The NFC Championship game kicks off Sunday afternoon, and if you’d have mentioned that Colin Kaepernick would have spearheaded the journey for the San Francisco 49ers, you may have drawn a few odd looks. Kaepernick will take his talents into the Georgia Dome on Sunday to visit a puzzling Atlanta Falcons squad.
The Falcons looked amazing last week hosting Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, but only in the first half. Atlanta headed into their locker rooms with a comfortable 20-0 lead before promptly choking it away shortly after. If the Falcons are to have any chance against a solid San Francisco group, they’ll need to play all sixty minutes. Atlanta still has some issues with post-season performance, and a poor outing against the Niners could still cause a shake-up from management. The Falcons have be clicking offensively, though their defense remains one of the great wild-cards of Championship weekend. They’ve spent all week in practice focusing on stopping the Niners’ dual-threat quarterback, but whether they can or not, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile for the 49ers it’s all about the Colin Kaepernick show. A mid-season quarterback change has propelled the Niners to new heights, and their eyes are firmly set on the Super Bowl now. Kaepernick dominated in his last outing against the Green Bay Packers as they had simply no response for his talent. This week he’ll be taking on an equally porous defensive group and the Nevada product will be primed for a repeat outing in the Georgia Dome. Under head coach Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco always has a tendency to play well when the game matters, and when they’re playing fellow great teams. They’re doing both this week, and look for a great tilt to decide the NFC representative for February’s Super Bowl. Both teams have many minor injuries listed as probable, however this is a massive game and everyone will be fighting through it. Don’t expect that to play a factor.
49ers vs. Falcons Betting Odds:
San Francisco 49ers -4 (-110)
@ Atlanta Falcons +4 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
49ers vs. Falcons Pick:
All week the Falcons have been lamenting the fact that they’ve been given minimal respect all season. Frankly, that’s true, but after dismal performances like they turned it last week, it is easy to see why. With the later start on the eastern time zone, don’t expect a slow beginning to the game for the 49ers. Coach Jim Harbaugh will have his team ready for dominance come Sunday afternoon, and after watching Colin Kaepernick’s performance last Sunday, it’s hard to envision a scenario when the Falcons abysmal defense slowing down Kaepernick.
The Falcons have struggled to stop rushing quarterbacks all season long. When you consider that both Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, two quarterbacks with similar styles to that of Kaepernick’s, rushed for 262 yards total in two games, it’s easy to see why Atlanta may have difficulty with Kaepernick’s dual-threat ability.
John Abraham is listed as probable on the Atlanta defense, and though he will play he’s likely not entirely 100 percent. If Abraham can’t rattle Kaepernick in the pocket, and pressure him with regularity, the Niners could have a field day on offense. The Falcons have a brutal pass rush, accumulating just seven sacks since American Thanksgiving.
Kaepernick’s dominance on the ground should open up the rest of the offense as well. Frank Gore is the big, powerful runner that should give Atlanta fits. The Falcons ranked 23rd in the NFL against the run, and a solid ground-and-pound approach from the Niners may force Atlanta into an early submission.
As intriguing as the Niners are when they possess the football, their real strength remains that of their dominant defense. The 49ers possess a superb run-stopping unit and will completely nullify both Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. They also can get to the quarterback with regularity, and Matt Ryan isn’t the most mobile of quarterbacks. Matt Ryan showed last week he’s still prone to making mistakes, and look for heavy San Francisco pressure to force into some costly errors.
Mike Smith and Matt Ryan have led their Falcons to an 0-4 record against the spread in their playoff outings together, and after Sunday that will be 0-5. These two teams are in different classes right now, and Atlanta’s inability to stop Colin Kaepernick should make all the difference on Sunday afternoon. Expect something along the lines of a 30-23 victory for San Francisco, as the Niners roll on to the Super Bowl.
PICK = 49ers -4 (-110)