Last week, the Atlanta Falcons held Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch to just 46 rushing yards. It was an excellent effort and I don’t want to take anything away from it, but Lynch was not healthy and the Seahawks were down early and did not have a lot of chances to run the football.
This week, San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore is not listed on injury report and will give the Falcons problems in a close game, or if they get down early. Gore ran for 119 yards last week in a game where QB Colin Kaepernick went crazy with 181 rushing yards. That will not happen this week. I can see Kaepernick getting somewhere in the 90 range, but the Green Bay Packers were overwhelmed on defense. The Falcons will do a better job preparing.
Gore averages more carries with Kaepernick at quarterback than Alex Smith. I would not have expected this, but it’s mostly because the 49ers’ offense is more explosive and they are running more plays. To offset the 49ers running game, the Falcons need to get ahead early. Kaepernick will still be running, but at least Gore will be taken out of the game.
This game could be close, but I still give the edge to the 49ers. Their defense is a lot better and their offense showed they can put some series points on the board while Kaepernick is at the helm. QB Matt Ryan and Kaepernick have the same amount of wins in the playoffs, so nobody really has an experience advantage. I can see one of these quarterbacks crumbling under the pressure just as easily as I can see the other.
Follow Kase Brammer on Twitter @KBlive33