Well, even with the Broncos ousted in the Divisional Round, there’s still another round of football to be played in this year’s NFL Playoffs. The Championship Round features the Ravens v. the Patriots in the AFC, and the 49ers v. the Falcons in the NFC. Here’s a quick look at the two games.
NFC – No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons (13-3) – Sun. 3 ET
As close of a call as it was, the Matt Ryan-led Atlanta Falcons FINALLY won a playoff game. Heading into the game against the Seahawks, Matt Ryan was 0-3 in the postseason, and his numbers were terrible. Bad enough for him to be deemed quite the playoff choker up until the game last weekend. Matt Ryan finally threw for more than 200 yards in a playoff game. 250 as a matter of a fact. As well as 3 touchdown passes. One of which going into the hands of tight end Tony Gonzalez, who up until the Falcons’ victory last week, hadn’t won a playoff game in his entire 16-year career with the Chiefs and Falcons. He and Matt Ryan hope that this postseason won’t just be a one and done, either. They hope to get to New Orleans and win this Falcons team their first Super Bowl in franchise history. But in their way in the NFC Title game is the 49ers, who beat the Packers in the Divisional Round behind QB Colin Kaepernick’s 444 total yards of offense all by himself. Kaepernick threw more passing yards than Aaron Rodgers and had more rushing yards than the entire Packers team combined. His 181 yards on the ground alone were enough to solidify that record as the most rush yards in a single game ever by a QB. I’d say that’s quite the formula for success, especially in a NFL Playoff game. If Kaepernick has that kind of day again, which he probably won’t against this much better Atlanta defense, he would certainly propel the 49ers into the Super Bowl. I don’t think he’ll account for nearly that many yards of total offense, but even if he doesn’t rush for a single yard in this game, I think the threat of his skills on the ground will be enough to cause a lot of defensive struggles and miscues for Atlanta. This San Francisco offense has adopted a read-option offense on steroids that is deadly. Rg3 and Russell Wilson have shown that the read-option can work in the NFL, at least for now, but the crazy good athletic ability that Colin Kaepernick brings to the table to make the read-option super effective (not saying that Wilson and Rg3 don’t, but Kaepernick is the last read-option QB standing, correct?). That type of offense keeps the defense guessing, and keeps the opposing offense off the field. The 49ers had possession for 38 minutes last week, and having the ball for that much of this game against the Falcons could really hurt Atlanta’s chances of getting enough offensive rhythm to score their season average of 30 PPG. We all know that the Falcons will get their points up the board, but if the 49ers offense stays on the field for a lot of the game, it will force the Falcons to really make the best of their fewer offensive possessions, something that they might struggle with.. having had 2 turnovers last week, both interceptions, and also having 7 of their 10 drives having been less than 3 minutes long, which might be an issue if they want to keep their defense fresh if they are to try to contain the Kaepernick-led dynamic 49ers offense. The fact that it’s been tough for teams to stop that read-option offense of the 49ers, I think that will eventually wear down the Atlanta defense enough to get a victory on the road. It’s just near impossible to stop the 49ers offense, and oh yeah, they have that very good defense led by Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith as well. Not enough you can say about this 49ers team. They are one the most complete teams of the last 4 standing, and will likely keep the Falcons from getting their chance to win their first Super Bowl as a franchise.
GAME PREDICTION: 49ers 38, Falcons 31.
AFC – No. 4 Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at No. 2 New England Patriots (12-4) – Sun. 6:30 ET
With an unexpected upset victory in Denver, the Ravens get to continue along in the playoffs on borrowed time to earn a rematch with the Patriots at Foxboro. The Ravens lost 23-20 in the AFC Championship Game to these very same Patriots and look to have a different outcome that will send them to the Super Bowl in New Orleans where they hope to send Ray Lewis out a winner. The Patriots won their most recent rematch of the season, this one coming last week in the Divisional Round, and against the Texans. In a divisional game that didn’t surprise anyone, the Pats beat the Texans and earned themselves passage to their second straight AFC Title game. They hope they can win this rematch with the Ravens and then hopefully win this time around when they get to the big game. The Patriots have looked basically unbeatable in recent weeks, except they’ll be down one of their biggest weapons. Rob Gronkowski “The Gronk” has been ruled out for the rest of the 2013 Playoffs with a re-broken forearm sustained in the 1st quarter against the Texans last week. That will definitely hurt the Patriots. Their offense has been known for their two tight end sets which makes the Tom Brady style no-huddle offense deadly. With Gronk out of the way, the Ravens just might be able to slow down the Patriots razor-sharp dynamic offense. Maybe just enough to give their Joe Flacco-Ray Rice-led offense a chance to go deep a few times on the Pats defense. The Ravens have seemed to get pretty good with their deep-pass offense in recent weeks, and most likely look to do the very same if they want to try and upset the Pats. The Ravens are looking to send Ray Lewis out a winner with another Super Bowl ring, and don’t get me wrong, they certainly have a chance to take this game away from the Patriots. If the Ravens defense can find some way to keep the Patriots offense in check, they can give Joe Flacco and what has been a pretty good offense a chance to go punch for punch with the Pats in this game. Joe Flacco has continued to prove the critics wrong, especially in this year’s playoffs, and oh yeah, they have Ray Rice who seems to continue to open up defenses for Joe Flacco to burn them alive. We saw that last week against my Broncos. With all of that said, even without Gronk, I think the Patriots will prove to be too much for the Ravens. Even though this game might turn out to be an exciting shoot-out, I think the Pats can dominate in those types of games. It should be a good, close game, but the Patriots will be too much in the end. As much as I want to pick the Ravens to upset the Pats, I must remind myself that this game is being played in New England, and Tom Brady won’t let his team lose at home.
GAME PREDICTION: Patriots 41, Ravens 34.
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Anthony is the Founder, Administrator, Editor and Publisher of Lightning Rod Sports. Originally from California, Anthony has been raised in the Rocky Mountains and Denver area for most of his life. Anthony works with the Emmy-winning student-run T.V. newscast at MSU Denver, The Met Report, as the Assistant General Manager, formerly the Sports Producer, as well as Lead Anchor and Production Assistant. He is currently the Play-by-Play Announcer, Color Commentator, and Production Assistant for the Metro State Broadcast Network, and calls games for Metro State soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and softball as a “Voice of the Roadrunners.” In addition to that work with the Metro State Broadcast Network, Anthony also hosts the monthly 30-minute magazine show called "The Roadrunner Review" which airs on Altitude Sports and Entertainment. He hosts the bi-weekly "KMet Sports Show" on KMET Radio at MyMetMedia.com/KMETSportsShow. He is also the Founder, Administrator, Editor, and Columnist for his own Denver Sports website, LightningRodSports.com. Anthony is also part of the Social Media team at Examiner.com, and has worked with the Altitude Radio Network for the Avalanche and Nuggets. Anthony is a former Producer for Mile High Sports Radio, as well as a former Sports-Talk show host on the LightningRod Radio Network.