On paper, Sunday’s NFC Championship between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers will be one of the best matchups of the year from a schematic perspective.
The Eagles come into the matchup sporting the third-ranked offense in the NFL.
Throughout the 2022-23 season, they’ve been able to practically run laps around opposing defenses whether through the air or on the ground.
Jalen Hurts is an MVP candidate for a reason. Miles Sanders eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for a reason. A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith each posted 1,000-yard receiving seasons for a reason. The Eagles offensive line is considered one of (if not THE) best units in the National Football League for a reason.
Simply put, they’re an elite bunch.
On the other side of the ball, Philadelphia’s defense is equally as powerful, ranking second in total defense.
They have playmakers all over the field.
The Eagles defense as a collective unit finished with the most sacks in the NFL, 70. They were the first team in NFL history to have four players eclipse double-digit sack numbers.
The unit also routinely gave opposing offenses fits in the passing game with quite possibly the best starting cornerback tandem in the NFL in Darius Slay and James Bradberry.
On the 49ers side of things, despite losing numerous key players including their starting and backup quarterbacks they’ve kept on rolling.
Statistically, they come into Sunday’s matchup as the number five offense in the NFL. With pieces all around the ball and an offensive wiz kid at the helm, it’s not hard to understand why.
Everywhere you look on the depth chart, there is star power (outside of maybe the most important position in professional sports).
Trent Williams is the best left tackle in Pro Football.
Mid-season acquisition Christian McCaffery is one of the most versatile and schematic chess pieces we’ve ever seen on a football field.
In the words of Sports Illustrated’s John McMullen, Deebo Samuel is ‘hybrid hell’ for opposing defenses as he can line up virtually anywhere in an offensive formation and flat-out wreck games.
Oh and then there’s George Kittle, who is a consensus top-ten tight end in the NFL.
And then defensively, it’s a legitimate nightmare and it’s much of the same story on offense.
The San Francisco front seven is perhaps the best collection of defensive talent in the NFL today.
The unit sports two defensive player of the year candidates in Nick Bosa and Fred Warner, both of whom are at or near the top of their respective position groups across the NFL.
Cornerback Chavarius Ward has played like one of the best at his position in 2022, allowing just a 56.8 completion percentage when targeted, as well as an 82.4 passer rating.
As a unit, the group is the best in the NFL. Ranking in the top five in numerous categories, such as EPA per play and defensive success rate.
Both teams do things on both sides of the ball that can be deemed innovative.
The Eagles have their RPO game on offense and quarters-based coverage schemes on defense.
The 49ers have Kyle Shanahan’s zone run schemes and DeMeco Ryans smorgasbord of wrinkles and philosophies.
It’s a true ‘Unstoppable Force Meets the Immovable Object’ moment in the NFL.
But diving deeper, it’s a matchup between two of the premier organizations in the NFL.
Since 2000, the Philadelphia Eagles have appeared in seven NFC Championships, San Francisco has appeared in four.
There are numerous personnel heads who started in both organizations and are now at or near the helm of other teams.
Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns General Manager), Ian Cunningham (Bears Assistant General Manager), and Catherine Raîche (Cleveland Browns Assistant General Manager) are a few of the names that have risen through the ranks of the Eagles personnel department.
For the 49ers, former Director of Player Personnel Ran Carthon was recently hired as the Tennessee Titans General Manager and former V.P. of Player Personnel Ethan Waugh was hired as Assistant General Manager with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Both organizations have assistant coaches who have already or are in line to receive head coaching interviews and position coaches who have received looks for assistant coaching positions.
Both organizations also have rich recent history.
As of last season, the 49ers are a dropped Jaquiski Tartt interception away from reaching two Super Bowls in three years.
This season, they’re riding on the back of the last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft at quarterback, in Brock Purdy. And they’re winning.
Purdy hasn’t lost a game as a starter, and the offense as a whole hasn’t missed a beat. In fact, they’re averaging more points and yards with Purdy at the helm.
Kyle Shanahan has managed to press all the right buttons up to this point, but he’s running into an equally as intimidating buzzsaw.
With a win on Sunday, the Eagles will advance to their 2nd Superbowl in five years. They’ve made the playoff in five of the last six seasons.
General Manager Howie Roseman has routinely allocated resources to ensure that the roster is well-equipped to compete.
Whether it’s moving numerous draft picks in trades for the first wide receiver to win the Heisman trophy in decades, swinging a draft day trade for a top ten wide receiver, signing Hasson Reddick to a bargain three-year $45 million contract, trading for an All-Pro cornerback in Darius Slay, signing a former Pro Bowler in James Bradberry, drafting players that fit what his coaches want to do like the mammoth Jordan Davis or equipping your young quarterback with a failproof safe haven of weapons, protection, and coaching staff, Roseman has done his job and he’s done it quite well.
Sunday’s matchup is sure to be a classic. Both of these organizations are among the NFL’s upper class. It is sure to be an explosion of elite-level coaching and scheming, superstar matchups, and first-class roster building.
Cover Image Credit: Getty Images