Porter’s Predictions – NFL Conference Championships Preview 20th January 2013

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Updated: January 18, 2013

Last weekend was one great weekend, filled with lots of outstanding NFL action. The Baltimore Ravens were able to defeat the AFC number one seed Denver Broncos, the San Francisco 49ers outplayed the Green Bay Packers for the second time this season, the Atlanta Falcons became the top ‘bird of prey’ by winning against the Seattle Seahawks, and the New England Patriots won their divisional match up against the Houston Texans for the second year in a row.

These results have set up two fantastic Conference Championship games for this Sunday, including one rematch from last year’s playoffs. The 49ers will play against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome and the Ravens will travel to Gillette Stadium to play against the Patriots. Here are my previews and predictions of this Sunday’s action.

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NFC Championship

San Francisco 49ers vs Atlanta Falcons – Falcons win

Yes ladies and gentlemen, the Falcons will be going to the Superbowl for the first time since the 1998 season. In my opinion too, they should be able to defeat the 49ers with ease. Falcons WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones won’t be going against a CB like Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman this Sunday, so they might be able to get into more open spaces, giving QB Matt Ryan more options. The 49ers Linebacker trio that will be trying to stop him any way possible though, are Pro-Bowlers Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith.

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick will be looking to continue his good form from the Packers game last week. With the success of the option plays last week, expect to see option plays to be run a lot in this game. It’s important not to forget the inclusion of RB Frank Gore in the rushing game and WR Michael Crabtree in the passing game as well. Don’t be surprised though if you see Falcons DE John Abraham stopping Kaepernick ever allow this to happen. Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux will be hoping he can play the same way he did against the Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, to stop any 49ers inside running game. There are still some errors though in the Falcons secondary as shown by the Seahawks and their 21 points in the fourth quarter. Falcons FS Thomas DeCoud and CB Asante Samuel will need to recapture their regular season form though if they want to stop Crabtree and 49ers TE Vernon Davis from getting any passes this game. Falcons to win by a touchdown.

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AFC Championship 

Baltimore Ravens vs New England Patriots – Patriots win

This is a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game, which the Patriots won and which was also at Gillette Stadium. I think they will do the same this weekend as well. However, the Ravens and the Patriots have already met each other this season back in Week 3, which the Ravens won 31-30 at M&T Bank Stadium with a fourth quarter comeback. Therefore, although the Patriots may have home-field advantage which is a big factor in games of this magnitude, they must make sure they don’t get complacent when they have the lead. Patriots QB Tom Brady is on fine form as he always is, and is also the perfect leader to make sure his team is focused on the task at hand. He has an equal counter-part in this field though in the form of Ravens OLB Ray Lewis, who will be doing everything he can to stop Brady, to make sure his last game before retirement is at the Superbowl.

Brady will once again be looking to hand off to RB Stevan Ridley and connect with WR Wes Welker this Sunday. Usual TE target Rob Gronkowski though is out due to injury, so the likes of TE Aaron Hernandez and WR Brandon Lloyd will be receiving a lot more of the ball. Lewis along with OLB Terrell Suggs and CB Ed Reed will be looking to stop him, but also CB Corey Graham will be looking to add more interceptions to his stats along with the two he earned against the Denver Broncos last week. Ravens QB Joe Flacco still has to prove to some critics that he is an ‘elite’ QB and one way he can do this is going one step further than last year and get the Ravens to the Superbowl. WR Torrey Smith and RB Ray Rice will be there to assist him. However, if the Patriots defensive line of DTs Vince Wilfork and Brandon Deaderick and DEs Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones can perform the same way they did against Houston Texans RB Arian Foster, they’ll force the Ravens to pass the ball, applying more pressure on Flacco to perform. Patriots to win by a touchdown.

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Previews and predictions by Conor Porter

twitter – @ConorJPorter

blog – conorporter.blogspot.co.uk

 

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