Regardless of the outcome for the NFC Divisional Round matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons, the winner will hold an edge over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
What the 49ers did against the Green Bay Packers in their game on Saturday night was incredible. It was as well-executed a game plan, especially on offense, as any NFL team has had this season.
Who Will Win The NFC Championship?
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was supposed to be the question mark for the 49ers going into the game, making his first playoff start after taking over full-time in Week 11. But he set an NFL playoff record with 181 rushing yards as a quarterback and was responsible for four touchdowns.
The 49ers destroyed the Packers in every category in that game, dominating in yards (579-352), rushing yards (323-104), time of possession (38:01-21:59) and third-down conversions (8-13 to 5-12).
However, there were some areas where the 49ers made mistakes that allowed the Packers to stay in the game longer than the numbers suggested they should have.
Ignoring the mistake that Kaepernick made on the second throw of the game—which led to Green Bay taking a brief 7-0 lead—because it clearly didn't hurt his performance, the defense continued to show some holes that plagued it late in the season.
DuJuan Harris went right through the teeth of the San Francisco defense on his 18-yard touchdown run that gave the Packers a 14-7 lead. And James Jones burned the secondary a couple of times—once on a beautifully placed pass from Aaron Rodgers for 44 yards and then on the touchdown.
Again, even with the 49ers dominating the stats in this game, it was tied midway through the third quarter. After that point, the 49ers made the adjustments on defense and took control of the game, but it was not a flawless performance.
The Falcons and Seahawks both have those big weapons on the outside that can give the 49ers secondary problems. Julio Jones (listed at 6'3") and Sidney Rice (listed at 6'4") have the ability to make the big plays that Jones did against that defense.
Plus, if we are talking about the Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson destroyed the 49ers defense, which was without Justin Smith, three weeks ago. Lynch had 111 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries.
Wilson didn't throw for a lot of yards in that 42-13 win, just 171, but his ability to keep plays going with his legs and scramble for first downs was a big problem for the 49ers.
But the biggest advantage that both the Seahawks and Falcons got from watching the 49ers game was getting an understanding of what to do against Kaepernick.
The Packers provided the perfect blueprint of what not to do in order to defend him. They played man-to-man coverage without leaving a spy, allowing Kaepernick to chew up big chunks of yardage with his legs.
Of the two teams, Seattle is better equipped on defense to stop Kaepernick. The Seahawks have more talent on that side of the ball than the Falcons, though it will be interesting to see how that unit changes without Chris Clemons after he tore his ACL last week against Washington.
#Seahawks DE Chris Clemons does have a torn ACL & meniscus, I'm told. Appointment with Dr. James Andrews Monday. Swelling not bad at least— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 7, 2013
Regardless of who wins between the Seahawks and Falcons, it would be a surprise if we didn't see a great NFC Championship Game.
The 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFL at devising schemes and disguising plays on both sides of the ball. However, the Seahawks have proven to be every bit as physical as the 49ers this season, and the Falcons are more explosive on offense than either of those teams when they are at the top of their game.