Here we are! After 17 weeks of the regular season, a wild card weekend, and a divisional round that we will remember for a long time, now we are here. 4 teams are one game away from the ultimate prize, the Super Bowl. Every team has great stories that we will hear at nausea during the 2 weeks of hype coming up before the Super Bowl. In the words of the Joker in the Dark Knight, Here… We…Go!
San Francisco @ Atlanta
I think if there was an opponent that was tailored made for Atlanta, it is San Francisco. 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick turned a lot of heads against Green Bay last week, but lets be honest! The Packers defense is not the 85’ Bears. If you don’t keep contain on Kaepernick he will gouge you for huge chunks of yardage. You must make Kaepernick a pocket passer or closer to a conventional quarterback as you can. That means getting the 49ers into obvious passing downs. It will be noisy in the Georgia Dome tomorrow and maybe you can get some false starts and delay of game penalties to put the 49ers into 3rd and long situations.
The one problem is that the 49ers offensive line has a huge advantage in strength and talent. The 49ers offensive line is the best in football and definitely the most physical line in all the NFL. The other end of this is the banged up Atlanta defensive line. The Falcons best pass rusher left early in the divisional round due to an ankle injury. DE John Abraham is listed as questionable for the conference championship game. If Abraham does play, how effective will he be and also how much will he play? Without a pass rush, it will neutralize the noise from the crowd.
The Falcons also need to do what they did last week, get a lead! I am not saying allow San Francisco to come back from 20 down but getting off to a fast start will only bring the crowd more into play and assist the defense.
Players to watch
I am believer in big time players making big time plays in big time games. Enter Falcons CB Asante Samuel. Samuel has 7 postseason interceptions with 4TD’s. Teams that Asante Samuel has been on during the playoffs and Super Bowl have a record of 11-6 including 2 championships. Samuel is a gambler and will take chances if he feels he has seen a tendency on tape. An Asante Samuel interception would bode well for the Falcons.
Falcons QB Matt Ryan still has something to prove even though last week he did win his 1st playoff game. The fact of the matter is that was too close for comfort in a lot of people eyes. Plus to really cement Ryan as a upper echelon QB would be a break out game to get his team to the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan can’t be satisfied with winning one game at home in the playoffs. Also to be an underdog at home is a direct hit to what insiders think of what kind of leader that Matt Ryan is. If Tom Brady would be an underdog in a home games for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, he would be pissed the whole week and it would fuel him all the way through. Matt Ryan has to play great for his team to win but also he needs to play brilliant for himself. This is another huge step for Ryan.
Last Week’s Stats
** That also includes 181 yards of rushing with a rushing TD. Not bad for 2nd year guy who was not starting until the 2nd half of the year. It is simply amazing performance from the “Pistol” quarterback out of University of Nevada. So now what does Kaepernick do for an encore? One of the things you from last week is that Kaepernick wasn’t that accurate. So I wonder out loud if Kaepernick was put into obvious passing downs, could he deliver? That is the challenge for the Falcons defense. Make Colin Kaepernick an accurate and most important a pocket passer.
Prediction, the 49ers have a defense that will travel and can play great. The effectiveness of the Falcons pass rush will be critical to the outcome, not only the pass rush but the discipline that the Falcons defensive front will have to show in containing Kaepernick and keeping him in the pocket. I don’t know of any football coach that wouldn’t say that turnovers are critical to the outcome of any game. Falcons QB Matt Ryan must avoid being rushed and throwing passes that are ill advised. With that being said I am going to go with defense and matchups. I do not think the defensive line of the Falcons can hold up to the rushing attack of the 49ers.
49ers 26 Falcons 23
Welcome to the Ray Lewis floating retirement party! Every week is potentially his last game and as it was in Denver his last minute on the field. Somehow last week the Ravens pulled a rabbit out of their collective hats and found a way to beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco has made the throws he has needed to make to prolong the Ray Lewis retirement tour. Flacco has demonstrated great skill in throwing the deep ball as well as not making the critical mistake. At the start of the playoffs I called Flacco “fraudulent” and I may have to eat my words on that because, the team that Joe Flacco has had his best days is coming up in the New England Patriots.
Flacco Last game vs. Patriots
Those are numbers that has Flacco saying, “We (Ravens) can’t be beat!” Flacco sounds to be very confident in his abilities and in his team.
The other quarterback in this game has some unfinished business to take care of as well. If you do not know anything about Patriots QB Tom Brady just know this, he is crazy competitive. To the point of manufacturing slights, harboring scars from long ago, and just anything that he can to give himself that edge. Brady still talks about being picked 199th in the 2000 NFL draft or how he was pushed aside at Michigan for Drew Henson. The guy just keeps chips on his shoulder, no wonder he is always on the injured list with a shoulder issue. Those chips must be boulders now. Dude is like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Joe Montana, and all the other greats because his outright hatred for losing.
The Patriots defense must show up and be a factor in tomorrow’s game. The secondary must play well and the key to the game is, the Patriots must create a pass rush. The Patriots defense has been a source of frustration over the last 4 years. Ever since Brady started putting up crazy yards the defense has been much maligned part of the team. With Patriots head coach Bill Belichick defensive background it must be mind boggling. In the early part of the 2000’s the defense was so far ahead of everyone. The players played with skill and headiness that this group lacks. Now if the defense gets 1 to 2 stops a game it is cause for celebration, and back in the day that was the norm for the Romeo Crennell version of the Patriots defense. One thing that has been different this season is when the Patriots needed a stop they could get one, a far cry from last year Patriots defense.
Prediction, the Patriots have been to this game and did what it needed to do to win and that was with inferior talent on the defense. Tom Brady will spread out the Ravens defense and find the holes and exploit them and with the additions of CB Aquib Talib, DE Chandler Jones, and that very SEC influenced line backing crew I think the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl.
Patriots 31 Ravens 27