Conference Championship Roundtable: the numberFire Experts' NFL Predictions
Another week, another set of playoff predictions. After getting Kaepernick'd last week, will the four guys who chose the Packers change their tune? And will anybody go against The Hoodie?
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons
Keith Goldner, Chief Analyst: 49ers win in a back-and-forth close game, 28-27. Both teams are great in the passing game, but the Niners defense will outweigh the Falcons home field advantage. Plus, the Niners rushing offense ranks No. 2 in the NFL barely behind the Redskins thanks to both Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick.
Nik Bonaddio, CEO: As much as I can respect what Colin Kaepernick did last week, the Falcons aren't the Packers and a home game in the playoffs is very different than one on the road. On a neutral site, this game tilts slightly 49ers on the strength of their defense; in Atlanta, I give a slight edge to the more balanced offense and the QB vastly less likely to have a regressive performance. Falcons 31, 49ers 27.
Michael Worthington, CTO: I didn't think either team was going to win last week. Man, was I wrong. What I liked from each game was how many points San Fran put on the board and how well Atlanta went up against Seattle's secondary. What I didn't like was Atlanta disappearing in the second half. At this level of play, going up against San Fran, they're not going to win if they let that happen again. They'll have the home field advantage but I don't think it'll be enough to stop Kaepernick and kompany. San Fran with the win 37-28.
Sean Weinstock, COO: I think Atlanta is highly underrated, especially "in the Georgia Dome on the 50 yard line while the dirty birds kick for tree." I hate when everyone hypes my team. I love underdog status. It's so much more fun watching people shocked at the events unfolding in front of them - like the 2 guys in Lions jerseys whose chutzpah made them come to the Niners bar in New York last year when the Niners, in my opinion, started to prove that they're legit. I'm taking the Niners with supreme caution here because every time they've faced a supreme offense/lackluster defense combination in the past 2 years, they've come out victorious (Green Bay twice, New Orleans, New England). It's teams that have nasty defenses that really give them trouble (Seattle, NY Giants twice, Rams 1.5 times, Ravens, Minnesota). Going to be a close game.
Zach Warren, Editor: I wasn't about the pick the 49ers last week, and I still feel fine with that. Colin Kaepernick had an absolute aberration of a game: he's good, but the statistical probability of getting within even 100 yards rushing of what he did last week is small. The Falcons, on the other hand, made me kick myself the entire week for not going with my gut. It's Matt Ryan's new-found efficiency; he was second among all NFL players behind Tom Brady in adding value to his team this year. I'm not making the same mistake twice. Falcons win 27-23.
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
Keith: New England Patriots by double digits. While the Ravens always seem to play the Patriots close, the Patriots are far and away the better team, and they are playing in Foxborough. Tom Brady and the best offense in the NFL will put up huge numbers: NE 31-17.
Nik: Baltimore got incredibly lucky once; it won't happen again. The Patriots are their superior on both sides of the ball - and I don't buy the Ray Lewis storyline at all. This game will be a strong win for the Pats and a garbage time cover for the Ravens; I'll put it 31-24, with Welker putting up 10-150 and two scores.
Michael: At least I picked New England to win with confidence. However, I'm a bit nervous with the level of play Baltimore has been bringing of late, especially bringing down the Broncos. We're seeing a rematch from last season where the Ravens missed FG and TD opportunity had them lose 23-20. Unfortunately for Baltimore, I think that game will repeat itself and the Patriots will be headed to another Super Bowl. New England 27-23.
Sean: Did you see the Onion article with Flacco apologizing to Ray Lewis for the way in which his career ended? If (BIG IF) Flacco can get it together, it's going to be a Har-bowl. Also, there's no more threat of Billy Cundiff costing the Ravens the game, so there's that. In the much more likely scenario that Flacco sucks (as a quick aside, I hate how TV announcers are quick to point out that Flacco's made the post season in each of his first four years and that puts him in elite company. It's a stupid argument that doesn't take into account situational circumstance. Thanks TV guys.), it's the Patriots game to lose.
Zach: See up there how I said that Matt Ryan was the second-most efficient NFL player behind Brady? That fact's not going away any time soon. Sure, maybe the Patriots can't run the ball. And maybe they gave up more points against expectation to opposing passing games than all of the other defenses combined this weekend. But no matter how much I love Joe Flacco, he has in-his-prime Tom Brady on the other sidelines. New England, and it's not close at 30-17.
Last Week's Records: Keith: 1-3, Nik: 2-2, Michael: 1-3, Sean: 2-2, Zach: 1-3
Overall Playoff Record: Keith: 4-4, Nik: 6-2, Michael: 4-4, Sean: 5-3, Zach: 4-4