The Atlanta Falcons finished the regular season with the best record in the NFC at 13-3. They host the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game. Still, that isn’t preventing most to consider them as the biggest home underdogs in conference championship history.
They’re 4.5 points underdogs according to the oddsmakers. Despite having the best record in the NFL, tied with the Denver Broncos. After too many losses in the playoffs under the Smith-Ryan administration, maybe it’s something you can’t shrug off.
There’s also the collapse against the Seahawks in the fourth quarter after pretty much shutting them down for three quarters. But there’s also Ryan coming back with no time on the clock, not for the first time this season, setting up a game winning field goal for Matt Bryant, who can hit it from the 50’s inside the Georgia Dome. Did we mention it’s a home game?
So yeah, the Falcons rank in the bottom 10 in the NFL when it comes to their rushing game, stopping the run and stopping the pass. Their defense allows yards, but stops plays from being made. That’s what it’s all about – denying the opponents from scoring, even if they get all the yards they want.
The 49ers have an impressive offensive line? The 49ers have an excellent running game? The 49ers have a quarterback who can make plays outside the pocket? Well, guess what, the Falcons the same blueprint against the Seattle Seahawks, and they dominated them for three quarters and the final play. In American Football and Rugby, don’t look at the scoreline to see who was the better team. Look at the number of minutes the game was actually close and you felt it was evenly contested. The Seahawks may have lost by two points, but they were beaten in reality by much more.
There’s also the factor of Kaepernick on the road – His completions drop by 7.9%; His yard per attempt drop by 1.6 yards;His passer rating drops by 20.3, while he has thrown three interceptions away from home, none when playing in the Bay area.
Matt Ryan just seems more confident than ever before. In the play calling, in the running game, in his endless receiving core, highlighted by Roddy White, one of the most productive QB-WR tandems in the NFL over the last five years, while having Tony Gonzalez as his go to guy when things go wrong.
Remind me again, why are they such blatant underdogs?