NFC Championship Game Preview: San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta Falcons
There are only two teams remaining in the NFC, and unfortunately for fans everywhere it’s not the two best ones this conference had to offer. The 49ers, well that’s a given. I think anything short of a Super Bowl is a disappointment for the crimson and gold. They are just that talented and that well coached. Those expectations were also set before the switch to Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, too. They deserve to be here.
As for the Falcons, well, last week was their Super Bowl. Even though they beat the Seahawks, there is still no convincing me they are the better team. The fact that there was a very good chance we would have seen a coaching change if Atlanta had lost tells you everything you need to know.
This 49ers squad refound it’s mojo last week. Even Vernon Davis had a big play. Was there ever any doubt that - when they are playing at their best - the Niners aren’t the best team in the NFC? I didn’t think so. The only problem for this squad since about the halfway mark had been flexing their competitive muscle on a weekly basis. Consistency eluded this club through the second half of the season, but all signs point to them having found their way again.
Colin Kaepernick brings his record setting legs and arm to Atlanta with an offense that is just brimming at the top with weapons. Well, at every position other than receiver - but still an offense to be reckoned with. The Falcons were able to keep Marshawn Lynch in check last week but I attribute most of that to his sprained foot. Even if this Falcons defense that struggled so mightily with the run all season, suddenly found out how to play it against the Seahawks, good luck having a repeat performance with John Abraham playing on one leg. If he does play.
Russell Wilson has the ability to run but is a much better passer. Kaepernick can get you either way, any day. I just cannot see them finding a way against Kaepernick. He is too fast and explosive. If a speedy linebacker as good as Clay Matthews can be made to look like a high school freshman by Kap for an entire game, how will the Falcons handle him...
As if that weren’t enough, Justin Smith has returned from his partially torn triceps. He’s not going to be as good as he was for most of the regular season, but good enough to make a huge difference for the Niners in the pass rush. Getting to Matt Ryan will be key, while we're on the topic. The biggest reason Seattle couldn’t beat the Falcons, was because there was no pressure on Matt Ryan whatsoever. If he can get that kind of protection from his line on Sunday, who knows maybe the Falcons do have a chance.
Defense wins championships, and count it among the many reasons the Niners will win the NFC championship. The Falcons will put up points, no question about that; their problems will be stopping the Niners from putting up more. The general consensus seems to be this is more or less a warm up for the Niners trip to New Orleans only two weeks later, let me add another voice to that notion. Even after the Michael Crabtree allegations.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV