America’s Game of the Week featuring the 49ers-Eagles matchup Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App) is one of the most anticipated NFL games of the year, and not just because it’s a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game.
Everyone is talking about the point spread.
Despite the game being in Philadelphia, the 8-3 49ers are actually favored by 2.5 points over the 10-1 Eagles.
That is literally unprecedented in the Super Bowl era. Per FOX Sports Research, a 10-1 team has never been a home underdog in the regular season during that span, until the Eagles in this game.
This is why the spread is getting a lot more attention among NFL fans and media than it normally would, even for such an anticipated showdown. When asked about the topic this week, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan admitted he has no explanation for why his team would be favored.
“I mean, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I don’t really know how that stuff works,” Shanahan said. “So, I don’t really know why. It is random.”
However, Shanahan’s Eagles counterpart, Nick Sirianni, is more than happy to explain why his team should have an underdog mentality despite owning the league’s best record.
“We just worry about going to work for ourselves,” Sirianni said. “I think going into the last year and the year before, no one really thought we would be any good. I think it’s OK to be the underdog.”
Sirianni then went on to evoke another famous Philadelphia underdog.
“I said on the radio the other day, before I ever stepped foot in the city, all I knew about this city was Rocky versus Apollo Creed,” Sirianni said, referencing the 1976 classic film. “The city plays the underdog well.”
Despite the Eagles having two more wins than the 49ers, the “Undisputed” panel of Skip Bayless, Keyshawn Johnson and Michael Irvin agree that San Francisco is the better team — and deserve to be treated as such.
Johnson pointed to the 49ers’ recent winning streak as proof, especially their blowout wins on the road over playoff contenders like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks. In contrast, Philadelphia has eked out narrow wins over the past two weeks against the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.
“I can see where the oddsmakers look and say, ‘Here’s the last two games from this team, and here’s the last two games from this team, and [the 49ers are] better,'” Johnson said. “They’re a little more complete on both sides of the ball, especially their defensive side, which is better than Philadelphia’s defense. … San Francisco’s been able to go on the road and annihilate teams where [The Eagles] have struggled and [needed] to come from behind with last heroic moments to win these games.”
Still, Johnson thinks the spread could only motivate Sirianni’s Eagles and is picking Philadelphia to win Sunday.
“There’s nothing wrong with it; I just think Philadelphia wants to show the world that they’re not just chopped liver,” Johnson said.
49ers HC Kyle Shanahan on being favorites vs. Eagles : ‘Doesn’t make a lot of sense’
Irvin, however, cautioned that the Eagles are coming off two emotional wins against Kansas City and Buffalo. At the same time, the 49ers are still ascending after snapping their midseason three-game losing streak.
As Irvin pointed out, the 49ers have received several midseason boosts, including getting All-Pros Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel back from injury, trading for former No. 2 overall pick Chase Young and moving defensive coordinator Steve Wilks down from the coaches’ box to the team’s sideline during games.
But Irvin also said that San Francisco cannot get too confident about themselves heading into the rematch of the game they lost 31-7 last year, praising Shanahan for addressing the spread in the manner he did.
“Kyle Shanahan may not know anything about point spreads, but he knows they’re trying to mess with his players’ heads, and that’s why he has to say something right now — to tell his players, ‘Don’t bite this bait,'” Irvin said. “‘Let’s make sure we stay focused and stay scared. We’ve been playing our best football over the past three weeks because we were scared; we were worried after going 0-3 that maybe we’re not the team that we thought we were.'”
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Bayless, meanwhile, believes the spread reflects what the outcome of Sunday’s game will show — that the 49ers are clearly the better team.
“This point spread is one big duh,” Bayless said. “Vegas is saying to you, ‘Hey, stop. Reality check.’ … The [sportsbooks] are saying, ‘There’s no way we’re going to make Philadelphia a three-point favorite at home because the sharps in Las Vegas will jump all over the 49ers.’ It’s clear the 49ers are just a little bit better than Philadelphia, even in Philadelphia.”
“The stats are screaming at you that the Philly defense is way overrated. It’s 20th in points allowed. It’s third from the bottom in third-down conversions allowed. It’s having a hard time stopping anybody because Philadelphia has been outgained for four straight games, all of which [Jalen Hurts] figured out how to win after trailing at halftime.”
Can San Francisco continue flexing its muscles, or do the Eagles have another improbable victory in the offing? We’ll find out on Sunday.
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