Who will propel their team to the NFC title victory?


Cooper Kupp or Deebo Samuel? Choose your poison.

Sunday’s NFC Championship Game features two All-Pro wide receivers who have been the keystone of their teams playing for the right to make the Super Bowl.

The Rams’ Kupp and the Niners’ Samuel are unique talents that torture defenses with tackle-breaking power and keen running acumen.

“I think they’re great football players who are all-around receivers,” Rams coach Sean McVay said this week. “They’re obviously both very dynamic with the ball in their hands. Some of the things Deebo does when he’s lined up as a ball carrier is really special. This guy is just – he’s a great football player – that when the ball is in his hands, good things happen. He can split, he can line up anywhere on the formation. Cooper is very similar. We just don’t give him carries from the point and since off-pistol, but he’s part of our blocking surfaces. He does so many different things. I think you’re talking about two well-deserved first-team All-Pro players, two guys who were instrumental in bringing their teams where they are. And I had tremendous respect for Deebo and I’m so grateful to have been able to work with a player like Cooper Kupp.”

The two wide are the spearhead of their offenses. Kupp and Samuel each rank in the top three among WRs in touches, scrimmage yards, scrimmage touchdowns and big plays this season, including the playoffs, according to NFL Research. Only Colts RB Jonathan Taylor had more scrimmage yards than Kupp and Samuel in the regular season (2,171).

Coming into the NFC title game, Kupp and Samuel have combined for 4,172 yards from scrimmage this season, including the playoffs. Scored the most combined scrimmage yards in a season (including the playoffs) against WRs entering a playoff game in NFL history (by 682 yards). That’s the most scrimmage yards by opposing players at any position since Rams RB Marshall Faulk vs. Packers RB Ahman Green in the 2001 Divisional Round (4,226 combined yards).

Their ability to gobble up yards after the catch makes them unique among prolific wides. Kupp (1,003) and Samuel (879) have the most and second-most yards after catching in the NFL this season, including the playoffs (per Next Gen Stats) — they also ranked first (Kupp , 896) and second (Samuel , 802) in the regular season.

Kupp is the Triple Crown winner, leading the NFL with 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns in the regular season. According to Next Gen Stats, Kupp has 1,470 receiving yards when lined up in the slot this season (including the playoffs), 409 more than any other player in a season in the NGS era (since 2016) – his passer rating of 142.9 when targeted in the slot is also the NGS-era single-season record, including the playoffs (min. 50 of such goals).

This season, the Rams’ wide has tortured the Niners in two contests, generating 18 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown in two games, each time topping the 100-yard mark. LA is 10-2 while Kupp has over 100 receiving yards in a game this season, including the playoffs — both losses have been to San Francisco (Weeks 10 and 18).

Deebo has been the driving force behind the Niners offense, lining up across the lineup, including becoming a threat out of the backfield. In two wins over the Rams, Samuel had nine catches for 192 yards and a touchdown while adding 81 rushing yards and two scores. Oh, and he also threw a TD pass in LA’s Week 18 win

“You have a lot of respect for someone who’s willing to go out there and do anything they ask them to do with everything they’ve got,” Kupp said of Samuel this week.

Kyle Shanahan’s use of Samuel out of the backfield unlocked an offensive beast. WR has 30+ rushing yards and 30+ receiving yards in 4 straight playoff games (80+ scrimmage yards in all four games) – T-second-longest such streak in the Super Bowl era behind only HOF Franco Harris (five consecutive playoff games from 1979 to 1983). Samuel won more than five runs in 10 straight games as the Niners advanced to the NFC Championship Game. Since Week 10, Samuel has generated 73 carries for 454 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.

The 49ers are 17-3 when Samuel has multiple rush attempts in a game in his career, including the playoffs (8-0 when he has more than five attempts).

“He really is a very special player,” Kupp said. “I watched Deebo Samuel a lot.”

The same could be said of Kupp.


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