It’s going to be the San Francisco 49ers at the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game and the Baltimore Ravens at the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, a repeat from a very dramatic game last season and an emotional one from this one.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have moved between ‘best in the NFL’ to ‘why is Alex Smith still quarterback’ range all season, only to find Colin Kaepernick putting back at the right place, showing his tremendous skill set of incredible running and a big arm in the win over the Green Bay Packers. While there’s a lot to be said for their defense and running game, it seems that the ability of Kaepernick to avoid mistakes and explode outside of the pocket will determine if they can win in Atlanta.
This is the second consecutive Conference championship game for the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh, losing last season at home in overtime to the New York Giants. They’ve lost their last two visits to the conference championship game, last winning it in 1995 against the Dallas Cowboys.
The team with the best record in the NFC and tied for best in the NFL, although no one was willing to call them favorites going into the postseason. Too many past disappointments from the Matt Ryan – Mike Smith combo. Their running game is good, not great, but Ryan seems to be always able to come up with one big play on top of any mistake he makes to carry his team to victory.
This is only the third time the Falcons have made it into the Conference championship, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2004-2005 playoffs and beating the Vikings in the 1998-1999 postseason before being defeated by the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.
The team riding the idea that anyone who plays the Philadelphia Eagles early in the season wins the Super Bowl later on. The Ravens did lose that game, but overcame a lot of injuries on defense to suddenly come together with a new offensive coordinator late in the season and get to play against an opponent they’ve beaten in a dramatic regular season game, but lost to last season in the conference championship.
They’ve been to the AFC Championship game twice with Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh, once losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers and last season to the New England Patriots by 3 points.
New England Patriots
The team most used to this stage compared to the rest. The Patriots kinda flew under the radar this season, as funny as it saying. They’ve lost some close games that made people look elsewhere when searching for the “real” Super Bowl contender. It’s January, and the Patriots are still here, with Tom Brady running the show, making running backs look like Pro Bowl receivers when necessary.
Under the Belichick – Brady tandem, this is the Patriots’ seventh time in the AFC Conference Championship game, winning five of the previous six, including last season against the Ravens.