A Look Ahead: NFC Championship

Just four years ago, the NFC West sent the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks to the NFL Playoffs as the fourth seed in the conference. A division that was compiled of nothing but under .500 teams was the laughing stock of the league. The Seahawks (7-9), the Rams (7-9), the 49’ers (6-10) and the Cardinals (5-11). All of these teams were considered jokes and there was a lot of talk that the NFL must change their playoff system due to the fact that the Seahawks had a HOME playoff game.

All of this mediocrity now just seems to be a thing of the past. Good drafting, upgraded coaching and player personnel and four years later, the NFC West has blossomed into arguably the best division in the National Football League. Three out of the four teams – the Cardinals, Niners and Seahawks all found themselves well over .500, with all three of these teams winning 10 or more games, the only division in football that can boast this.

And now it has finally come full circle. The San Francisco 49’ers will travel up north to Seattle and take on the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. Two division rivals that do nothing but leave it all on the field every time they play, which has made this the best rivalry in football in terms of two teams.

Prior to the beginning of the season, many people expected this to be the matchup that we will all see to determine who will go to the Super Bowl. However, early on in the season many people wrote of the 49’ers. A team that was coming off a Super Bowl appearance looked nothing like they have the past two seasons. Over the span of games two and three, the San Francisco 49’ers defense allowed 56 points, while the offense scored just 10. A defense that lacked the ability to stop the run or tackle. And of course, Colin Kaepernick was showing signs of what he will be.

Everyone wrote off the 49’ers. Not me though. I continued to give them praise and continued to have them ranked quite high for what they were at the time in my Power Rankings. I even caught heat for keeping them at fourth spot, despite being completely blown out and dominated by the Seattle Seahawks. After three weeks of football, the 49’ers were done and out of the race.

The Seahawks were a completely different monster. Through the first eleven weeks of the season, Seattle only lost one game. That game was against the Colts and it was only a six point defeat. The only real refute that people had with Seattle was that their passing offense could be inconsistent at times. In all reality, at the time, the offense was not a big deal at all. They had one of the best defenses in the league and they dominated the running game. According to many coaches, experts and former players, that is the way to win. So in reality, the small amounts of negative attention directed towards Seattle was just people trying to break down a problem that was non-existent.

Now things are a bit different. Everything has turned around for San Francisco, while things continue to be the norm for Seattle. As a result, one of these teams will represent an entire conference. The remaining question now, which team will it be? The easy answer is the Seattle Seahawks. They’ve lost one game over the past two seasons at home, defensively they’re dominate and Marshawn Lynch is of course, Marshawn Lynch.

My thoughts are a little bit different. Sure, the Seahawks are a tremendous team and playing at home is surely going to give them the competitive edge. However, in my opinion, the San Francisco 49’ers are the best team in the NFL and they have something going for them, experience. Anquan Boldin, 11 years of experience and a Super Bowl ring, Vernon Davis, 8 years of experience, Justin Smith, 13 years of experience and countless playoff trips, Colin Kaeprnick, just over year, however, he was the leader in the biggest game in all of sports. See where I’m going with this? Another thing they have going for them is that this is their third straight appearance in the NFC title game. Yes, the Seahawks have made it to the postseason the past three season, but this is their first time playing in such a big game. For the majority of the Seahawks players, this is the biggest game they have ever played in, for the Niners, this is not.

You could argue that this will give them the motivation to conquer their inexperience and make it to the Super Bowl. Valid argument. But, history has shown in the NFL that experience defeats adrenaline and in this case, I’m going to have to side with experience. Two years ago, the Niners smelled success when they lost in the Championship game to the Giants. They lost last year in the final game. This year, it’s their time. They’re as hungry as they have ever been.

Also, the 49’ers have battled multiple injuries throughout the season and weren’t always playing with all of their starters. Michael Crabtree missed a majority of the season as he was battling back from an Achilles injury, while Vernon Davis wasn’t exactly healthy throughout the season as he continuously was battling through a hamstring injury. Aldon Smith also missed a significant amount of time due to his off the field issues. Bottom line, they missed players throughout the season. Every team does. But, not everyone team losses their starting receiver, best pass rusher and has their starting best receiver (tight end) be hurt throughout the entirety of the season. The Niners are completely healthy right now and are coming together at the right moment. Outside of Carlos Rogers, this team is very healthy.

Other than Percy Harvin, who hasn’t played throughout the year, the Seahawks are a fairly healthy team as well. However, when it comes down to it, I believe a healthy 49’ers squad is better than a healthy Seahawks team. They have the coaching, players and experience on their side.

Seattle also looked very beatable at home this past weekend. The New Orleans Saints, a team that doesn’t necessarily play well on the road was in the game until the very last second. The Niners, a much better team than New Orleans, knows the Seahawks very well and are one of the few teams that can match, better yet, over take the Seahawks in terms of physical play. That’s the key to beat the Seahawks in Seattle and San Francisco does it better than everyone else.

Another thing you can use against me is the fact that San Francisco doesn’t play very well in Seattle. The last two times San Francisco played in Seattle they have been outscored 71-16. This weekend is a little bit different. Those past two games were played during the regular season games. The playoffs is entirely different. Call me smart. Call me stupid. I’m taking San Francisco this weekend. It will be a close game and it will be a great game. If I had to throw out a final score I will say San Francisco will win 20-16.

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Tags: Arizona Cardinals NFC Championship Game NFL Playoffs San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams

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