When the San Francisco 49ers paid Jim Harbaugh $25 million over 5 years to serve as their head coach, I’m sure they didn’t expect to be in back-to-back conference championships. That’s a lofty pace for Harbaugh to maintain. At the very least, the oddsmakers seem to like his chances this weekend as the seemingly indestructible Niners visit Atlanta in the Georgia Dome.
Despite Matt Ryan picking up his first playoff victory, it wasn’t without it’s fair share of scrutiny. He did everything he could, but also had plenty of time to do it since Seattle’s pass rush was non-existent. The Falcons are 0-5 ATS in Matt Ryan’s five playoff games because he has never definitively taken over a game and closed the back door for good. San Francisco’s pass rush has a very strong chance to knock Matt Ryan off of his game and make him the playoff dud we were expecting last weekend.
Keep in mind that Atlanta is just 1-4 ATS in their last 5 playoff home games and while they’re 3-1-1 ATS in their last 5 games when facing a team with a winning record, they don’t have amazing results against mobile quarterbacks. Russell Wilson was flat and getting buried by bad decisions from Pete Carroll until he exploded in the fourth quarter. When Wilson was cut loose he shredded the Falcons and Atlanta’s defense wore out fast.
San Francisco 49ers (12-4) vs. Atlanta Falcons (14-3)
Sunday, January 20th — Georgia Dome — 3:00pm EST
NFC Championship Game Odds – San Francisco -3.5 (48.5)
Keeping up with Kaepernick isn’t just the name of his non-existent sitcom, it’s a difficult task to perform. Atlanta’s defense is a completely old-school type of smash mouth defense that doesn’t have a component that allows it to cover major speed. They have never really been tested by a blazing backfield element and that could very well put them in the dungeon early in this game. Kaepernick isn’t just good, he’s confident and sure of himself as a runner. And he sets playoff records with his feet.
You start and end your betting choices on quarterback play and a defense’s ability to deal with that quarterback. The Niners devour pocket passers like Matt Ryan for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Falcons don’t have the presence up front to protect Matt Ryan all day, and while sacks might not be as frequent as Niners fans are hoping, hurried passes will be bountiful. The reason Atlanta has always been tepid about the guy they call Matty Ice is because he shrivels under big pressure. We’re not speaking metaphysically here; if you can get to him early and often, he completely checks out of a game.
The San Francisco 49ers have gone 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games overall and are also 4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games against teams with winning records. The major difference between Smith and Kaepernick isn’t style of play, it’s that the latter gives the Niners a chance to blow up the scoreboard. Atlanta’s passing attack will still strike in this game but San Francisco is simply too well rounded on both sides of the line to let the NFC Championship slip through their fingers again.
NFC Championship ATS Pick – San Francisco -3.5 (OVER)