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5 things to watch: Lions at 49ers 

The Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers square off later today in Santa Clara to determine the NFC representative in Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas in two weeks.

These two teams have been on the path to this matchup for a couple months now as two of the best teams in the NFC. With a win, the Lions would play in the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Here are five things to watch out for in today's NFC Championship Game:


The 49ers and Lions finished No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in total offense this season. San Francisco was No. 3 in points per game (28.4) with Detroit coming in at No. 5 (27.1).

There's a lot of similarities between the two offenses. They both have a dynamic and consistent run game with talented running backs Christian McCaffrey, David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. They both feature two of the best playmakers in the game at wide receiver in Amon-Ra St. Brown and Deebo Samuel. The two top tight ends in the NFC this season were the 49ers' George Kittle and Detroit's Sam LaPorta. Each team has a receiver who can take the top off the defense in Jameson Williams and Brandon Aiyuk. And the two top tackles in football are 49ers left tackle Trent Williams and Lions right tackle Penei Sewell.

The Lions have more experience at quarterback with Jared Goff, but looking at his numbers and those of 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy this season they are very similar. Even the play callers for both sides – Kyle Shanahan for the 49ers and Ben Johnson for the Lions – are considered two of the best offensive minds in the league.

This one will likely come down to which offense is better at taking care of the football, scoring in the red zone and converting on third down.


Two things jump out right away watching the 49ers' defense. One, their ability to fire off the ball upfront, and two, their overall team speed, especially at the linebacker position.

Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw might be the best linebacker duo in the NFL. Their ability to play sideline to sideline in the run game and cover is as good as it gets.

"You could argue these two are right up there with Baltimore's two stacked linebackers (Patrick Queen & Roquan Smith). They're the best in football, in my opinion," Johnson said this week. "Normally, what we try to do on offense is we try to throw some eye candy out there and try to get them off kilter, but I think these guys have played so much football, together, within this scheme, that you can see they diagnose and read their keys very, very well. They're very instinctive football players."

The 49ers are a fast, attacking-style defense upfront and a group in the backend Johnson referred to as 'feisty.' Detroit's offense needs to start fast and combat the 49ers aggressiveness on defense with play speed and execution.


This is a terrific strength on strength matchup.

Most offensive coordinators would be worried heading into a matchup like this against two dynamic pass rushers on the edge like the 49ers' Nick Bosa and Chase Young. But Lions right tackle Penei Sewell and left tackle Taylor Decker have handled every big challenge lined up across from them all season, so why should tonight be any different?

The Sewell and Bosa matchup will be particularly interesting. Sewell's first ever game in the NFL was against Bosa and co., a game the Lions lost but Sewell didn't surrender a sack in. Two seasons later Sewell is now one of the best tackles in football and the magnitude of this game couldn't be any bigger.

View photos from the Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, January 25, 2024.


The Lions' defense has given up yards, particularly in the passing game, over the last month or so, but they haven't allowed 100 yards rushing in six straight, they've been pretty good in the red zone and they've been opportunistic creating takeaways. That's a pretty successful recipe on defense playing alongside an explosive offense.

This is the most complete offense they'll have faced since Baltimore Week 7 and that game ended in a 38-6 Lions loss. Samuel is questionable to play with a shoulder injury but he was practicing at the end of the week and the expectation is he'll give it a go.

Can the Lions continue to stop the run, force field goals in the red zone and create some turnovers? If they do that, they have a good shot to walk away as NFC Champs tonight.


Goff and Purdy certainly had different paths to the NFL but here they are squaring off Sunday with a chance to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.

Goff is the more experienced signal caller who has won an NFC Championship game before. Purdy guided the 49ers to the NFC Championship last year but suffered an elbow injury during the game that hampered his ability to play and required offseason surgery.

Goff was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He's a three-time Pro Bowler with a 5-3 career playoff record. He threw for 4,575 yards with 30 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and had a 97.9 rating in the regular season. He's thrown for 564 yards with three touchdowns and no interception guiding Detroit to wins in the Wild Card and Divisional rounds of the playoffs.

Purdy was the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft (No. 262). He's 3-1 in the playoffs in his brief NFL career. He was named to his first Pro Bowl this season after throwing for 4,280 yards with 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Both quarterbacks have talent around them at the skill positions. Who can distribute the football more effectively and avoid the big mistake?