NFC Championship Game-Previews and Predictions

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Jan 12, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Kendall Hunter (32) runs against Carolina Panthers strong safety Robert Lester (38) during the fourth quarter of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. San Francisco won 23-10. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers

This season the 49ers have changed a lot from their 2012 days of running the read option. Although the Niners still use the read option, it is definitely not as prominent as it once was last season. This season we have seen a changing of the guard for San Francisco in the play of their star Sophomore QB Colin Kaepernick. In 2013 Kaepernick and the 49ers have transitioned from adequate passing team to more of a mediocre passing team. For Kaepernick, he and the 49ers’ 186.2 passing yards per game ranked 3rd-worst in the NFL, lagging behind teams such as Buffalo and even Minnesota. But where the Niners show their real tenacity is through their superb running game. While the Niners are the 3rd worst in passing, they ranked 3rd-best in rushing with 137.6 rushing yards per game along with a combined 13 rushing touchdowns from Kapernick and RB Frank Gore this season. As of late, the regular season stats for the Niners have not really been showing the entire picture. While Kaepernick played lack-luster football in the passing game in the first half, he has really come on as of late and has started to show us some of that talent he once had back when the 49ers made their Super Bowl run last season. In this post season Kaepernick has not only rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown, but he also has averaged 211.5 yards and a touchdown per game against superb defenses such as the Packers and especially the #2 ranked Carolina Panthers. The addition of Kaepernick’s favorite target Anquan boldin has helped the 49ers, especially in their game against the Panthers last week when Boldin caught 8 passes for 136 yards and came a shove away from a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. What has been amazing about the 49ers’ offense in this post season has been their ability to run the football when it counts. Against the Packers, time after time after time Colin Kaepernick was taking off on QB keepers and avoiding tackles especially on the game-winning drive to set up a Phil Dawson field goal for the win. As well, Frank Gore, the unsung hero of San Francisco’s 12-4 squad, has played outstanding as well. In the 2013 post-season, Gore has rushed for an average of 75 yards per game along with a key touchdown against the Packers and clutch runs against the Panthers last weekend. In order for the Niners to be relevant, they need their running game to be relevant and make the Seahawks play the run (one of their weakest points on defense).

 

 

Jan 11, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) scores a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Seahawks
The story line for the Seahawks is basically that of the 49ers except with some slight variations. While the Seahawks and the 49ers both have weak passing games, the passing game of the Seattle Seahawks has shown to be a lot more dominant. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Russel “Hustle” Wilson has thrown for 209.8 yards per game along with 26 passing touchdowns for the Seahawks, 5 more touchdowns and 160 more passing yards than Kaepernick. Although yes the 49ers have rushed for more yards than the 4th-ranked Seahawks (136.8 yards per game as compared to San Fran’s 137.6 yards per game), the Seahawks still have the upper hand in terms of the running game is concerned. Russel Wilson has actually rushed for more yards than Colin Kaepernick this season (539 for Wilson as compared to 524 of Kaepernick), while Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch has boasted a handsome season (1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns). Reason why I see the Seahawks as having the better running game is because of Marshawn Lynch. Marshaw “Mow Your Lawn” Lynch has proved to be invaluable for these Seahawks this season, especially in the playoffs seeing as last game against the Saints Lynch rushed for a beastly 140 yards on 28 carries, with 2 of those carries being touchdowns. Do I see Frank Gore being the guy who makes the difference and runs for over 100? Probably not. Marshawn is a heck of a lot younger and a lot more talented that Gore at this point in his career. Whether the 49ers defense likes it or not, they are going to have to deal with Marshawn all game long. Can they contain him? I’m not so sure. They did allow the 25th-ranked New Orleans running game to go for over 100 and a touchdown last week in the divisional round, so technically anything’s possible. After a 50% completion day for Russel Wilson last week against the Saints, look for the Seahawks’ receiving corps to get more involved as the winds of CenturyLink Field will be kind to the Sophomore QB and his fellow green birds.

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Tags: Carolina Panthers Colin Kaepernick Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints NFC Nfc Championship NFC Championship Game NFC South NFC West Richard Sherman San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks

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