It’s the final weekend of the NFL Playoffs, and today we find out who is going to represent the conferences in Super Bowl XLVII. So far this postseason we’ve had a range of emotions, from Ray Lewis announcing this would be his final ride, to the wow-factor of watching Colin Kaepernick do his thing on the biggest stage of his career. Four teams remain, but only two will enter football history and secure a trip to New Orleans an get a coveted shot at the title.
Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers — 3pm ET on FOX
It’s hard to chose which is the biggest story line coming into this game. On the one hand you have the Atlanta Falcons, who have been notably elite in the regular season over the past three seasons but saw their playoff dreams end in their first playoff game in each of the last two postseasons. That dream almost got smothered yet again last Sunday, but Matt Ryan and the Falcons were finally able to buck a huge monkey off their back.
But the work is far from over.
On the other side of the field, we have the incredible rise of Colin Kaepernick who has guided the 49ers to yet another NFC title game. Last year, under Alex Smith, the 49ers fell just short of earning a trip to a Super Bowl eventually won by the Giants team that beat them. However, this time around the Niners feel they have a dashing advantage, and his name is Kaepernick.
Against the Packer, Kaepernick broke the single game and single game postseason rushing record for a quarterback and he’s looking to do that again against Atlanta. No one knows how far Kaepernick can take this team, as many thought the ride would be over by now. But after convincingly destroying the Packers last week, everyone who thought the playoffs would be a sobering experience for the second year quarterback are scrambling to get on board his bandwagon.
Keys To Victory
For the Falcons, they must contain Colin Kaepernick — which is much, much easier said than done. Russell Wilson figured out the Atlanta defense last week and nearly spoiled yet another great season by the Falcons. This week, they get a quarterback much like Wilson, but leaps and bounds ahead of him in terms of talent. The Packers got to Kaepernick right away last week, but we saw how quickly he regained his confidence. If Atlanta has any hope of winning, they must stifle Kaepernick on at least three or four drives so Matt Ryan can keep up in what will no doubt be a shoot out.
As for the 49ers, it’s all about limiting Matt Ryan’s choices. If forced to make decisions, Ryan proved last week that he’s not immune to making the wrong ones. Putting pressure on Ryan will force him to rush his decisions which means the 49ers secondary will be going after the ball hard. Justin Smith is playing in the game, which means Aldon Smith could be in for a big day. If the duo can drape themselves all over Ryan early, it might break his confidence a little and force the bad passes. But if Ryan starts hitting his stride, the 49ers are going to be reeling not unlike their NFC West brothers were doing last week in the same venue.
While the Falcons pulled one out last week at the last minute, if they put themselves up against the ropes against Kaepernick, the result won’t be as great. The Falcons say they’ve prepared for Kaepernick and want to rattle him, but as was proven last week, even if you prepare for him, he’s still going to come at you hard and you better be ready to endure him rather than straight up beat him.
Final Prediction: San Francisco 31, Atlanta 24