The Georgia Dome in Atlanta has seen many great football games this season, but this Sunday’s NFC championship between the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons could be the best yet. Last week Atlanta slipped past the Seattle Seahawks in a 30-28 victory in the final seconds of the game, Atlanta managed to pull off another close win at home in the Georgia dome. The 49ers beat out the Packers in a high scoring 45-31 victory in San Francisco. Atlanta and San Francisco were the #1 & #2 teams (respectively) in the NFC entering the post season but have yet to play each other this year; in fact, in the past ten years they have only met on 6 occasions. This game will be played Sunday at 3pm ET.
Considering how high all of the scores went to last weekend it is hard to imagine this game staying under 50 points. The lowest game total last weekend was 58 points in the Atlanta-Seattle game. The highest game total was 73 points in the Baltimore-Denver game. That is to say that the league’s top offenses are winning out over the league’s best defenses. When you have the league’s best defenses giving up that many points to the best offenses, picking a game total less than 50 points seems unreasonable.
All season long the key to success for the 49ers’ offense has been its run game. This has been especially so in the latter half of the season when QB Colin Kaepernick took the starting job and added a running QB element to the 49ers that compliments the efforts of RB Frank Gore. Last week the 49ers ran for 323 yards; they also passed for 256 yards. Working in Atlanta’s favor is their tremendous home field advantage which has helped them to an 8-1 record at home this season. No doubt the noise played a factor in Seattle’s inability to score a single point in the first half last weekend.
For having such a poor defensive rating when it comes to yards against, the Falcons have consistently managed to keep points off the board so that their offense can win the game. The Atlanta defense allowed an average of 18.7 points a game during the regular season; San Francisco allowed an average of 17.1 points and they allow much fewer yards per game. The 49ers’ defense was facing a pass orientated Green Bay offense and will again this week as the Falcons are one of the top passing teams in league.
The average points scored per game during the regular season would suggest a close game with Atlanta scoring an average of 26.2 points and San Francisco scoring 24.8 points. Green Bay’s defense allowed an average of 21 points per game during the season and it does far better in the yards allowed category than Atlanta. Was the 49ers’ 45 points last weekend a home field thing? The best answer is probably not and the reason is that the 49ers travelled to New England in December and beat the Patriots 41-34. That is significant because when you consider both yards allowed and points allowed together, the Patriots’ defense has a nearly identical rating to the Falcons and both are generally worse than Green Bay. Therefore we can expect the 49ers’ offense to put up at least 30 points this weekend.
But let’s give credit where credit is due and remember that Atlanta’s offense not only scored 20 unanswered points in the first half last week against Seattle’s defense who, at the time, was considered one of toughest – if not the toughest – defenses in the league. Then to win the game the Falcons engineered a 41 yard drive to put the team in field goal range. We should expect the Falcons to at least score 30 points again this week. Also, on average, Atlanta produces about the same amount of offensive yards per game as the 49ers.
Therefore by the numbers and reasonable estimates the spread is probably pretty fair, however, there is a very real possibility that the 49ers have another outstanding offensive game and score over 35 points while keeping the Falcons around 30 points.
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