San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Preview: Prediction, Best Bets, Odds, Depth Charts (12/03/23)
One of the best and most important games of the 2023 NFL season is on the schedule Sunday (12/3/23) when the first-place Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) play host to the second-place San Francisco 49ers (8-3) at 4:25 p.m. EST. Despite their superior record and home-field advantage, the Eagles are 3-point underdogs against the spread in this rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game.
This article provides 49ers vs. Eagles analysis, predictions and betting recommendations and explains why the best bet in this matchup is the Eagles +3.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Prediction & Best Bet
The Philadelphia Eagles have the best record in the NFL, two games better than the next-best team. They are 4-0 against teams that are top 10 in both DVOA and net EPA (Miami, Dallas, Kansas City, and Buffalo). They have come back from 10-point halftime deficits in back-to-back weeks to defeat the Chiefs and Bills in their last two games. They are playing at home, where they are 14-1 over the last two seasons (including playoffs) with Jalen Hurts under center.
Despite all of that, they are 3-point underdogs against the 49ers this week. Based on all the research we could find (like this, this, and this), they are the first NFL team in the Super Bowl era to be 10-1 and 3-point underdogs at home.
On the surface, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But all the advanced analytics favor the 49ers. They are second in the league in DVOA and net EPA, while the Eagles are ninth and seventh, respectively, in those categories. There is certainly merit in those types of metrics – we’re not trying to downplay the value of analytics. But it’s also hard to ignore the most important metric of all: wins.
The national narrative surrounding the Eagles is that their 7-1 record in one-score games is unsustainable, and they have gotten some lucky breaks in several of their recent wins that cannot be expected to continue. All of that is true, but they have also been able to capitalize on those lucky breaks. The Eagles lead the league by a wide margin in offensive EPA/play in the second half and overtime over their last five games. That is not all luck, and it’s a large enough sample size to be meaningful.
So the big question entering this game is whether they can keep that up for at least one more game, or if this is the week that some of their luck starts to run out. It would be easy to expect this week to be the week that happens. Not only is San Francisco the best team they will face in the regular season, but they also could be missing All-Pro RT Lane Johnson, who was a late scratch last week with a groin injury.
While reports indicate Johnson should return this week, it’s always possible that type of injury could be aggravated during practice or in the game. That is a significant factor to monitor, as the Eagles are 11-22 since 2016 when Johnson misses games. In their lone loss this season against the Jets, Johnson left the game in the first half with an injury. Johnson will be the primary lineman responsible for lining up against reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa.
The 49ers also have a rest advantage after playing on Thanksgiving last week, while the Eagles are coming off an overtime slugfest in which their defense was on the field for 92 snaps.
All signs point to a 49ers victory in this game, but we simply cannot pass up on the opportunity to take the points with the Eagles as a home underdog. The Eagles could certainly win this game outright, and it was tempting to take them on the moneyline, but we prefer the safer play at +3 against the spread.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Prediction & Best Bet: 49ers win 23-21 | Best Bet: Eagles +3 (-120 at BetMGM)
San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Betting Odds
The spread in this epic matchup opened with the 49ers as -1 favorites and is moving in their direction as it now sits at either -2.5 or -3 depending on the sportsbook. It’s somewhat surprising the 49ers are laying the key number of 3 as road favorites against a team with a better record, but all the advanced analytics favor the Niners. It’s unlikely the line will cross over that key number to reach -3.5, but it’s worth monitoring, especially if you’re backing the Birds.
The over/under in this matchup is holding steady at its opening line of 46.5 and seems unlikely to move much from that number.
The implied outcome of these odds is the 49ers winning 25-22.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Key Injuries
The most significant injury to monitor in this game is Lane Johnson, which we discussed above. The Eagles also could be missing veteran DT Fletcher Cox and their top linebacker Zach Cunningham. It seems there is an outside chance that TE Dallas Goedert could return for this game, but that feels unlikely just three weeks after he broke his forearm.
The 49ers are in better shape injury-wise. They lost starting S Talanoa Hufanga for the season in week 11, but otherwise should have all their starters available for this game.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for 49ers vs. Eagles below.
San Francisco 49ers’ offensive line vs. Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive front
These are two of the most complete teams in the league with elite playmakers all over their rosters. In a matchup like that, this game will be won in the trenches, and that is where the Eagles have their biggest advantage.
The 49ers’ offensive line, from left to right, is LT Trent Williams, LG Aaron Banks, C Jake Brendel, RG Spencer Burford, and RT Colton McKivitz. Williams is a 10-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, but the other four starters are average at best, especially in pass protection.
As a unit, the 49ers’ OL is fourth in adjusted line yards (a run blocking metric) and is PFF’s fourth-rated run blocking team. In pass protection, they are 18th in adjusted sack rate and 28th in PFF’s grading. The Eagles’ pass rush generates pressure at the sixth-highest rate despite being just 21st in blitz rate.
The Eagles’ defensive line dominated the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game last year, which is what led to both Brock Purdy and backup Josh Johnson being injured in that game. The 49ers have since lost RT Mike McGlinchey, who was their second-best lineman. The key matchup to watch here is McKivitz (McGlinchey’s replacement) against Haason Reddick – the same player who knocked out Purdy back in January.
If the Eagles dominate up front again, that will not only help to slow down Christian McCaffrey but will also disrupt Purdy’s passing attack. On the other hand, if the 49ers can keep Purdy upright this time, he should be able to find success against the Eagles’ weak pass defense.
Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive line vs. San Francisco 49ers’ defensive front
This is the biggest matchup of iron against iron in this game. The Eagles have the best offensive line in the league. While they have struggled at times this season and are just 17th in ALR and 22nd in ASR, they are PFF’s 2nd best pass blockers and top-graded run blocking unit.
The 49ers have four different defensive linemen with five sacks this season – Nick Bosa (8), ex-Eagle Javon Hargrave (6), Arik Armstead (5), and recently acquired Chase Young (6.5). They are 10th in the league in pressure rate despite being 30th in blitz rate, so both of these teams are excellent at generating pressure with their front four.
Young has already faced the Eagles twice this season before being traded. He beat Eagles LT Jordan Mailata for a sack in his first game but has otherwise been mostly neutralized in both games.
Jalen Hurts’ elite mobility and escapability can help to neutralize some of the 49ers’ pass rush, but that will still be a big factor in this game. The bigger impact could be in the run game, where the 49ers are just 20th in DVOA and 24th in EPA against the run. The Eagles should have an advantage in the run game with their OL blocking for D’Andre Swift, but they have been inconsistent about establishing the run this season, especially early in games.
That probably needs to change this week to exploit the most vulnerable aspect of the 49ers’ defense. If it does, the advantage here should lie with the Eagles.