2013 NFL Conference Championship Preview

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The San Francisco 49ers will travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons for the right to be called the champions of the NFC. The winner will also earn the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in New Orleans. In the AFC, the New England Patriots will take on the Baltimore Ravens in New England for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons Colin Kaepernick Continues To Impress Kaepernick ran for a NFL quarterback record 181 yards in the Niners win over Green Bay on Saturday. Any player who can run for 181 yards in a game is going to be a dangerous player. When you add his ability to throw the ball and make good decisions with the ball, you have a complete player who will keep the Falcons defensive coordinator up all night attempting to find a way to slow him down. The Falcons Have Seen This Before Atlanta will have some adjustments to make after being torched in the second half by Russell Wilson's arm and legs. He managed to rack up over 300 yards passing and both ran and threw for a touchdown. In the second half, the Falcons defense was shredded for 28 points in about a quarter. Therefore, the Falcons defense will have to play with more discipline and focus for an entire four quarters. San Francisco Remembers How Close They Were Last Year The Niners advanced to the NFC title game last year only to come up short against the Giants. This year, San Francisco has seemingly upgraded in the two areas where they fell short last year. Alex Smith was considered a major liability in the playoffs last year. While that may not be a fair statement, it is obvious that Kaepernick has the arm and the legs to make sure that the offense doesn't stall this year. If they can eliminate the turnovers that doomed them last season in the NFC title game, they give themselves a great chance of winning this game. Atlanta Just Got Over The Hump The Falcons won their first playoff game since Matt Ryan became the starting quarterback in 2008. It is the first appearance for the Falcons in the NFC title game since 2004 when Michael Vick was the quarterback. The fans in Atlanta are still hoping for their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history. The last time Atlanta made it to the Super Bowl was in 1998 when they lost to the Denver Broncos. Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots Joe Flacco Looking To Move Up In Stature Flacco is trying his best to convince the Ravens management that he deserves to be treated like an elite quarterback. His three touchdown passes against the Broncos were instrumental in leading the Ravens to a victory last Saturday in Denver. Brady Looking To Make History As Well Tom Brady would be going to his sixth Super Bowl if he were to lead the Patriots to an AFC title this weekend. Brady threw for three touchdowns with no interceptions in his only playoff game this year against the Houston Texans. With his win last weekend, he became the all-time leader in playoff victories with 17. Defense Will Be Critical In This Game The Ravens defense has done a good job of pressuring Brady in the past. Their ability to get to him in their regular season meeting was the difference in the Ravens victory. Without Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots will be without one of their biggest weapons on offense. That will only help the Ravens defense keep the Patriots in check. For New England, it will be important that defensive backs Devin McCourty and Aqib Talib are able to cover Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. They both torched the Broncos for big plays on a regular basis. The front seven of the Patriots has to be able to get pressure in a hurry in an attempt to keep Flacco from connecting on the deep routes. Ray Lewis Will Be Fired Up Ray Lewis will be playing in his final AFC playoff game this weekend. He will be playing with pure emotion and with an energy that you won't see very often from a guy who is 37. Lewis has typically had great games against the Patriots and in the playoffs in general. There will be two great playoff games coming up this weekend in the NFL. If you thought that the divisional round was good, you will be remiss to not tune in to the games this weekend. You won't want to miss the moment when Colin Kaepernick went to his first Super Bowl or when Ray Lewis played his heart out in his final career game. By Don Phan: A part-time sports writer and lifelong Chicago sports fan.


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