Sunday’s NFL Championship playoff game between the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons on Fox will determine who progresses to the next and final round. The 49ers were on the cusp of the Super Bowl before the New York Giants defeated them in the same game last year. The Falcons finally won their first playoff game under head coach Mike Smith last week and have a golden and rare opportunity to reach the promised football land in front of their fired up and trophy-starved home crowd.
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has had some great games since he took over the starting position several weeks ago from Alex Smith, but none better than the multifaceted attack employed to dismantle the Green Bay Packers defense last week. He set a playoff record with 181 yards rushing, a number any running back would be thankful to ring up in a game, and also picked up 263 yards through the air with a pair of touchdown passes. After an early interception he was, in a word, unstoppable.
One of the reasons Kaepernick was able to run wild against the Packers was Green Bay’s insistence to rely on man-to-man coverage. The 49ers were spreading the field and leaving huge holes for Kaepernick to exploit. With Frank Gore amassing 119 yard and a touchdown on top of Kaepernick’s numbers, the 49ers offense outperformed their stellar defense.
The Falcons were cruising last week against the Seahawks with a 20-0 lead at halftime. In the second half, their suspect defense let Russell Wilson carve through them like Swiss cheese, resulting in a thrilling finish that wasn’t decided until both teams scored in the final 31 seconds of play. Kaepernick and the 49ers are licking their chops at facing that defense that coughed up 7.44 yards per play in that game.
Because the Falcons are expected to give up several touchdowns to the 49ers today, quarterback Matt Ryan will need to improve upon his performance last week in order to keep pace. While he threw three touchdown passes, he also threw a pair of interceptions. The 49ers have proven they can create points off turnovers on a regular basis.
Today’s NFC Championship playoff game between the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons gets underway at 3:00pm EST / 12:00pm PST in high definition on Fox via cable/satellite or for free over the air. An alternative not free option is to watch the official online live streaming version via NFL Sunday Ticket here. History says the Falcons have won their last four games against the 49ers, including the only playoff match up between the cities back in 1999. Today should change that trend as my prediction is the 49ers will reach the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years with a convincing 30-17 win on the road.