing pass rushers. Opponents completed just 59.7% of their passes for an average of 6.56 yards per attempt while throwing six touchdowns against five interceptions. The 49ers’ passing attack is much different than the league standard, but there’s reason to believe Philly is better equipped than most opponents to handle it.

Because of all these factors, it’s likely the Niners will try to wrestle this battle in the running game. Philadelphia has been much better in passing (first in Football Outsiders DVOA) than rushing (21st) this season, though the Eagles have been better in that department when they can use at least one of Jordan Davis and/or Linval Joseph. San Francisco’s rushing attack tests teams on both diversity and lack of direction. It’s not just zone after zone after zone anymore. Now the 49ers are going to use all kinds of different schemes and give the ball to a bunch of different players. They will force opponents to declare their intentions depending on where Samuel, McCaffrey, Ayuk or Kyle Juszczyk line up and then use those intentions against them.

Philadelphia’s defense doesn’t have the speed of the Dallas team that San Francisco struggled against last week (there are very few players faster than Micah Parsons, after all), so the Eagles might be a little more vulnerable to perimeter runs, they didn’t have much success in the divisional round. The Niners will use either McCaffrey, Samuel or Elijah Mitchell (when he plays) on those runs, and each one can hurt the defense in different ways.

When the Eagles have the ball

The best thing about Philadelphia’s offense this season is that it has shown a great ability to change formations to attack certain opponent weaknesses. Bad against the run? The Eagles will hit the rock all day, as they did when they rushed for over 250 yards in two different games against the Giants and a ridiculous 363 yards against Packers. Weak against the pass? They’ll light you up through the air like they did when they had just 19 rushing attempts to 39 Jalen Hurts passes against Art Titansand he torched them for 380 yards and three scores.

The 49ers defense is great in almost everything. The Niners finished the regular season second in rushing defense DVOA and fifth against the pass. They were first in the EPA for a fall AND first in the EPA for a rush attempt. They generated pressure and sacks at an above-average rate, and they ranked third in the league in yards allowed per rush and first in yards after contact. They rarely allowed explosive passes or runs, and they were arguably the best team in the NFL. They are incredibly well coached and have some absolute freaks that can break any opponent’s game plan in Nick Bosso, Eric Armstead, Fred Warner and Dre Greenlove.

So where do the Eagles attack? This is a deep field for me. The 49ers were first in DVOA against short passes, but only 24th against deep passes. Match between AJ Brown and DeVonta Smithand Charvari parish and Deamador Lenoir numbers will be most important on this side of the match. Hurts was 22 of 55 for 823 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions during the regular season when throwing at least 20 yards on downs. Only two corners have allowed more throws this season than Lenoir, who has completed seven of 13 attempts for 231 yards and a touchdown.

The problem with this offense is that the 49ers set up their defense to keep those throws out of order. They play a lot of two-high coverages: They were one of five teams to play at least 125 Cover-2 and Cover-4 snaps during the regular season. Sometimes their corners line up at the line of scrimmage but cover the deep quarter. They don’t want teams to throw deep, and for the most part, teams don’t throw deep. Only 9.8% of opposing passes went at least 20 yards in the air, the 10th-lowest mark in the league. However, when there were openings, opponents were sometimes able to take advantage.

One of the Eagles’ biggest strengths this year has been their ability to attack the middle of the field. Hurts rarely threw there last season, but the addition of AJ Brown and the unblocking Dallas Goedert meant they worked there more often this season. But nobody better than the Niners can fill the middle because nobody else has Warner and Grinley. This means that the attack path is from the outside. Again, that means going to Lenoir and (to a lesser extent) Ward with passes down the field.

However, perhaps the highlight of their entire weekend is pitting arguably the NFL’s best offensive line against arguably its best defensive line. Nick Bosa, Samson Ebukam, Charles Amenihu and Jordan Willis against Jordan Maillot and Lane Johnson. Eric Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens and T.Yu. McGill against Landon Dickerson, Jason Kells and Isaac Seumalo. Philadelphia leaves its tackle on the island more often than any team in the NFL, which means Bosa will have an opportunity to turn the corner and get to Hurts … if he can catch him, that is.

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