ITB: Birds, Niners Loaded With Playmakers
The Philadelphia Eagles find themselves one win away from reaching the Super Bowl. The only obstacle standing in their way is a surging San Francisco 49ers team, winners of 12 straight.
On the latest “Inside The Birds” podcast, Adam Caplan and Geoff Mosher previewed the NFC Championship game and gave their predictions
Geoff Mosher: “Avonte Maddox was a limited participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday. He was able to get out there and do some things. Nick Sirianni said he’s hopeful. I think we have to continue to see how this plays out Friday and as we get a little closer. They never put him on IR, which meant that there was a chance that they thought he could play in the NFC Championship game. Maybe things will trend there.”
Adam Caplan: “It’s good that he’s moving and he is running, we’re told. What matters is: Does he practice with the team? If doesn’t practice with the team, he will not dress. Here’s what we’re told by one very strong source: ‘he’s trending well and has a chance to play.’ Here’s why I don’t think people are willing to say he’s going to play: they wanted to see him stop, start, and run hard in the team part of practice. You have to go against whoever the slot receiver will be. If he’s a scout team player, he’s not playing. If he’s taking team reps, now this is on and he might be able to play.”
Mosher: “I think you have to worry about what kind of shape he’s in to play an NFC Championship game against a team that’s very fast, has a lot of weapons, can go no-huddle. The toe might be fine, but the conditioning might be more of an issue at this point.”
49ers Run Defense
Caplan: “Their ability to diagnose any run play, to get downhill, and to rally to the football, somebody in scouting told me that we have not seen anything like this. (Linebacker) Dre Greenlaw is super athletic and so underrated. Fred Warner is the best off-of-the ball linebacker in football. Their front is long and athletic. (Javon) Kinlaw is real long, he’s had a lot of injuries but is just a really good football player. I’m so interested, because the way you beat the Niners is you throw against them, but you have to run at some point.”
Mosher: “The 49ers defense is number one in total yards, number two in rushing, number one in points allowed. Normally when you’re that good, you’re usually a good situational team, but they’re 16th in third down and 20th in red zone. They’re a little bit bend-but-don’t-break-ish, but they are also number one in interceptions. They bend and bend, and just when you think they’re going to break, they wind up flipping the field with a timely interception.”
Caplan: “Incredible at diagnosing. He crowds the box and knives in there. Whether it’s a pass defense or breaking it up, he’s incredibly smart. He makes up for the lack of athleticism by just being in the right place and just getting in there. I love the way that they use him.”
Caplan: “The reason why their corners get beat, there’s timing speed and there’s football speed, their corners don’t have very good football speed. Charvarius Ward has a good season and Deommodore Lenoir – who got toasted last year – got his confidence back and has really improved. The thing is they give up shot plays. Our analytics guy said if you really study, look at the guys who beat them: guys that are 6’2 or bigger. They have trouble with big, physical receivers who leverage well.”
Mosher: “I really think the Eagles are going to have a different philosophy than they had last week. I suspect that they will have Quez Watkins get a lot more opportunities. I think they will come out throwing and try to get their speed on the outside matched up against Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir.”
Caplan: “He lines up more on the left side and then they flip him. He can move inside in nickel if they want to, he gets unbelievably low. When he lines up on Lane (Johnson’s) side, this is going to be tough for him, for both guys because Lane and (Jordan) Mailata are tall. To me, this is the matchup. If they handle him, they’re going to be very successful. If they don’t, the Eagles will not score 20 points.”
Caplan: “McGlinchey is the guy you should be able to beat, not the most athletic and bendy guy. He’ll give up pressures. Whether you go with an overload or you move guys around that are faster than him like Haason Reddick, that’s the guy you want to beat.”
Caplan: “He didn’t have a great game [against Dallas], he was fidgety. He started moving sometimes for no reason. He doesn’t have a strong arm, but he’s super accurate and they create such a picture for him with pre-snap motion.”
Mosher: “The guys you really fear are (Christian) McCaffrey and George Kittle. Not that Deebo Samuel isn’t feared, but he’s not going to beat them [outside] the numbers, he’s going to beat them in the short area. Kittle and McCaffrey are the guys who can really threaten the Eagles from a linebacker and safety coverage standpoint. That is the key to me, can you contain them on third down?”
Caplan: “McCaffrey’s a guy in the backfield you’re definitely worried about, because the Eagles are not great at covering running backs. Kittle, two things he does well are tight end screens and then what happens is when the number one and two (options) are taken, he will be wide open because defenses forget about him. He can fly, his straight-line speed is phenomenal.”
Final Score Predictions
Caplan: “I have it 49ers 20, the Eagles 24. I just think it’s the difference between the two QBs. Jalen Hurts is just playing so well. I have such a belief in the offensive coaches. The 49ers are a great team, but you should have a high trust in both sides of the ball’s coaching.”
Mosher: “I have the Eagles 27, the 49ers 21.”
– Benjamin Paul is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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