As the beginning of February approaches sports fans everywhere are looking forward to one of the biggest sporting events in the country, the Super Bowl.
Before this can happen two more games must be played this weekend to decide who will be competing for a Super Bowl title. The first game scheduled will decide the NFC champion between the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons.
Let’s start by looking at Atlanta and what they need to do to get to the Super Bowl.
The Falcons are coming in as the number one seed in the NFC and will be looking to unleash their high powered offense led by quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones.
In the past Ryan has been scrutinized for not being able to win in the postseason but that has seemed to disappear with last week’s win over the Seattle Seahawks bringing his record to 1-3 in the playoffs. If he is going to improve on that record, Atlanta must focus on three keys to come away with a victory.
First, Ryan has to make smart throws and allow players like Jones and White to make the big plays. The Falcons have to control the tempo on offense and cannot afford to turn the ball over.
The next key for Atlanta falls on the offensive line finding a way to stop the powerful pass rush of the 49ers. With players like Aldon Smith and Justin Smith trying to take down Ryan, the offensive line will have to play at a top level to him their quarterback the timing he needs to make the throws.
The last key for the Falcons to win falls on their defense and finding a way to stop the double threat from San Francisco’s quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has shown that he can be the gun slinger with a powerful arm but he can also be just as effective running the ball as he scrambles away from the chasing defenses.
If Atlanta can find a way to accomplish these tasks they will find themselves battling it out for a title in February.
As for the Niners, their challenges are slightly different as they try to find a way to return to the Super Bowl after a long absence.
The biggest issue for San Francisco will be finding a way to keep Atlanta’s explosive receivers out of the end zone. It will be up to the secondary of the Niners to step up in a big way and shut down White and Jones from going deep.
Along with their corners, San Francisco must succeed in the run game with Frank Gore to take the pressure away from their young quarterback and take time off the clock to keep Ryan off the field.
The winner of this game will come down to whoever can out do the other between San Francisco’s defense and Atlanta’s high powered offense. Whichever team is able to accomplish this will find themselves competing in the biggest game of the year.