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Championship weekend is here and it looks an awful lot like last year's Championship weekend. Back are the 49ers, Patriots and Ravens, who all played on Championship weekend last season. Gone are the Giants, in are the Falcons. The action starts on Sunday. Who will meet in the Super Bowl?
49ers vs. Falcons
Defending Colin Kaepernick
The Packers had major issues with him, allowing an NFL-record 181 yards rushing by Kaepernick. Charles Woodson wondered what they could have done differently after Kaepernick continued to do the same thing "over and over again." Stopping Kaepernick is priority No. 1 as far as Dave Choate of The Falcoholic is concerned.
The 49ers run the ball well, yes, but the Falcons proved they can slow down a capable back if they swarm to him. Stopping Kaepernick is tougher, and it will require more than a quarterback spy, as Erik Walden of the Packers found out. It will take a dedicated effort to bottle him up, and it would help if Abe was there. They need to force him to make mistakes.
They need to spy him. He can, has and will make you pay if you don't game plan for him on every single play. It's easy to say make him beat you with your arm but what are you going to say when he does beat you with his arm? Kaepernick is a package that can't easily be defended.
Jim Harbaugh is always up to something
Anytime a 49ers player stands at his locker this week, he comes face-to-face with his former self. Posted above every player's locker is a placard with their high school or junior college picture and some of their recruiting ranking information.
It's meant to remind them where they came from, all the work it took to get to this point.
I kinda like last year's blue-collared shirts better.
The pick: 49ers over Falcons, 27-20
The Falcons are 4.5-point 'dogs in some places, making them the biggest home underdog of a No. 1 seed in playoff history. Until someone shows they can stop Kaepernick consistently, I'm rolling with the 49ers.
Ravens vs. Patriots
Pats are 5-2 vs. Ravens in the Brady era
The Patriots hold a 5-2 record against the Ravens in the Tom Brady era. That includes three straight wins from 2004-09 -- remember when the Ravens almost ended the perfect season? -- before the Ravens came back and dropped the beat-down on Brady and the Pats in the 2010 playoffs.
The most recent matchup came in September of this year when kicker Justin Tucker booted one through as time expired for the win.
SI cover jinx?
This is the second time that Flacco has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The previous time was on the September 19, 2011, and was because of the Ravens 35-7 beatdown they had administered to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opening game of the season. Unfortunately, the Ravens went out and laid an egg in losing miserably to the Tennessee Titans the following week.
Coincidence? We certainly hope so.
The pick: Patriots over Ravens, 33-27
Who can stop the Patriots' no-huddle attack? They have mastered the art of the no-huddle, significantly complicating things for the defense. Until someone shows me a way to stop it, I'll be picking the Patriots.