49ers vs. Falcons Predictions: Home-Field Will Give Atlanta Edge in Title Game
According to Vegas Insider, the 49ers are four-point favorites in the NFC Championship Game. Those picking San Francisco to win, though, should look at a few facts before placing the bet.
Offensively, Atlanta has one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.
Matt Ryan has put together a tremendous season while finding Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez down the field. Even without a consistent rushing attack, the offense finished the year ranked No. 8 in total yards and No. 7 in points scored.
On defense, most analysts will give the overwhelming edge to the 49ers based on reputation and the amount of talent across the field. However, even this is closer than many would expect.
Atlanta only allowed 18.7 points per game this season thanks to its ability to get big stops and force turnovers. This ranked fifth in the league and was only 1.6 more points per game than San Francisco.
Who will win the NFC Championship Game?
With a better offense and a similar defense, the Falcons already have an advantage on paper. However, the thing that will decide this game is the location.
The Falcons earned the right to play this game in the Georgia Dome thanks to their outstanding 13-3 regular-season record. The team finished 7-1 at home, only losing on the last week of the season after the top seed had been clinched.
Of course, the team's success at home is not anything new. Ryan has taken advantage of the home cooking throughout his five-year career.
In 38 regular-season home games, the quarterback has a 33-5 record with a 95.2 rating. This is much better than his road record of 23-17. He has shown an incredible amount of confidence at home, and that should only grow after his first playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Ryan is also not the only player that is much better in Atlanta. Running back Michael Turner struggled throughout the year, but he rushed for 4.4 yards per carry at home, compared to only 2.9 on the road. Last week against the Seahawks, the veteran rushed for 98 yards on 14 carries for an average of seven yards per carry.
Even defensive end John Abraham had seven of his 10 sacks this season in the Georgia Dome.
The entire roster seems to feed off the home crowd and put in better performances at home than on the road.
Still, the crowd can affect more than just the home team. San Francisco will start a young, inexperienced quarterback in Colin Kaepernick. Although he was very impressive last week against the Green Bay Packers, it has been a different story when he has been forced to play on the road.
Not only have all four of Kaepernick's career interceptions taken place on the road, but he completely fell apart in Seattle, which was arguably the toughest atmosphere he had to face this season.
Against the Seahawks, the quarterback had season lows in completion percentage, quarterback rating and Total QBR, all of which led to a 42-13 defeat.
Seattle and Atlanta are similar in terms of home-field advantage, so it will be difficult to imagine the second-year player having much more success on Sunday.
Atlanta is an experienced team and knows how to win, especially at home. This will become a huge factor against the 49ers on Sunday, and it will help the Falcons earn a trip to the Super Bowl.
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