Two powerhouse NFC franchises will square off this Sunday for the right to lift the George Halas Trophy and go to the championship game.
This article was originally published on 2/1/2023.
For the San Francisco 49ers, it will be an unprecedented 18th appearance in the conference championship when they clash with a Philadelphia Eagles side contesting their eighth NFC decider.
The Eagles are -145 favourites to win a fixture that’s seen plenty of great games and top-notch performances in its illustrious 52-year history.
The Dallas Cowboys won the first two editions of the NFC Championship following the NFL-AFL merger but weren’t expected to complete the hat-trick when they got back to the showpiece game in the 1975 season.
Dallas were sent on the road to Los Angeles to face a Rams team widely considered the best in football at the time. The Rams had won their previous seven games with success built around a stingy defence that gave up just 135 points in the regular season.
On Championship Sunday, ‘Boys quarterback Roger Staubach proceeded to take LA’s vaunted defence apart, throwing for four touchdowns on the day, three of them to Preston Pearson as Dallas raced into an early lead and never looked back.
The Cowboys’ defence was just as dominant, nullifying the Rams' primary weapon, full-back Lawrence McCutcheon, who could only muster ten yards on the day. They also recorded three interceptions and five sacks, denying the Rams even a sniff of a comeback in the most commanding NFC Championship game performance of the 1970s.
Dubbed “the worst team to ever host an NFC Championship” at the time, the New York Giants were viewed as little more than a stop on the road to the championship for a high-powered Minnesota Vikings team in the 2000 season.
An offence featuring Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss had put up close to 400 points during the regular season for Minnesota and the Vikings were expected to dish out a beatdown at Giants’ Stadium. And while there was a beatdown delivered that day, it didn’t go the way many had predicted.
On offence, the Giants got a near-flawless game from quarterback Kerry Collins as he threw for a franchise-record five touchdowns and 381 yards. He and wide receiver Ike Hilliard connected 10 times on the day for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Collins finishing the game having completed 28 of 39 pass attempts.
New York led 34-0 at half-time thanks in part to Collins’ performance and an excellent defensive game plan from coordinator John Fox that saw the Giants erase the threat of Moss and Cris Carter.
It was the second time the Giants had shut out an opponent in the NFC Championship game having blanked Washington in 1986 and even though they eased off the Vikings after the interval, the final score still represents the largest winning margin in the conference decider.
Cam Newton was at the very peak of his powers during the Panthers’ run to the championship game in the 2015 season. Newton was named MVP after a regular season that saw him throw for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns, while he added another 636 yards and 10 scores on the ground.
Super Cam’s crowning glory in Carolina came when orchestrating a wide-margin win over the Cardinals in the 2015 NFC Championship game.
The Panthers were to prove unstoppable on the night, breaking the record for most points scored in an NFC Championship contest as Newton threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another two scores.
For Newton’s opposite number, Carson Palmer, it was a night to forget as he was swamped by Carolina’s play-making defence. The Panthers forced six turnovers, including four interceptions of Palmer.
It may seem strange to those who have watched Carson Wentz recently, but there was a time when he was thought of as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
When he went down in mid-December of the 2017 regular season with a campaign-ending knee injury, the Eagles' chances at a ring looked over. Enter Nick Foles to rescue Philly, the back-up proving all the doubters wrong as he guided Philadelphia to glory.
Foles faced some tough tests along the way, none more so than an NFC Championship game against a Minnesota Vikings team boasting the number one defense in the league. The Vikings had allowed the fewest yards and points per game during the regular season but were to be picked apart by Foles, who threw for three touchdowns and 352 yards on a memorable night at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Philly defence gave up a touchdown on the opening drive before slamming the door shut on a Case Keenum-led Vikings offence that crumbled in the face of constant pressure.
The Eagles would go on to upset the New England Patriots in the championship but their dismantling of the Vikings is arguably the better all-round performance of the two.