The stage is set, and the winner gets a trip to Las Vegas to play in Super Bowl 58. We’ve got the Detroit Lions traveling to San Francisco to face off against the 49ers. These two teams are evenly matched, and it should be a great game to watch. Here’s our 2023 NFC Championship preview.
How They Got Here
The 49ers had the easiest path to this game after they locked up the 1 seed in the NFC after a Week 17 win over the Washington Commanders. The 49ers looked like the best team in the NFC most of the regular season. Brock Purdy had an array of weapons to choose from this season with Christian McCaffrey taking the rushing crown, George Kittle finishing as the only tight end with over 1000 yards, and the dynamic duo of Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel at receiver. Their defense was top five in the league, and they nearly went perfect in divisional play. They took down Green Bay in the divisional round, their first game of the postseason, although it was far closer than most anticipated.
The Lions had a similar path during the regular season. There were few bumps along the way, and they were fighting the 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys down to the wire for the first seed in the conference. The Lions fully took the leap forward off a great ending to their 2022 season and Jared Goff was excellent in an offense that features one of the best receivers in the league and a pair of rookies in Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta that tore it up in their first year. The Lions had to get past a red-hot Rams team in the Wildcard round and barely left with a win. It allowed them to host a second straight playoff game against the Bucs who they handled easily.
For the 49ers, it’s whether Deebo Samuel can play. He is a massive part of their offense even when his stats aren’t filling up the sheet. If he can’t go, the Lions can focus on other key players.
For the Lions, it’s whether their secondary can contain Purdy and Co. They allowed the 6th most passing yards in the league this season and could be torched if the Niners make that their game plan.
Key to a Win
49ers – Run the ball with Christian McCaffrey. It felt like Kyle Shanahan forgot the league’s best running back was on the field during their game against the Packers. CMC should be getting 20 or more carries in this game and the offense should run through him. Detroit is sound in the run game, but CMC is a different animal and is the key.
Lions – Win the turnover battle. The 49ers defense tied for the league lead in interceptions, and they picked Jordan Love off twice last week. The last pick won them the game. Jared Goff had just 12 interceptions all season and isn’t known as a guy who turns it over a lot, this isn’t a good game to get that reputation.
I have the Niners running their way to a victory and heading to Las Vegas, 28-23.