NFC championship betting preview: 49ers, Eagles collide
The two best teams in the NFC finally meet, as football fans and bettors alike have waited for each side to be pushed to the brink at full strength. Their schedule strengths have been a hot topic these days, as the 49ers have won 12 straight games but haven't faced a top-five team since losing 44-23 to the Chiefs.
Meanwhile, when it comes to high-level competition, what do we really know about the Eagles? Their two games against the Cowboys featured backup quarterbacks on the road. Their five other wins over playoff teams came against the Jaguars amidst their rough start, the Vikings, and the Giants three times. According to Football Outsiders' DVOA, Jacksonville is the best of the group as the 13th-ranked team.
49ers @ Eagles (-2.5, 46.5)
The Eagles have seen betting interest after they crushed the Giants. This line was projected at pick'em before opening at -1.5 and rising to -2.5. However, we knew Philadelphia was better than New York. Does that make this team better than the 49ers? Home-field advantage and an extra day of rest wholly account for a potential closing line of 2.5 points.
We knew the Eagles could run the football against the Giants' league-worst run defense by DVOA and second-worst run defense based on yards per rush against. Last week, we theorized that New York's offense would struggle with the Eagles after looking capable against the Vikings. Could the same shift happen with Philadelphia versus the 49ers, who have arguably the league's best run defense? And if the Eagles can't score as easily as they did last week, are they incapable of winning?
Offensively, the game will be on the arm of Jalen Hurts. With the 49ers' struggles in the secondary against CeeDee Lamb last week and DK Metcalf in the wild-card round, Hurts could have success throwing deep.
The 49ers have their own arm to worry about, as Brock Purdy continues to graduate up the ladder of tests. He'll now go on the road against a defense that's comparable to what he faced at home last week when the 49ers only scored one touchdown.
With overall uncertainty, the only thing that stands out is how each team wins its games. The Eagles led the league with 18 first-half points per game this season, while the 49ers have done most of their work in the second half. I don't expect Philadelphia to rack up its 18-point average in this first half, but I'm willing to bet it'll have a lead at halftime. At that point, maybe the 49ers will be worth a bet to either tighten the game or win it outright in the second half.
Pick: Eagles first half -0.5
Player prop best bets
Jalen Hurts over 247.5 passing yards
Whether it's because the Eagles' run game isn't working or Hurts has success pushing the ball down the field, Philadelphia won't be able to take the air out of the ball in the second half. That's what's frequently depressed Hurts' air yardage this season.
Miles Sanders under 14.5 rushing attempts
As implied above, plowing Sanders into the line isn't going to work the same way it did against the Giants. Sanders has only gone over this total in four of the last 11 regular-season games.
Dallas Goedert under 19.5 longest reception
Dallas Goedert, who popped up repeatedly against the Giants, is back at full speed. However, the 49ers have the personnel to shut down opposing tight ends, having allowed the second-fewest yards per catch in the NFL to the position at 8.7. He may score like Dalton Schultz did, but Goedert should also be close to Schultz's stat line of five receptions for a long catch of nine yards.
Jauan Jennings over 13.5 longest reception
Jauan Jennings acts as a hybrid receiver-tight end, frequently blocking for the 49ers' elaborate run designs. However, you can expect Jennings to receive two-to-five targets, often via play-action passes over the middle where he can catch and run for 14-plus yards, which he's done in four of the last five games.
Anytime touchdown best bets
We thought Hurts would be saved for the red zone last week, and he scored against the Giants. Dak Prescott almost scored on a keeper in San Francisco, so we'll play Hurts to get to the outside and score on a goal-to-go situation.
Depending on matchups, DeVonta Smith might be the deep target of choice while also being the best option to snake his way for a score when the Eagles run a wide receiver screen or read-option near the goal line.
As we mentioned, we like Jennings' chances for usage. With the Eagles' elite corners handling things on the outside, maybe Jennings falls through the cracks in Philly's red-zone defense.
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.
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