Game Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, and Jimmy Garappolo failed to practice for the 49ers on Wednesday as they deal with various ailments. As things currently stand, the team is not expecting Garoppolo back for Conference Championship Round but is expecting CMC and Mitchell to play.
- Avonte Maddox got in a limited session for the Eagles on Wednesday after missing the previous three contests. There is a legitimate chance he returns this week.
- These two teams rank second and third in the league in overall DVOA (a composite of offensive and defensive DVOA).
- Philadelphia’s three highest pass rate over expectation (PROE) values from individual games this season have come against defenses ranked in the top 10 in rush success rate allowed.
- The Eagles rank first in DVOA against the pass but 21st in DVOA against the run.
How san Francisco Will Try To Win ::
The way in which the 49ers are likeliest to try and win this game lines up pretty well with areas of the defense that the Eagles cede the most volume and production to – an off-tackle-based run game built around secondary gap creation, quick hits within the first five yards of the line of scrimmage, and schemed short area usage to the tight end. And while that is more of a straightforward game plan relative to what we’ve grown accustomed to from the 49ers, the layers of dynamism from Kyle Shanahan’s scheme leave the offense far from predictable. Expect a slow pace of play (23rd-ranked first half pace of play and 32nd-ranked second half pace of play) and an attempt at sustained drives designed to limit the number of offensive possessions from the Eagles, particularly considering their seventh-round rookie quarterback under center. And, yes, Purdy has this offense operating as the number one pass offense by DVOA since he took over, but this environment will be unlike anything he has seen during his short career. On the road in Philadelphia in an NFC Championship game is not the same as playing at Levi Stadium in a positive game script. He has also had some good variance work in his favor regarding potential interceptions thus far. Either way, expect a high reliance on Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell on the ground (with Deebo Samuel sprinkled in) and schemed short area usage to George Kittle and Samuel as the primary means of moving the ball through the air.
The fact that the ground game presents the path of least resistance for the 49ers to move the ball should allow them to run their preferred offense deep into the game – barring an extreme negative game script. The only problem is that Christian McCaffrey has been battling a hobbling calf injury that has sapped some of his explosiveness (this is less quantifiable rather than what I saw from watching the Divisional Round game back) and Elijah Mitchell has joined him on the injury report to start the week. I tentatively expect both to play here, but there is some concern with the former due to the fact that CMC handled most of the first half running back opportunities in the Divisional Round before being out-touched by Mitchell in the second half. The pure rushing matchup yields a well above average 4.62 net-adjusted line yards metric against an Eagles defense with a 32nd-ranked power success rate allowed on the season (runs between the tackles from heavy personnel sets). Finally, fullback Kyle Juszczyk should be busy for the 49ers, who should combine with George Kittle to provide what equates to additional blockers for the run game up front.
The most interesting aspect of this matchup for the 49ers revolves around George Kittle and his utilization. Typically, Kittle is kept in to block at an increased rate against defenses that either blitz a lot or are capable of generating organic pressure in the backfield, the latter of which describes the Eagles. As in, there is a legitimate scenario where Kittle sees his routes run rate take a significant hit against an Eagles defense that just missed setting the single season record for sacks this year (70; the record is 72). That’s going to be an interesting battle here due to just how good the Philadelphia secondary has played this season (first in DVOA against the pass), particularly considering it looks likely that Avonte Maddox returns from a three-game absence (nickel corner). With that consideration in mind, I find it likely that the 49ers scheme additional volume to Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey through the air, likely to fit an overall game plan of maintaining sustained drives. And while we should expect layered deep passing to be melded into that game plan at some frequency, the bulk of their offensive game plan should revolve around the run game and short area passing through schemed looks designed to get the ball into the hands of their most dynamic playmakers in space. Brandon Aiyuk should continue as the lone true wide receiver, with the majority of his work likeliest to come through slants and ball-out-quick schemed usage to keep the chains moving. Jauan Jennings and Ray-Ray McCloud should combine to eat up the remaining wide receiver snaps for an offense that utilizes heavy rates of 21-personnel alignments.