NFC Championship: Jalen Hurts needs to be the Eagles' MVP to get to the Super Bowl

by Chuck Sommers

Looking ahead to Conference Championship Sunday, we're going to look at what will make the difference in who represents the AFC and NFC in the Super Bowl. Make sure you check out our previews for the games, as well, such as the NFC title game here.

The finalists for the NFL's awards were unveiled Wednesday, and there wasn't really any surprise for any of them. The NFL MVP, however, is a crowded field, the likes of which we've never seen. Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen and Justin Jefferson.

And then there's Jalen Hurts.

The Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback is the fifth finalist. At one point, there was a thought that he was the runaway lock for the award. Then he got hurt, missed two games, and suddenly may have fallen out of favor. If I had to be a betting man, the award likely goes to Mahomes with him playing every game and leading the position in every category.

“I think it’s a cool honor,” Hurts said. “I don’t really have much to say about it. I’m at a loss of words, to be honest.”

Hurts may have missed a chance to win the award, but he's going to get the chance to play like one on Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles host the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles' toughest opponent to date this season, the San Francisco 49ers.

The Eagles have not played a defense like San Francisco. The Eagles have not played a team like San Francisco all year. To me, Hurts and the Eagles haven't been tested all year. Sure, they've had the best record all year and they've been the more consistent team all year. But we haven't seen the Eagles at their best. We haven't seen Hurts take over a game like he did in the beginning of the year.

He controlled the game with his legs in the seven games before going down, which included a 157-yard performance against Green Bay on Sunday Night Football on Nov. 27. Hurts will need to let it fly in this one.

There's no doubt that Hurts has proven worthy of such accolades. He went 14-1 in his starts and did a great job not turning the ball over with his arms and legs. Hurts ran for nearly 800 yards while approaching for 4,000 passing yards.

But all you have to do is watch what the 49ers did to Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys last week. The San Francisco defense stifled Prescott and picked him off twice. They kept him in the pocket, nor did Prescott choose to roll out and extend plays. That's what Hurts can do.

The 49ers are going to contain the outside and prevent Hurts from beating them with his legs. There's enough athleticism and length in the front seven to prevent him from finding running lanes. But what Hurts can do that Prescott refused to do is extend the play and win the game from outside the pocket.

Hurts will extend the play long enough to see the plays that Prescott didn't, like T.Y. Hilton running down the left seam for a would-be touchdown. Like not missing his receiver on a 2nd and 10 because he threw it two feet to his side. Hurts can do that and extend the shelf life for his offensive line against a stingy San Francisco pass rush.

“The things that Michael Jordan, you were able to see a lot of things about him in ‘The Last Dance’ about his competitiveness and about just his desire and will to win,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “So when you make that comparison, you think, the first thing, as good as he’s played this year, as well as he’s run the football, as well as he’s thrown the football, reading defenses, accurate throws, as well as he’s done all that, what you notice first about him is his will to win, his competitive drive.”

Hurts isn't MJ. Nowhere close. He hasn't won anything yet. The demeanor? It might be there. It could be there. but if he wants to win a championship this season, he'll have to channel his inner MJ.

Chuck Sommers

About the Author:

Chuck Sommers has camped outside of sportsbooks since he can remember, learning the tricks and nuances of the trade. He still has nightmares of betting $5,000 on the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game but has since turned that to 25 years of veteran handicapping greatness. You can find him mostly in the shadows at the Red Rock or Aliante casinos wondering if the over is cashing on any given Sunday.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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