49ers will be the NFC Champions come Sunday

Story by Taylor Potter, Sports Editor

The San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons–it’s not exactly the scenario that most us in this area were hoping for. But just because the Cowboys didn’t make it (again) doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some football. This Sunday’s NFC Championship Game should be a good one.

Both teams played their first game of the playoffs last week, but were on opposite ends of the spectrum. The 49ers rolled over the Packers at home (45-31), and rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a record-breaking performance, throwing for 263 and rushing for another 181. Veteran running back Frank Gore also had a nice game, contributing 119 yards on the ground. The stifling defense was led by linebacker Patrick Willis, who had seven tackles and a sack.

The Falcons are lucky to be in this position. After blowing a 20-point lead against the Seahawks last week, quarterback Matt Ryan was able to lead the offense back up the field and set up Matt Bryant’s game winning field goal. Though the comeback would not have been possible if it had not been for a terrible mistake by Seahawk head coach and college football outcast Pete Carroll. If it hadn’t had been for Carroll’s mistake, the Falcons would not be here.

The Falcons are still a good team. The combination of running backs Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers combined for 162 yards rushing. And when the passing game is on, it’s one of the best in the league. The defense will have to step up and keep San Francisco’s explosive quarterback under control. If they can do this and keep Matt Ryan from making mistakes, they’ll have a fighting chance.

The 49ers just have to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Their use of Kaepernick and Gore in the run game, along with their stout defense, is the formula for success. Getting Kaepernick going early will be the key. Head coach Jim Harbough needs to recognize the importance of boosting his young quarterback’s confidence in the rowdy Atlanta environment.

The Falcons and the 49ers both have abundant talent. But for this matchup, I have to side with the hot team that has better coaching.

My prediction: 49ers- 38; Falcons- 21