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NY Post
New York Post
2 Dec 2023

NextImg:Niners, Eagles NFC title game rematch could be preview to Super Bowl

That the 49ers have a score to settle Sunday in Philadelphia must take a back seat in importance to this monumental game to the numbers.

The numbers tell you how critical this matchup is. This game very well may determine who earns the home-field advantage in the playoffs, with the Eagles entering the day with a league-best 10-1 record and the 49ers 8-3.

In the 49ers’ past 13 home games including playoffs, they’re 12-1 and are averaging 29.2 points per game to 14.7 to opponents, and they’re plus-19 in turnover margin.

In the Eagles’ past eight home games including playoffs, they’re 8-0 and are averaging 31.9 points with a plus-five in turnover ratio.

So, there you have it: The winner of this game has a potential fast track to the Super Bowl, because defeating either team at their home field is a nearly impossible task.

Last season, the 49ers entered the NFC Championship game against the Eagles riding a 13-game winning streak and had the Super Bowl at the forefront of their minds. Those thoughts were dashed on the 49ers first drive when Eagles pass rusher Haason Reddick knocked San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy out of the game with a torn ligament in his throwing elbow.

Brock Purdy throws a pass during an NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial. Getty Images

The 49ers had to resort to journeyman backup quarterback Josh Johnson, who struggled before being knocked out of the game with a concussion early in the third quarter. That forced the Niners to play most of the second half with Purdy at quarterback, essentially handing the ball off because he was unable to throw the ball more than a few yards.

The result was a 31-7 Eagles win that sent them to Super Bowl LVII, where they would lose to the Chiefs.

So, in a sense, both teams have a score to settle as the postseason nears. But the 49ers have a particularly bad taste in their mouths from that loss to the Eagles.

After the game, 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel called Eagles cornerback James Bradberry “trash” and Philadelphia his “most hated” opponent.

Fellow San Francisco receiver Brandon Aiyuk called out the Eagles for being “extremely lucky” to win and predicted they would be exposed by the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

“We definitely know what happened last season — a lot of words going back and forth, but despite that, we got another opportunity [and] they have another opportunity to play football,’’ Aiyuk told reporters this week.

“Last year is over with,” 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa said this week. “Neither team finished the job, so it’s not like they’re looking back and reminiscing on an NFC Championship win, either. We were both sad at the end of the year. We both have aspirations to win Super Bowls, so it’s a new year and this is a big step for both of us to get to that aspiration.”

Interestingly, for as good as the Eagles have been this season, they enter the same as slight underdogs to the 49ers, who have won three consecutive games.

The 49ers have lost the past two NFC Championship games, to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams before the loss to the Eagles last season.

After a three-game skid that halted a hot start, the 49ers’ defense has been boosted by the acquisition of pass rusher Chase Young. San Francisco has 15 sacks in the three games since acquiring Young from Washington. The 49ers star Nick Bosa finished with two sacks in the last game to become the fourth San Francisco defender to reach 50 in his career.

Jalen Hurts reacts as he walks off the field after an overtime victory against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field.
Jalen Hurts reacts as he walks off the field after an overtime victory against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Offensively, the 49ers have been bolstered by running back Christian McCaffrey, who already has a franchise-record 11 rushing touchdowns this season. McCaffrey’s 16 overall touchdowns are the most ever for any San Francisco player in the team’s first 11 games of the season.

The Eagles offense is all about quarterback Jalen Hurts, who’s at the head of the conversation as the NFL’s MVP this season. The Eagles are a remarkable 27-2 in his past 29 regular-season starts, and Hurts has been a part of 14 consecutive victories over teams with winning records. In last week’s dramatic comeback victory over the Bills, Hurts produced five TDs via the air and ground.

San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner tried to take a more pragmatic — if emotionless — approach to this huge game.

“People try to blow it up because of the weight of it,’’ Warner said, “However, it’s the biggest one just because it’s the next one. There are a lot of implications down the line for this game. But is that going to help you focusing on those things going into this game? Not at all.

“You got to focus on playing smart and smart football and execute at a high level in order to go into somebody’s house who is a 10-1 football team and one of the best teams in the league and get a win.”