The San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons are set to square off in NFL playoff betting action this week at the Georgia Dome. But before you make your NFL picks for the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, check out some of the great NFL betting trends that we have for the duel!
San Francisco 49ers Notes: There probably wasn’t a single man on the face of the football earth over the course of the weekend that ended up doing more for himself than Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. It is clear that his switch to QB Colin Kaepernick in the middle of this season is a move that worked out when it really counted and his team needed it, and now, it’s back to the NFC Championship Game for the second straight season. Harbaugh has already accomplished in just two years what some coaches never get a chance to do in their entire career, and he has a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl this time around. The Niners are now 5-3 ATS and 6-2 SU in games in which Kaepernick has gotten the start. They were 6-2-1 SU and 5-4 ATS in the nine games that QB Alex Smith started.
Kaepernick broke the record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a game in NFL history (not just NFL playoff history) last week with 181, and he ended up with two TDs on the ground and through the air. Though duplicating that level of success would be difficult this week, that might be what has to get done if the defense doesn’t step it up. Last week against a very similar Green Bay offense, the Niners allowed 31 points, though we do have to acknowledge the fact that the first seven points came when Kaepernick was picked off and had that INT returned for a touchdown, and the last seven points came when the game was completely out of reach. Still, that was the third time in the last four games in which San Francisco allowed at least 31 points in a game, something very uncharacteristic for a team that allowed just 17.1 points per game this year.
No new injuries were picked up by the 49ers this week, and DE Justin Smith made it through the game last week and isn’t even listed on the injury report. LB Aldon Smith, the NFC’s leading sack man on the campaign, has missed some practice with a bum shoulder, but he should be good to go and at full strength on Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons Notes: There are a lot of negatives that could be drawn from last week’s NFC Divisional Round win over the Seattle Seahawks. The Falcons didn’t run the ball in the second half at all. QB Matt Ryan choked in the fourth quarter when he had a shot to put the game away. The team blew a pair of 20-point leads, including the fact that Atlanta was up 27-7 with less than a quarter to play in the game. Head Coach Mike Smith not only took a timeout with 13 seconds left in the game that should have been called with three seconds left, but then he orchestrated a horrid kickoff that nearly gave the Seahawks a chance to win the game. However, in the end, Matty Ice and Smith both have their first career playoff win, and the city of Atlanta is hosting the NFC Championship Game for the very first time ever. There has to be a level of concern about the form that this team is in right now, though. Remember that Atlanta started the season at 4-3 ATS and 7-0 SU at home, including beating some awfully good teams here. Since that point, the Falcons are 0-2 ATS and are very fortunate to even be 1-1 SU.
The question is going to be whether the Falcons can stop Kaepernick or not. They faced a very comparable QB Russell Wilson last week, and Wilson came up big, throwing for 385 yards, many of which came in the second half. Wilson also rushed for 60 yards and what proved to be one of the three TDs that were scored on the comeback trail in the fourth quarter. The Falcons couldn’t run the ball when it really counted in that game, but they did end the day with 167 yards on 26 carries. Matty Ice also threw for 250 yards and three TDs, both of which were career highs for his four all-time postseason games. Atlanta’s linebackers are also going to have to do a significantly better job against TE Vernon Davis than they did against TE Zach Miller. Miller had eight catches for 142 yards and a TD, and this isn’t the first time this year by any stretch of the imagination that a tight end has gotten the best of this defense.
The big question mark of the week is whether DE John Abraham is going to be able to give it a go or not. He did suit last week and was listed as questionable for most of the week, but in the end, he had zero impact and spent most of the game on the bench. We are definitely worried about this “probable” designation. DT Jonathan Babineaux has a shoulder injury, while S William Moore has a cast on his right hand. Third DB Christopher Owens has sat out back to back games, and though he is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, we know that he will be spending more time on the bench than anything else anyway due to the fact that the 49ers rarely use three receiver sets.
Head To Head: The Falcons and the 49ers used to share the NFC West together, so there is quite the history for these two teams. However, they haven’t met since 2010, a 16-14 win here at the Georgia Dome for the hosts. Atlanta has won four games in a row in this series, though three of the last four have been decided by four points or fewer. The Falcons haven’t been great from an ATS perspective, though. They are just 4-7 ATS in the last 11 games in this series. These two teams have only met once before in the playoffs, and that was back in 1998. The Falcons won that game 20-18, but the parallels don’t stop there. That game was played here at the Georgia Dome, and in the end, Atlanta went to the Super Bowl for the only time in team history. Ironically, the team that San Francisco beat to get to that point? The Green Bay Packers.
Andrew Ryan has been in the sportswriting biz since the late-90s, and he has worked side by side with some of the best and brightest in sports gambling. Always searching for the best trends in sports, Andrew uses his brilliant math mind to his advantage to beat the books.