Matt Ryan had a good performance numbers-wise, but also committed two turnovers in the Atlanta Falcons' 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. (Photo : 55thstreet on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/10613660@N04/2935699367/))
It certainly wasn't a boring route to NFC Championship weekend, but it's a traditional, 1-vs.-2 match-up this coming Sunday between the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers to see who will face either the Baltimore Ravens or New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVII. This is part two of our preview of the first game on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. EST. Part one and part two of our NFC Championship Preview were published earlier this week. The NFC tilt will determine the first half of the Super Bowl pairing, with the game beginning at 3 pm EST on FOX.
Additional Fun Facts
-San Fran is 44-29-1 against Atlanta in the regular season having been in the same division from 1967-2001. There was only one playoff match-up between the squads back in 1998.
-The 49ers were 3-2 vs. playoff teams in the regular season, beating the Green Bay Packers, losing the to Minnesota Vikings, splitting the season series with the Seattle Seahakws, and have a win against the Patriots sandwiched in between.
-The Falcons were 2-0 vs. playoff teams, topping the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins, each within the first handful of weeks of the season.
-Captain Obvious Fact of the Day: no other NFC South team made the playoffs, which cut down on the Falcons chances to prove themselves against elite teams.
Super Bowl Scenarios
If New England wins, it's Bill Belichick vs. Jim Harbaugh, an older but outside the box coach pitted against a new, unconventional one. Jason Whitlock talks about more of that match-up's appeal here.
If Baltimore wins, it's the Harbaugh Bowl, which would be only the second game ever between two brothers as head coaches. Time wrote a feature-style article aboutt the other matchup and brothers in sports.
The San Francisco Chronicle documented Jim's and John's parents' watching routines, which included a quiet night at home last year at this point. The worst possible outcome happened for them, with both brothers missing the Super Bowl.
If New England wins, it's Tom Brady against a young pocket passer out of a similar mold, Matt Ryan.
If Baltimore wins, it's a battle of the birds, with each franchise making its second ever Super Bowl appearance. Ray Lewis would have a shot at accomplishing what Jerome Bettis and John Elway did: retire after winning it all. A Falcons-Ravens game would be a nightmare for many sports books, because the game is not believed to have the same appeal as any of the other contests, CBS Sports says.
Knocks Against the Niners
There aren't too many, because of San Francisco's great team balance. However, if it weren't for a blown call in Week 3 by the replacement referees that handed the Seahawks a win and the Packers a loss, San Fran would have had a first round game in the playoffs, and been on the road last weekend. Also, the 49ers were 0-1-1 versus the St. Louis Rams. Of teams with five or fewer wins, San Francisco padded its record with three W's: two against the Arizona Cardinals and one against the Detroit Lions.
Knocks Against the Falcons
The Falcons had one of the easiest schedules in the league. Atlanta played the Cardinals, Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles, beating them all. (Each of them had 11 losses or more.)
On the Bright Side for San Fran
The Niners have only two losses since the bye week ending the first half of the season. In that same stretch, San Francisco has four double-digit wins.
On the Bright Side for Atlanta
All three of the other NFC South inhabitants had 7-9 records, so intra-division games we're necessarily a cakewalk because the other teams were even.