USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Falcons will host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon (3pm ET) for the right to represent the NFC in the 2013 Super Bowl. Who will win?
Even though the Atlanta Falcons are the #1 seed and home team in this 2013 NFC Championship Game, they are still the underdogs to the #2 seed, San Francisco 49ers. According to a few wagering sites, the Falcons are getting anywhere from 4.5 to five points from the 49ers, reportedly making it the largest spread against the home team in a conference championship game.
For whatever reason, the odds-makers do not see Atlanta as the best team in the conference and at the same time, see San Francisco as the better team. San Francisco's offense has been clicking ever since Colin Kaepernick took over the Alex Smith, adding an explosive new dimension of his scrambling abilities to what had been considered a relatively conservative offense.
Add in their hard-hitting defense and most people are looking for the 49ers, who lost a close one to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants last year, to take that next step. If this game were on the west coast, the 49ers would be a touchdown favorite, if not more.
However, this game in on the east coast, in a dome, on the Falcons home field and regardless of the point spread, it will be tough to win on the road. Atlanta jumped out to a huge lead, then took advantage to a questionable decision in the game's closing seconds to pull out the victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Falcons QB Matt Ryan would love a chance to put his playoff problems behind him for good by getting to the big stage and win this game. Meanwhile 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh would love to win and see his brother, John, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, over on the other sidelines in New Orleans.
I have a hard time picking against the home team, but only in this game (hint, hint). The Falcons have a solid defense, a good rushing attack and a pair of deadly receivers along with perhaps the game's best tight end in NFL history. They can score on the 49ers and will. If Ryan limits his mistakes, there is no reason why Atlanta can't win this game.
The key will not be the San Francisco defense, it's running game, or even the speedy receivers and their own tight end. No, it will obviously be whether or not the Falcons defense can limit the damage Kaepernick does with his legs and hope the big stage in a hostile environment flusters him into making a couple mistakes with his strong, but young and unproven arm.
Although I am rooting for the 49ers to set up an interesting Super Bowl match-up, my head tells me it will be a close one but the home field advantage will help propel Matty Ice to play again in two weeks,setting up a different yet still interesting match-up to settle the difference in constant comparison's between two 2008 NFL Draft quarterbacks (hint, hint).