City of Champions’ Staff Picks Championship Round

Here are the results from last weeks divisional round of playoffs.

Zac Weiss – 2-2 (155-89-1)

Matt Gajtka – 2-2 (151-93-1)

Matt Shetler – 1-3 (151-93-1)

Jason Harding – 2-2 (147-97-1)

Here are this week’s NFC and AFC Championship games.

San Francisco at Atlanta

Jan 13, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) calls an audible in the fourth quarter of the NFC divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 30-28. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan finally won a post-season game and the critics still aren’t satisfied. Well, at least this critic isn’t. The Atlanta Falcons were often thought to be the best team in the NFL all season long. The Falcons played tough last week, in the first half. The big question this week is how Atlanta will respond in the opening half if San Francisco’s defense plays lights out. The rushing game of Atlanta surprised everyone by putting up big numbers early in the game. The Falcons run game had slowly trailed off throughout the year and was expected to be nearly non-existent in the playoff game. Atlanta finished the game with 167 yards on the ground. The 49ers defense is arguably one of the best in the league against the run. Matt Ryan threw two interceptions last week while throwing for 250 yards and 3 TDs. The pressure is expected to be on Ryan this week as he will likely be forced to throw much more.

While the Falcons were able to bottle up Marshawn Lynch for 46 yards they did allow Russell Wilson to run freely. This week they face another athletic QB in Colin Kaepernick. In the 49ers dismantling of Green Bay Kaepernick ran for 181 yards while throwing for another 263 yards, 4 TDs total on the day. San Francisco had their way with Green Bay defensively and will try to mimic Seattle’s 4th quarter efforts from a week ago. The question for San Francisco is how their secondary can play against the Falcons. Seattle’s secondary was one of the toughest all season, but they couldn’t match the physical abilities of Julio Jones and Roddy White. San Francisco’s linebacker play will be the key for the defense. Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman will need to add pressure to Ryan and stop big plays to Tony Gonzales.

49ers: Harding, Weiss, Shetler

Falcons: Gajtka

Baltimore at New England

The New England Patriots are playing in their 7th AFC Championship game in the last 12 years. The only loss in those games came after the 2006 season when Peyton Manning and the Colts stopped them. This year Peyton Manning was knocked off by the Ravens, setting up a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game.

A quick flashback to last year’s game. In the final moments of the game Lee Evans dropped a pass in the endzone after a Patriots defender swatted the ball out of his hands. That play forced the Ravens to attempt a field goal in which Billy Cundiff shanked. The Patriots won 23-20.

The Patriots have been playing solid football and Tom Brady has looked stellar. He threw for 344 yards, 3 TDs and no INTs. Brady will be without Gronkowski, but the Patriots managed to play nearly the entire game without him last week. Aaron Hernandez is probably the best back-up tight end you could ask for. The Patriots run defense will be key again this week facing Ray Rice. New England managed to hold Arian Foster to just 90 yards last week, a win by many defensive coordinators standards.

The Ravens went into Denver and pulled off the un-thinkable. Ray Lewis’ dream ending is coming to fruition as well. In the future hall of famer’s final season he finally beat Peyton Manning. Peyton appeared to be heading into the AFC Championship game before Joe Flacco threw a miracle and saved the season. The Ravens need to use a heavy dose of Ray Rice as I have said all season. Joe Flacco will continue to make his case for being an elite QB, but needs to win this game to make his mark.

Patriots: Harding, Weiss, Gajtka, Shetler

Topics: Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Pittsburgh Steelers

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