In the NFC Championship Game, the Atlanta Falcons will be looking to advance to their second Super Bowl while the San Francisco 49ers look for their sixth appearance. The 49ers are the favorites, but the Falcons have home-field advantage on their side.
The two teams display contrasting types of football as the Falcons present a finesse passing attack and the 49ers feature a punishing, physical defense. Although, last week they both showed they have more to offer. The Falcons proved they can play physical in their win over the Seattle Seahawks while the 49ers showed offensive firepower against the Green Bay Packers.
In what should be a closely contested game, these players have the opportunity to swing the game in favor of their teams.
The tight end has been largely forgotten since the 49ers switched to Colin Kaepernick. In the eight games that Kaepernick has started (including last week), Davis has caught 13 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown. Take away the Kaepernick's first start, where Davis caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, and the numbers look abysmal for the star.
Davis only caught one pass last weekend, but it was a big one. He beat the Packers defense down the seam for 44 yards. That play showed he's still a legitimate threat in this offense and that he can make a difference. If the Falcons sell out to stop the run, Davis could have his biggest role of the Kaepernick era and be the difference in the game.
The Falcons pass rusher is expected to play despite an ankle injury that forced him to miss the majority of last week's game. His ability to play through the pain and the impact he can have will be a big piece of the game. The Falcons not only need Abraham to play, but to have a big impact in slowing down Kaepernick.
If Abraham can't be near his best in this game, the 49ers will have a huge advantage. They should be able to dominate the trenches and give Kaepernick plenty of time to throw or find running lanes.
Coming off the game of his life, Kaepernick will be asked to duplicate some of the success he had against the Green Bay Packers. In responding extremely well to his game-opening pick-six, Kaepernick showed a level of poise unusual for a second-year quarterback.
The 49ers likely won't need him to play as well as he did, but they need him to have another very good game. Assuming the Falcons do a better job of planning for the run, Kaepernick will likely need to use more of his arm to beat the Falcons. If he can do that, the 49ers will have a great chance to march into New Orleans.
Jacquizz Rodgers and Michael Turner
The Falcons finished 29th in rushing the football this season, but ran the ball surprisingly well against the Seahawks. Rodgers and Turner combined for 162 yards on 24 carries for an average of 6.75 yards per carry against the stout Seahawks run defense.
While the 49ers take pride in their run defense, the Green Bay Packers had success last week behind DuJuan Harris and Randall Cobb. The pair combined for 81 yards on 13 carries for an average of 6.23 yards per carry. There should be opportunities for Rodgers and Turner to have success and help the Falcons dictate the tempo early.