2013 NFL Playoffs: There Really Are Two Teams in the NFC Championship Game

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

 

News flash to all the analysts, former players and gamblers out there regarding the NFC Championship game: There really are TWO teams playing in this game. Along with the Goliath-like San Francisco 49ers, there is another team that just happened to have a better season than them participating in this little contest–the Atlanta Falcons.

If you listen to all of the NFL prognosticators, this game is already a foregone conclusion. Every talking head with a pull-string and a voice-box talks about what the 49ers can bring and what the Falcons need to worry about.

Hey, what about the things the 49ers need to worry about?

Even though they don’t have an Ivan Drago-like super athlete such as Colin Kaepernick, the Falcons just happen to have a few weapons of their own. For instance, how about a pair of receivers ranked 9th and 11th in the league in receiving yards: Roddy White and Julio Jones, respectively. Don’t they count as a threat to the impervious red and gold crew from the west?

Or perhaps the presence of arguably the greatest tight end in the history of the league, Tony Gonzalez, who is having arguably one of his best seasons, could be something for the Niners to worry about.

And while Falcons QB Matt Ryan might not get all the face time that Kaepernick does, he did manage to rank 1st in the league in completion percentage (68.6%), 5th in the league in passing yards (4,719), touchdown passes (32) and quarterback rating (99.1). Not too shabby, huh?

Of course, the Falcons defense might not have the notoriety of the much-heralded San Francisco squad, but they have managed to put up some pretty decent numbers this season. I mean, you don’t go 13-3 by NOT playing defense, right? Only four players in the league had more interceptions than Thomas DeCoud‘s six picks and Asante Samuel added five of his own. John Abraham‘s six forced fumbles were good enough for third in the NFL.

The 49ers get a lot of credit for finishing second in the league in scoring defense, allowing only 17.1 points per game, but Atlanta just hung 30 points on the number ONE scoring defense when they beat the Seattle Seahawks. Oh and by the way, Atlanta finished fourth in the league in this category, only giving up 18.7 points per game

Here’s something huge the 49ers had best keep in the back of their foggy Northern California heads: the Falcons are going to be fast, loose and relaxed after finally breaking through that playoff win barrier they had been fighting for five seasons. That’s a fact not to be underestimated.

When you combine all the weapons, emotion and home field advantage, any intelligent being (human or otherwise) can see that this game isn’t quite in the books yet.

The Falcons have been fighting for respect all season, and while it’s not unexpected that the trend would continue to the NFC Championship game, it would be nice for folks to acknowledge that Atlanta will show up and play.

I promise…they will.

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Michael Collins is a Rant Sports NFL and MLB Network Manager, and Atlanta sports columnist. Follow him @GaSportsCraze on Twitter and here on Facebook


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