NFC Championship

The NFC Championship pits two teams that have been the best teams in the conference for the last couple years. The Seattle Seahawks will host the San Francisco 49ers in a battle of two NFC West teams. The Seahawks come in to the game as the top seed in the NFC with a record of 13-3, while the 49ers boast an equally impressive record of 12-4. Both teams have tremendous defenses and are led by two young mobile quarterbacks that are changing the way the position is evaluated.

The road-team San Francisco has been to the NFC Championship three years in a row while winning the game last year and losing to the Giants at home the year prior. This year San Fran added a big weapon on the outside in Anquan Boldin which helped to round out an extremely balanced West Coast offense run by Colin Kaepernick. The main offensive weapons for the 49ers are Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin. The legs of Colin Kaepernick should add to the offensive output, but in a game like this Kaepernick would be wise to try stay in the pocket unless absolutely necessary. Defensively is where San Francisco shines, as the front seven is one of the best in the NFL with four Pro Bowlers.

One of the names that wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl but who will be a force to be reckoned with this Sunday is Aldon Smith, who last year nearly broke the single season sack record. This year he missed five games due to a stint in rehab, but he’s back to disrupt the pass like before. QB Russell Wilson will also need to stay in the pocket and avoid big hits if he’s going to want to stay in this game. The defense of the 49ers is one nasty group and would love to lay some hits on the undersized Wilson.

The home team Seahawks aren’t exactly overachievers. They have one of the best running backs in the game and have a record amount of defensive turnovers and turnover margins. The Seahawks homefield advantage is easily the best in football with the “12th Man” regularly causing plenty of confusion at the line of scrimmage. Marshawn Lynch is the feature back for Seattle and everything runs off him offensively. If the Seahawks get the ground game going early like they did last week then it’ll be tough for San Francisco to hang around late in the game when the defense is worn down. Last week in the Divisional Round Lynch went for a Seahawks’ playoff record with 140 yards and two touchdowns. The other weapons for Wilson aren’t nearly as good as Kaepernick’s, but nevertheless they need to be accounted for.  Seattle has a bunch of possession receivers in Golden Tate, Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin and TE Zach Miller. The key again will be for long sustaining drives that keep San Francisco’s offense on the sidelines and the ball in Seattle’s hands to eat up the clock.

Defensively is where Seattle really ratchets up its performance.  Its defensive secondary call themselves the “Legion of Boom” because of their physical nature and playmaking ability. The Seahawks caused a league high 28 interceptions in the regular season and finished the regular season with a +20 turnover margin.  It should also be noted that when the defense does get a take away at home the sound is often deafening.  Seattle’s secondary is led by All-Pros Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas; in addition S Kam Chancellor is headed to Hawaii unless his team is victorious on Sunday. The game plan for Seattle’s defense will be to continue doing what they’ve done all year by getting the ball back in the hands of their offense and create points off of turnovers. The matchup of the San Fran WR’s and the Seattle secondary may be the most intriguing of championship weekend as both are exemplary.

It’s very tough to pick this game with Seattle going off as a three-point favorite at home. It appears as though the line is basically a pick em’ between the two teams minus homefield advantage. However the home-field advantage is hugely in Seattle’s favor and on previous matchups in the Emerald City the Seahawks have lowered the boom on San Fran.  I believe San Francisco is hot right now and playing better than anyone else in the NFL. It’s going to be very tough to stop Kaepernick and his go-to weapons.  In the most recent matchup San Francisco won a 17-14 slugfest at home. Seattle didn’t impress me with their Divisional win against the Saints, nearly blowing a 15 point lead in the final minutes.  Bottom line: San Francisco should advance to the Super Bowl from the NFC.