Football is a game of matchups.
Typically, when a team wins most of its matchups, it emerges victorious.
The 2013 NFC Championship Game is loaded with juicy matchups between legitimate superstars, battles that will determine which team advances to the Super Bowl.
Let's take a look.
Patrick Willis is the most well-rounded linebacker in football. As a punishing yet sound tackler, he plays the run well and is an assertive blitzer.
However, what's often overlooked about his game is his ability to drop in coverage and make plays.
Tony Gonzalez was targeted seven times and had six receptions for 71 yards with a touchdown in the win over the Seattle Seahawks.
The future Hall of Fame tight end's last catch of the day set up Matt Bryant's game-winning kick, and was made with linebacker Bobby Wagner in coverage.
If Willis can stay with Gonzalez and limit his production, San Fran will be in business defensively. If not, the Falcons will be very effective on third downs and in the red zone.
Colin Kaepernick set an NFL quarterback rushing record with 181 yards on the ground against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round.
Much of that yardage came on designed read-option runs for the speedy quarterback.
Although Russell Wilson did demonstrate incredible elusiveness on many occasions, he did not run the ball on any designed runs against Mike Nolan's defense.
The read-option puts extreme stress on a team's edge defenders—just ask Clay Matthews.
If Kaepernick is able to consistently fool guys like John Abraham (whose ankle injury isn't serious, according to ESPN.com) and Kroy Biermann and find huge running lanes, the 49ers offense should be nearly impossible to slow down.
NaVorro Bowman is the ideal complement to Patrick Willis in the middle of the San Francisco defense. He plays fast, disciplined and is equally as effective in coverage as he is against the run.
In fact, he led the 49ers with 149 tackles in 2012.
His primary assignment against the Falcons will be filling running lanes and stopping Michael Turner, in all likelihood.
After taking plenty of criticism for being a slow, over-the-hill back, Turner exploded for 98 yards at a relatively astounding seven-yards-per-carry clip against Seattle.
When Atlanta can run the football, its passing game is absolutely deadly.
The Bowman vs. Turner matchup will be worth watching all evening.
Justin Smith makes the vaunted 49ers defense go.
When he's occupying blockers and disrupting the backfield with sheer power and aggression, guys like Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis are supremely impactful near the line of scrimmage.
Atlanta didn't allow a sack against an aggressive Seattle Seahawks defensive front seven in the divisional round, but it will have its hands full against the 49ers.
If the interior of the Falcons offensive line holds up against Justin Smith, there's a much better chance Matt Ryan finds his talented pass-catchers down the field.
The way Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson match up with Michael Crabtree will have its bearing on the NFC title game, but the presence of Roddy White and Julio Jones is far more important.
Cornerbacks Chris Culliver, Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers will be tasked with covering the Falcons duo, who combined for 11 targets, 134 yards and a touchdown against Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.
Culliver, Brown and Rogers won't be the only 49ers defensive backs tested. The Falcons are not afraid to throw it down the field in an attempt to hit the big play, so Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson will have their work cut out for them.
Remember, White ran past safety Kam Chancellor on a 47-yard touchdown in the second quarter in the divisional-round win.
San Fran must do whatever it can to limit Atlanta's explosive plays.