Jan 19, 2013
—Written by Brian Dezelske
—Edited by Marc Caviglia
With the NFC and AFC Championship Games coming up this weekend, two names stand out as keys to each respective game. Matt Ryan comes to mind in the NFC and Joe Flacco for the AFC.
Each quarterback holds the keys to a trip to the Super Bowl, where they would face off against each other if their teams won. Also, they’re both at a very important stage in their respective careers—careers that both started in 2008 as the only quarterbacks selected in the first round of that year’s draft—and that’s leading their teams to a Super Bowl and being considered an elite quarterback. It’s a giant step that both seem poised to take, but they will need a collective effort from their teams in order to reach their goals.
Now let’s dive in and break down what lies ahead for these signal callers. Here are your key matchups for the Championship Round.
Final score predictions are the opinion on Brian Dezelske and not the Bruno Boys staff
Matt Ryan vs. San Francisco 49ers
A lot of unwarranted pressure was lifted off the shoulders of Matt Ryan last week, when he finally won his first playoff game. He led the Atlanta Falcons to a dramatic finish, which culminated with a 47-yard game-winning field goal over the Seattle Seahawks with just a few seconds remaining.
It was a landmark win in Matty Ice’s career, but the excitement and exhilaration was short-lived because he still has much work to do. Work that includes hosting a tough San Francisco 49ers team who’s coming off a dominant 45-31 win over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
The 49ers have a ferocious defense, but they do have some minor holes that elite-level quarterbacks have exposed over the course of the season. In four games against elite signal callers (Brees, Brady and Rodgers twice), the Niners gave up eight passing touchdowns and an average of 318 yards per game. Ryan will need to put up a game similar to those statistics if he wants to bring the Dirty Birds to the Super Bowl.
The reason why Ryan needs to play at an elite level is because of the man leading the charge in San Francisco; Colin Kaepernick. Last week this second year pro displayed that he is the real deal. He rushed for an NFL all-time record of 181 yards and combined for four touchdowns and made the Packers defense look like a bunch of amateurs. The moment wasn’t too big for Kaepernick, and he proved it immediately after bouncing back from an early interception that went back for a touchdown.
Matt Ryan can’t let this moment become too big for him or this game could get out of hand early. Last week’s win lifted a giant monkey off his back, and that should propel his confidence to new heights and help lift the Falcons to their first NFC Championship win since 1998.
Final Score: Falcons 31 - Niners 28
Joe Flacco vs. New England Patriots
Unlike Matt Ryan, the championship round is familiar territory for Joe Flacco—all too familiar. If you remember, Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens lost to the New England Patriots 23-20 in last year’s AFC Championship Game. Lee Evans dropped a sure game-winning touchdown pass and then Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game into overtime. Fast forward one long year and the Ravens are right back where they were last season, back in Foxboro and Tom Brady standing between them and a trip to the Super Bowl.
However, things are a bit different this time around. Flacco has grown immensely as a quarterback, and we saw that first hand last week when he led the Ravens to a huge road win against the legendary Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. That game was all but over, until Flacco miraculously hit Jacoby Jones on a 70-yard bomb with 31 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
His confidence is at an all-time high and he knows they were just one play from beating the Patriots last year. In fact, he did beat the Patriots earlier this season at home. Flacco torched the Patriots secondary for 382 passing yards and three scores. Nothing should make him nervous and cause him to stumble, except for one future Hall of Famee; Tom Brady.
This is Brady’s seventh AFC Championship, so it’s just another regular season game to him. He’s one of the Top-5 quarterbacks of all-time and is as cool as they come under pressure. Flacco also knows that his defense has holes in a lot of places and Brady will pick them apart and put plenty of points up. If he feels like he has to outshine Brady, he could find himself in a heap of trouble. Flacco just needs to stay within himself and play his game to give his team a chance.
However, Brady will prove to be too much in the end and turn Flacco and the Ravens away for the second year in a row. This game also means the end of a decorated and storied career for linebacker Ray Lewis.
Final Score: Patriots 38 - Ravens 27