The San Francisco 49ers will take on the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC Championship Game rematch on Monday Night Football for Week 16. The match doesn't have nearly the same appeal as it looked to have at the beginning of the season, however.
For one, the 49ers are the only ones in the playoff picture, looking to clinch a spot this week. Atlanta is 4-10 on the season, and struggling at every turn. The Falcons have significant issues on both sides of the ball, and injuries have not been kind to them this year.
But it should still be a solid matchup. Let's take a look at both teams below, starting with the home team:
Meet the 49ers
The 49ers may have struggled to get their offense rolling early in the season, but Colin Kaepernick has come alive in recent weeks. Are the 49ers pulling out all the stops now that the playoffs are coming along, or is the return of Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham just that significant? It's probably a little of both, though how much it helps Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis to have some of the coverage spread out cannot be overstated.
San Francisco is 10-4 on the season, not doing quite as well as last year, but still looking like one of the top teams in the league. This game was supposed to be a clash of titans, but the Falcons haven't been able to perform. San Francisco will likely view this game as one to get through without injuries, so expect to see a basic offense unless things get dicey, with a heavy dose of Frank Gore against Atlanta's bottom-five rush defense.
Meet the Falcons
Atlanta has had so many things go wrong this season. Roddy White and Julio Jones both missed significant time on offense, leaving few targets worthwhile for quarterback Matt Ryan. Despite that, Ryan has actually played well, but depending on Steven Jackson in the running game and poor play (and injuries) along the offensive line have done little to help him out.
Defensively, there's little help, either. The Falcons have next to no pass rush, and the two rookies taken high in the 2013 NFL Draft have not been able to fix Atlanta's secondary woes. They allow a ton of pass yards and a ton of rushing yards, with Desmond Trufant being the lone bright spot. This is a lost season, but the Falcons clearly believe they're better than they've looked this year and will be looking to prove it against the 49ers in prime time.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Lighting up Candlestick one last time: Saying goodbye to an iconic venue. What will you miss the most? http://t.co/lpoDG8JpVQ— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) December 18, 2013
The Third Quarter Meltdown: Not Quite http://t.co/SGqCqXnaYd— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) December 19, 2013
All six of SB Nation's panel of NFL experts went with the 49ers to win at Candlestick on Monday. That includes Ryan Van Bibber, Joel Thorman, Jason Chilton, Stephen White, David Fucillo and Matt Ufford. For the rest of the Week 16 picks, go here.
The 49ers opened up as 10-point favorites over the Falcons at home. That line has only widened in their favor, however, with the 49ers to be had as high as 14 points, according to OddsShark.