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Just three more games are left in the NFL season! Who did our staff pick for the Conference Championship games?
2) San Francisco 49ers vs. 1) Atlanta Falcons
Jose Torres (6-2)
You would think a no. 1 seed in the NFC Championship game would be favored, especially since they are at home. But no, the Atlanta Falcons are yet again underdogs. Many websites have the Falcons as four-point underdogs against the San Francisco 49ers.
In order to understand why, we must go back to last week matchups. The 49ers destroyed the Green Bay Packers at home after Colin Kaepernick broke the NFL record for rushing yards in a postseason game by a rookie. The Falcons, up by 20 at the half lost the lead in the fourth quarter to only come back and win by a field goal with eight seconds to spare.
With that in mind, I am looking forward to seeing these two teams go at it. The Falcons need to find a way to contain Colin Kaepernick like they did early on Russell Wilson. The key matchup would be of course the defensive line of the 49ers and whether or not Justin Smith can become a factor in the pass rush against Matt Ryan.
This is going to be high scoring as well as hard hitting; my favorite kind of football. 49ers 35 Falcons 24
Jordan Katz (5-3)
Well this is an odd matchup for me. All the signs point to San Francisco here. The Niners are the road favorite, which has happened only four other times and only the 2000 New York football Giants have been able to defy the Vegas odds makers. The Niners can run it, and the Falcons struggle against the run.
However, generally speaking, teams in the Falcons position take two steps forward after that first playoff win. For example the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers went all the way after just the lone playoff victory the year before. The 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs won the Super Bowl after not winning a playoff game the previous two seasons.
I like the Falcons in this matchup for a couple of reasons. One, I think the Niners aren’t your conventional running offense. The Niners score on big plays and have an explosive offense. The Falcons have proven you cannot beat them by trying to outscore them, you must control the clock. Second, I think the weight is off the Falcons shoulders, which leads to the “two steps forward” philosophy. Lastly, I just don’t trust Kaepernick in his eighth career start, despite his last performance. Falcons 34 49ers 30
Jon Alba (5-3)
The Patriots are heavily favored in this game and it’s well deserved. I understand the Patriots lost Gronkowski (again) due to injury and it will factor but with Aaron Hernandez on the field, the points should still be there
As for Ray “Jax” Lewis with his bionic arm, it’s crazy to me how many tackles he’s acquired this postseason. We can talk about motivation all we want but the better team will always win the game. The Ravens took care of business in Denver and against the Colts due to Joe Flacco proving to Baltimore that he is a franchise quarterback and needs to get paid as one.
The key matchup for this game will be the Ravens tight ends versus the Patriots linebackers. Usually when you think of linebackers who can’t cover you think of the Ravens, but the Patriots are bad in that department as well. If they want to pull off the upset, Flacco is going to have to attack those linebackers with Tight End Dennis Pitta.
By the end of the night, Tom Brady and company will be too much and I see the Patriots head to the Super Bowl again. Patriots 31 Ravens 25
As I continue to gloat in the glory of my Ravens upset pick last week, the Ravens will march into New England for a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game, which is now referred to as the “Cundiff goes Vanderjagt Game.”
In this particular matchup, I think there are three things that will determine the outcome of this game. First is the Patriots running game. Teams that win in the postseason run the football effectively and the Patriots are no exception, despite the fact they have Gisele at quarterback… I mean Tom Brady. If the Pats can run it, they stand a good chance.
Second is the play of Joe Flacco. Flacco in five games against Tom Brady has more touchdowns (9-to-5) and less interceptions (4-to-7) than Tom Brady. He also has a better quarterback rating than Brady. If Flacco can continue this play, then the Ravens will be able to get their ground game going and that’s a major key for them in wins.