And so there were four teams left and two games left before we see who will be playing in Super Bowl XLVII. Again the Groundhog Day theme continues as we see in the AFC Championship game the Ravens and Patriots. Not to mention that we will be seeing the rival of an old NFC West rivalry between the 49ers and Falcons. Let's begin.
Last Week Record: 2-2
Playoff Record: 4-4
Sunday 3:00 p.m.
#2 San Francisco 49ers @ #1 Atlanta Falcons
Even though the two teams play in different divisions, there is some history between the two franchises. From 1966-2001, both of these teams were NFC West divisional rivals as the 49ers lead the series 44-25-1. Then in 2002, the Falcons moved to the newly formed NFC South and have recently dominated in the series meetings, going 4-0. Not too mention that this will be the second playoff meeting between the two teams as they meet in 1998 in Atlanta in the Divisional Round. There the 'Dirty Bird' Falcons beat the 49ers 20-18. Now going into this game, we see two different styles of play. For the Falcons, they are more of a pass-oriented offense and rightfully so, lead by the receiving corp of Julio Jones (79 catches for 1,198 yards and 10 TDs), Rodney White (92 catches for 1,351 yards and 7 TDs) and Tony Gonzalez (93 catches for 930 yards and 8 TDs). On the other side, the 49ers are more of a run-first style of offense (4th in the league with 155.7 YPG) led by Frank Gore (258 carries for 1,214 yards and 8 TDs). But what separates these even more is style of defense. Although the Falcons are 5th in overall scoring (allowing 18.1 PPG), they really don't have an answer for QB Colin Kaepernick, who obliterated the Packers last week with 263 yards and 2 TDs passing and a playoff record for QB rushing yards with 181 yards on 16 carries for 2 TDs. On the other hand, the 49ers are 4th against the rush (allowing 94.2 YPG so don't expect Michael Turner to burn anybody in this one), 4th against the pass (allowing 200.2 YPG), and they boost a hard-smash defense led by DE's Aldon Smith and Justin Smith as well as LB's Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman. And let's be frank, they beat the Patriots at Gillette, Packers at Lambeau, and Saints at the Superdome and all those teams were high-powered, gun-slingin' offenses who all ranked in the top 10 for passing offenses this year. As the old saying goes, 'Defense wins championships' so....
#4 Baltimore Ravens @ #2 New England Patriots
This will be the 3rd time in 4 years that the Patriots and Ravens faced off against one another in the playoffs and the 2nd consecutive AFC Championship match up between the two teams. Last year, the Ravens almost pull the upset. But they were denied as DB Sterling Moore knocked the ball our of Ravens WR Lee Evans and then K Billy Cundiff hooked the ensuing field goal wide left. Now going into this game, after a dominating 43-28 performance against the Houston Texans in the divisional round, many Pats fans are already buying tickets for the Super Bowl. However they seem to have forgotten that A. Joe Flacco has thrown for 1,271 yards, 9 TDs and 4 INTs in 5 games against the Pats (including going 22 for 36 with 306 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT in last year's AFC Championship game), B. Brady had his worse playoff game against the Ravens in last year's AFC Championship game (going 22 for 36 with 239 yards, 0 TDs, and 2 INTs with a QB rating of 57.5), C. TE Gronkowski is on IR with a broken arm while everybody on the Ravens are healthy and ready to go, and D. Ravens put up 38 points and 479 total yards on the 2nd best overall defense in the NFL in the Denver Broncos last week. And trust me, though the Patriots acquired Aquib Talib, they're pretty much the same group that lost in Baltimore earlier in the year 31-30. This will be a high-staked game as the Ravens will put everything on the line for Ray Lewis and he will be ballin' like there's no tomorrow.
- Ryan L. Fox
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