NFC Divisional Round
January 9, 2013
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Yesterday I touched on the two games we will see in the AFC this weekend and now it’s time to shift the focus to the NFC. Both games aren’t a rematch of earlier meetings as in the AFC, but we still have one game that features two teams that saw each other this season, albeit under very different circumstances.
Green Bay (+3) vs. San Francisco (-3); Total set at 45
These two are the two that met before but it was way back in Week 1. That game saw the 49ers head up to Green Bay and beat the Packers 30-22 with QB Alex Smith at the helm. Obviously plenty is different for this game, most notably QB Colin Kaepernick getting the start for San Francisco. It was Kaepernick that led the 49ers down the stretch and sparked their ho-hum offense.
Since getting his first start in Week 11 vs. the Bears, Kaepernick has led the 49ers to at least 27 games in five of his seven starts, winning all five of those games. The two times he and the SF offense struggled came in road games vs. division opponents neither of which he will be facing here.
However, Green Bay finished 4th in the league in sacks this year and with the speed they have at LB and DB positions they will be able to contain Kaepernick in the pocket. The Packers have seen way too much film on Kaepernick extending drives and making big plays so they will want to force him to beat them through the air. Green Bay was 11th in the league against the pass during the year and that was without key guys like Charles Woodson for a good chunk of time. The playoffs are a different beast and Kaepernick will learn that first hand on Saturday night.
Aaron Rodgers may have his own issues against the 4th ranked pass defense in the league, especially when the 49ers aren’t going to fear Green Bay’s running game. Green Bay may have put up 22 points in that first meeting, but they had only 7 points through three quarters and one of those final two TD’s came on a Randall Cobb punt return. Over 80% of bettors have already jumped on this game going over the total, but I can easily see it going the other way. I believe 45 points isn’t much for these two offenses but it is set this low for a reason. A 24-20 type game is well within the realm of strong possibilities as these two defenses should show up.
I am leaning heavily to the under.
Seattle (+2.5) vs. Atlanta (-2.5); Total set at 45.5
This is the lone game this weekend that isn’t a rematch from the season and everyone is jumping all over Atlanta’s playoff shortcomings and expecting them to fail once again. TE Tony Gonzalez is 0-5 SU in playoff games throughout his career and wouldn’t it be a shame if his storied career ended without a postseason victory.
The Falcons do not want to see that happen and after being in this spot before with the #1 seed (2010), they can’t afford to waste another opportunity like this. They were 7-1 SU at home this year with that lone loss coming in a “nothing” game in Week 17 to Tampa Bay. Their WR duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White will have their work cut out for them against Seattle’s great corners, but Matt Ryan trusts those two immensely and will have no problem chucking it up to them if the situation calls for it.
Defensively Atlanta will have to contain Russell Wilson’s mobility and they can draw on their experiences facing Cam Newton to draw up a solid game plan. If they can contain him the Falcons offense should be able to get their first playoff win in the Matt Ryan era and move on to the NFC Championship.
I’m leaning on Atlanta here.