With the San Francisco 49ers set to take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in the NFC Championship game, the Niners have an opportunity to finish what they couldn’t a season ago.
San Francisco came one Kyle Williams muffed kick from winning the game and representing the NFC as the conference’s best team. Ironically, they may have been that anyway if it weren’t for those untimely mishaps. This postseason, there’s an opportunity to right the ship, and the 49ers have a prime opportunity to do so vs. the Falcons on the road.
Atlanta’s been written off for much of the season by NFL experts, but they won’t be given the same treatment by a focused 49ers team. Though many are picking against the Falcons, the 49ers will send a message on Sunday. How?
Here are five bold predictions for the big game:
1. Colin Kaepernick goes legend
It didn’t take long for Colin Kaepernick to become a household name in the Bay Area after ripping the starting quarterback job from Alex Smith in Week 10.He quickly showed the sports world what his teammates new all along from watching him in practice — he was special.
This week, the Falcons won’t be able to stop both aspects of his dynamic skill set, particularly his ability to take off and run. Though Atlanta will employ a quarterback spy to follow his every move, he’ll still go off and have a game of epic proportions.
2. Jim Harbaugh looks like a genius
The man who orchestrated the change at quarterback took a big gamble in a high risk-high reward scenario. When Jim Harbaugh made the switch from Smith after the former No. 1 pick sustained a concussion, he opened himself up to ridicule and a possible team implosion if his experiment didn’t work. Not only did it work, but it also looks like the best decision he’s made as a head coach.
The 49ers will win big behind Kaepernick, and he’ll continue to look smart.
3. Vernon Davis goes off
The 49ers’ best offensive weapon may be their least utilized. In the divisional round vs. the Green Bay Packers, he had one catch for 44 yards. Though it was a critical play, the stat line from that big win is reflective of what his games have looked like with Kaepernick under center. Davis spent an entire offseason and half of the regular season building on already sound chemistry with Smith.
The NFC Championship game will be an opportune time for Kaepernick and Davis to finally get on the same page, and they’ll likely do it. Expect a big game from the team’s best athlete.
4. LaMichael James earns his paycheck
One thing that didn’t show up on the stat sheet vs. the Green Bay Packers was the incredible job LaMichael James did in pass protection. For a rookie running back who has struggled to find playing time, rendering a Pro Bowler like Clay Matthews ineffective is a good way to earn more snaps.
He’ll get them, too, and this time around, he’ll likely get more touches out of the backfield. Once he gets in space, he’s as dynamic as anyone, and it will be on full display Sunday vs. the Falcons.
5. The defense shuts the Falcons down
No one expects the 49ers to shut down a dynamic Falcons’ offense that averages 369.1 yards per game, but that’s exactly what they’ll do on Sunday. The pass rush engineered by Justin Smith will free up Aldon Smith to get to quarterback Matt Ryan. Despite being at home, the Falcons will succumb to a healthy Smith and the talent of the corners on the outside. The lack of a sound run game will also disrupt Atlanta’s ability to keep the 49ers guessing.
Expect an anemic offensive output for the Falcons.
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