It has been a 4 week hiatus with my Big Five Picks but for good reason! My family and I took a small family trip to Santa Rosa to meet up with some friends who also have children of similar age during Week 10 of the NFL season. Too hard to write an NFL article when you are relaxing pool side with good company! Then we had Thanksgiving Break. Even though I had time off from work, it was important to use that time to be with family. After that, we had the explosion of Christmas that immediately follows Thanksgiving and the usual cold/flu/fever/RSV/whatever respiratory infection that comes through your house at this time of year, especially when you have kids who go to a school that sometimes acts like a petri dish full of germs! I still haven't fully shaken off whatever bug that struck a week ago!
I am feeling better and I am eager to share some picks with those who have enjoyed reading my articles. More importantly, we have a game on the horizon that has been on my mind for quite some time. If you don't know what I am talking about, just stop reading! Well, I will just say it ... 49ers - Eagles! I have never wanted a 49er win so badly since the early 90s or the mid to late 90s when the 49ers lost repeatedly to the Dallas Cowboys and then the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. As I have shared in previous posts, my first true memory of football was watching the 49ers beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII back in January 1988. I was 10 years old at the time and ever since then I have been a fan. The 49ers followed up that season with complete dominance by going 14-2 during the 1989 season and then steamrolling the competition in the playoffs en route to a 2nd consecutive championship in Super Bowl XXIV. The 49ers continued to play at superior level during the 1990 season by going 14-2 again and looked poised for a 3rd straight trip to the Super Bowl only to see Roger Craig fumble the ball late in the NFC title game to the NY Giants which then enabled the Giants to kick a game winning field goal as time expired.
Back then, you had this feeling that the 49ers were invincible and anything less than a Super Bowl win was unacceptable. Oh, to be 12 years old again! The 49ers did get another Super Bowl win in 1994 but only to see them lose deep in the playoffs to other classic teams I already mentioned like the Cowboys and Packers. I must say, it felt incredibly good to exact revenge on those two teams in 1994 and 1998, respectively, and today's game will feel the same way should the 49ers take care of business in the City of Brotherly Love.
Let me reiterate that I have NEVER wanted a 49ers win this BADLY since the 90s! There have been many great 49ers seasons this current millennium and other teams that have been a thorn on the side like Seattle about 10 years ago but beating Philadelphia would mean so much. It would mean that the Eagles are truly a lucky team that should be regressing towards the mean. Look at any fundamental or advanced metric and it's mind boggling that the Eagles are 10-1. The Chiefs and the Bills had them beat in the last two weeks only to see Jalen Hurts continually pull a rabbit out of his ass. The refs also seem to make calls in favor of the Eagles which can be incredibly frustrating. The 49ers are hungry and the betting public has noticed it with the 49ers as a 3 point favorite on the road. I will admit that such a line is a total slap in the face to the Eagles. After all, they are the defending NFC Champions, beat the 49ers to a pulp last year int he NFC title game, they have a better record, beaten good teams, and they are hosting. What else do they need to do?!
Still, the 49ers team have the right personnel to beat the Eagles. We all know the Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in NFL history. To challenge them in a slow, grind-it-out type of game is foolish. You won't stand a chance even if you have a strong defensive line like the 49ers and Christian McCaffrey toting the rock on the other side of the ball. To beat Philadelphia, you have to force them in a shootout. The Bills had the right game plan last week but the Eagles kicked a 59 yard field goal to force overtime and Hurts got into the endzone in just enough time to seal the Bills fate. However, the Eagles nearly lost to the lowly Washington Commanders when both teams scored 30 points each. The Eagles lost in the Super Bowl last year with a final score of 38-35. One of the Eagles three losses last year was to the Cowboys who won 40-33. The Eagles don't lose often but then they do, it's when the pace of the game is ramped up by a few levels.
That is precisely what the 49ers need to do. Don't let the foot off the pedal. They have the offensive firepower to play that type of game with Brock Purdy, McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle. As long as the other pieces such as Trent Williams and Kyle Juszczyk do their job by creating space (which they have done at a Pro Bowl lever every year for as as they have been with the 49ers), the 49ers can run up the scoreboard and force the Eagles to get out of their comfort zone or otherwise known as the "Tush Push". However, I still think the 49ers defensive front seven can stop the "Tush Push" should the Eagles find themselves in a few short yardage situations while its 3rd or 4th down in the middle of the field or in the redzone. This will be strength on strength and will be so much fun to watch! Let's just hope the refs let these guys play and keep the penalty calls to a minimum.
If you have made it this far, you are probably wondering when I am going to get to my Big Five Picks and my analysis. Well, I kind of have already given you my analysis of the biggest game of the day and arguably the biggest game of the year. The other games don't matter as much but I will give you my picks without too much analysis which of course will include my prediction for the 49ers-Eagles. Here we go!
- Pittsburgh Steelers -6.5
The Arizona Cardinals are shit. The Steelers are a playoff contender and hosting this game. The model has Pittsburgh winning 14.73 points. Need I say more? Pittsburgh 27 - Arizona 13.
- Miami Dolphins -9
The Washing Commanders are shit. The Dolphins are not just a playoff contender but a Super Bowl contender. They might be on the road but it won't matter. Washington can't stop any aerial attack and now they get to face the most lethal passing game in the NFL. The model has Miami winning by 15.36 points but it could be 20 or 30 or 40! Miami 38 - Washington 17.
- Tampa Bay -3.5
The Carolina Panthers are shit. Do you see a theme here?! Take the teams who are playing inferior competition, especially at this point in the year when team are jockeying for playoff position while others just want to get the season over with and hopefully land a good draft spot. Oh wait, the Panthers dealt their first round pick this year for Bryce Young who has looked awful! And the Panthers have a new coach today. Wow, what a mess the Panthers have become. The Bucs might be a middle of the road team but they have the talent to demolish Carolina. The model has Tampa Bay winning by 10.27 points. Expect yet another favored team to win by double digits. Tampa Bay 24 - Carolina 14.
- Cleveland Browns +4
OK, I can't take all chalk today! The Browns are now on QB #4 and on the road so this is a risky pick. However, the Browns still have a solid running game, talented receivers, and one of the best defenses in the NFL. Even though QB Joe Flacco is 38 years old, he still has some gas left in the tank and is a proven winner. He could see himself in Canton, Ohio once he retires. Just maybe not on the first or second or even the third ballot but he is Hall of Fame worthy. He will do enough to manage the game for Cleveland who is looking to make the playoffs whereas the Rams are still going through an identity crisis after winning the Super Bowl two years ago. The model has Cleveland winning by 5.38 points so I will somewhat temper expectations given the Browns recent QB issues. Cleveland 19 - LA Rams 17.
- San Francisco -3
I have said my piece here! I want this one BADLY! The model has the 49ers win by 9.25 points. I agree. The 49ers win convincingly and hopefully get that coveted 6th Super Bowl trophy two months from now. San Francisco 30 - Philadelphia 20.
There you have it. Expect two blowouts in the morning slate, another semi-blowout in the afternoon, a tough battle in Hollywood where the more physical team wins, and the 49ers finally get their revenge 3,000 miles from home. Enjoy the games and GO NINERS!