NFL News - AFC, NFC Championship Games Sunday: Patriots and Ravens, 49ers and Falcons. Winner to Super Bowl 47
The AFC and NFC Conference Championship games are this weekend, and a lot of people are already laying down their predictions for the big games. The NFL's "Final Four," this year are the New England Patriots hosting the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC on January 20th (4:30 pm ET) and the San Francisco 49ers traveling to play the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC on January 20th (1:00 pm ET).
There's a reason New England is an 8 point favorite for the AFC Championship game. That reason is Patriot's quarterback Tom Brady. Though the team lost tight end Rob Gronkowski to another forearm fracture last week against the Houston Texans, they still have the more than capable Aaron Hernandez to fill the void at tight end. Along with wide receivers Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, one of Brady's favorite targets, and the emergence of running back/wide receiver hybrid Shane Vereen, this game is bound to be an offensive shoot out.
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After Ray Lewis, long-time linebacker for the Ravens, announced he'd be retiring after this season, the NFL world waited to see if his team could galvanize around one of the league's great leaders, and send him off with a second Super Bowl Ring. With quarterback Joe Flacco's long ball game heating up at the right time, and a trio of dynamic, speedy fast receivers (Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Anquan Bolden) running down field, a once maligned post-season offense could be pivotal.
The 49ers are coming into the game as 4 or 5 favorites over Matt Ryan and company. The Falcons still haven't demonstrated they are a consistent post-season team. Though they've played great football all season, led by their passing game with Ryan at quarterback and the dynamic trio of Julio Jones, Roddy White and future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, it's the Falcons' running game that will have to step up. Though Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers both had a good game last week against the Seattle Seahawks, the Falcons have struggled to establish their running game throughout the 2012-2013 season.
Though I'm sure the Green Bay Packers will disagree, I think the speedy San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick will not be able to run as much on the Falcons linebacker core and will be forced to rely on pocket presence which is not his greatest strength.
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