The NFL Championship Round Preview: Two Seismic Games With Boatloads Of Headlines
Ravens LB Ray Lewis is going to get his team fired up for their matchup against the Patriots. Read on for more.
#2 San Francisco 49ers @ #1 Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, 3:00 PM ET, FOX
The NFC’s top seeds are set to square off in Atlanta. Falcons QB Matt Ryan notched his first career playoff victory last weekend versus the Seattle Seahawks, and the Niners are fresh off of a pounding against the Green Bay Packers.
San Francisco Offense vs. Atlanta Defense
The 49ers power offense changed in a positive way when HC Jim Harbaugh benched QB Alex Smith in favor of fellow signal caller Colin Kaepernick. Kaep has been successful both passing and running. The read option has worked marvelously for San Fran, also. On the contrary, the Falcons have a stout defense. DE John Abraham is a disruptive edge rusher, and key in both the run defense and pass rush. He is banged up, however, and his side of the defense will be outperformed by Kaepernick and his offense. The Niners will win this matchup.
Atlanta Offense vs. San Francisco Defense
The Falcons prominent offense heavily relies on Ryan, a fifth year veteran out of Boston College. Matty Ice’s squad is the best he has ever been on. RB’s Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers have been productive all year, and WR’s Roddy White and Julio Jones are among the NFL’s best. TE Tony Gonzalez is a red zone hero for the Falcons. The opposing Niners defense is stacked, however. OLB Aldon Smith is a fierce pass rusher, meanwhile MLB’s Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are tackling machines. They will hold the Falcons down and the Niners defense will step up.
Prediction: The Niners will outplay the Falcons from kickoff to kneeldown. 49ers, 34, Falcons, 17
Why: San Fran’s elite defense will ultimately be the factor in this game. Ryan will have a rough time facing this talented squad.
#4 Baltimore Ravens @ #2 New England Patriots, Sunday, 6:30 ET, CBS
This AFC showdown will feature the league’s top offense against the most motivated defense.
Baltimore Offense vs. New England Defense
The Ravens run-oriented scheme heavily relies on RB Ray Rice. RB Bernard Pierce, Rice’s backup, should also receive significant careers. QB Joe Flacco has been outstanding this postseason, and will continue to play at a high level when he faces New England. The Patriots have an underrated defense, but will be tired by the final quarter because of Baltimore’s running game.
New England Offense vs. Baltimore Defense
The Patriots offense lost a core player when TE Rob Gronkowski was placed on the Reserve/Injured list earlier this week with an injury. Brady does not play as well when Gronk is on the sideline. However, the running back will partially make up for the loss of the starting tight end. The Ravens defense is extremely motivated behind LB Ray Lewis, who will retire once the season ends. If Baltimore loses, Lewis retires. The Ravens extra push for #52 will take down New England’s offense.
Prediction: Lewis’s career gets another extension. Ravens, 34, Patriots, 23
Why: During typical games, Lewis makes an immense impact to his team. They are one game away from the Super Bowl, and Lewis will have a spectacular game.