After a wild Divisional Round, only four teams are left standing among the wreckage.
The Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots all survived a thrilling weekend of football. Now, they will prepare for their respective conference championship games next Sunday.
In the NFC, the 49ers advanced by dispatching the Green Bay Packers, 45-31. Rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick was spectacular, producing 444 total yards and four total touchdowns. He broke the record for most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback (181), and joined Jay Cutler and Otto Graham as the only players to throw and pass for two touchdowns in a single playoff game.
Kaepernick will have to be excellent again next Sunday, as San Francisco will be traveling to Atlanta to face the top-seeded Falcons. Despite blowing a 20-point fourth-quarter lead, the Falcons edged the Seattle Seahawks 30-28 to advance.
On the other side of the bracket, Tom Brady and the Patriots will look to derail Ray Lewis' final ride. The Patriots beat the Houston Texans 41-28 on Sunday, while the Ravens upset the Broncos in a 38-35 double-overtime shootout.
As good as the Divisional Round was, the Conference Championships have the potential to be even better. You won't want to miss a minute of the action, so be sure to tune in on Sunday. Here is all the vital information you need to know.
|Atlanta Falcons||San Francisco 49ers||Sunday, Jan. 20||3:00 p.m.||FOX|
|New England Patriots||Baltimore Ravens||Sunday, Jan. 20||6:30 p.m.||CBS|
Now that we've got the schedule out of the way, let's make a couple untrustworthy predictions.
1. San Francisco Will Eliminate Atlanta
The Falcons made an emphatic statement in the Divisional Round by jumping out to a 20-0 lead against the Seahawks. Then, they promptly blew that lead, putting terror into hearts of their fans. Luckily, the Falcons pulled out a narrow victory thanks to two clutch throws by Matt Ryan and a stupid mistake by Pete Carroll (h/t Complex).
Although the Falcons looked great at times, their run will come to an end against the 49ers.
Atlanta was shredded by dual-threat quarterback Russell Wilson (385 passing yards, 60 rushing yards, three total touchdowns), and I'm expecting Colin Kaepernick to have similar success. The lightning quick quarterback has become an expert at running the read option, and he should wreak havoc against Atlanta's suspect defense.
Matt Ryan and his arsenal of weapons will keep pace for awhile, but eventually Kaepernick, Frank Gore and the rest of the 49ers will overwhelm the home team.
Final score: 49ers 34 - Falcons 24
2. New England Will Advance to Second Straight Super Bowl
New England beat Baltimore in last year's AFC Championship Game, and I'm expecting history to repeat itself on Sunday.
The Ravens were excellent against the Broncos, producing 479 total yards and forcing Peyton Manning into three turnovers. However, they won't be as fortunate against Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots.
New England is almost unstoppable at Foxboro, posting a 11-2 record in home playoff games since Brady became the starter. Brady now has more postseason victories than any other quarterback, and with his poise and sheer talent, he should add to his record against Baltimore.
Brady isn't as reckless as Manning, so he is less likely to self-destruct in key situations. He also proved he could dominate a strong defense this postseason, dropping 344 yards and three touchdowns on the Texans.
Even if the Ravens can corral Brady, they will still have to deal with explosive running back Shane Vereen. The second-year back terrorized Houston, producing 124 yards and three total touchdowns on just 12 touches.
The Ravens will keep it close, but the Patriots simply have too many weapons. Look for New England to advance to their second consecutive Super Bowl.
Final score: Patriots 31 - Ravens 27