Ho, boy diggity. I don’t know that any weekend of football is ever going to top the one that just happened. The 2012 Divisional Playoffs may go down as one of the best in the history of the game–and rightfully so. Two insane comebacks, an incredible individual performance by one of the best young QBs in the game, and an old fashioned beat down.
I’ve never been happier to finish a weekend with a record no better than .500.
The outcomes have set up a rematch in one conference and a second chance in the other. Enough of the chit-chat though, let’s just get to it.
San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons — Sunday 3:00pm
I’m sorry I ever doubted him. Colin Kaepernick single-handedly willed the 49ers to an impressive victory over a hot Green Bay Packers team in their matchup last week. Sure he had a tough defense backing him up, but the second year QB exploded in his first playoff appearance, accounting for well over 400 yards of total offense while throwing for two scores and running for another two.
On the flip side of this is Matty Ice and the Falcons. They finally got off of the playoff snide, winning their first postseason game in their last four tries. They didn’t make it easy on themselves though. After an insane comeback with just over a minute remaining, Atlanta allowed Russell Wilson and the Seahawks to get to midfield for a decent Hail Mary attempt. Wilson’s heave was eventually (fittingly) picked off in the endzone–no controversial calls this time–and Atlanta marched on.
So now onto Conference Championship Weekend.
Kaepernick is absolutely going to be the focus for the Falcons in this one, but the matchup I look to is the 49ers DBs against the Falcons passing game. Atlanta’s success is completely dependent on the effectiveness of Matt Ryan and the wide outs–insane to think, considering Michael Turner is in the backfield, but it’s been completely ineffective this year. If San Fran can shut that down (which, with the 4th ranked passing defense, they certainly can) this should be a cakewalk of a game. The opposite holds true for the Falcons; they’re going to need the passing game to be effective in order to stay in this game. Their defense isn’t going to keep them in this one.
Ultimately, I think this comes down to Atlanta’s 24th ranked defense’s inability to contain Kaepernick. 49ers win 38-35
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots — 6:30pm
The last time these two teams hooked up, it was one of the more memorable games in recent, uh, memory. Torrey Smith played through an enormous amount of emotional grief, having just lost his brother to a motorcycle accident, only to have the game of his life–he grabbed two gorgeous TD passes. The Ravens walked off with 31-30 win thanks to a Justin Tucker last-second field goal.
That game was played in central Maryland though. This one will be in Foxboro–where the Ravens haven’t won since 2010 (oh, by the way, that was a playoff game). This will be a familiar scene, however; New England and Baltimore squared off in the Conference Championship last year.
So what does Baltimore have to do to see the same outcome? Well, to start, they have to get pressure on Tom Brady. On a similar note, they’re going to have to keep Joe Flacco on his feet. In their first meeting, they managed to get to Brady twice, and keep Flacco from being taken to the turf, and that worked out quite well.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m openly rooting against the Pats here. I’m tired of seeing them in this particular situation. It’s time for someone else to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. It’s time for a younger group of individuals to unseat Brady. And while I’m not particularly fond of Baltimore, they’re the ones who are in the situation, so, for at least this week I’ll happily rock some purple and black. So with that… Ravens win 31-30
Happy Harbaugh Bowl, dear OHP readers.