- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
- 0 Shares
The Patriots surely aren't looking past the Ravens, their AFC Championship game opponent this evening, but if they are able to upend Baltimore, they'll head to New Orleans for their eighth Super Bowl in franchise history.
By the time the Patriots kickoff, their potential Super Bowl opponent will be determined, as the Falcons (14-3) host the 49ers (12-4-1) at 3:00 p.m. EST (FOX) in a matchup of the two best teams in the NFC.
Atlanta cruised through the regular season, earning the NFC's number one seed along the way and setting themselves up in good shape for the playoffs. But it wasn't until the team defeated the Seahawks last Sunday that Falcons fans breathed easy, as that game marked the first playoff win for quarterback Matt Ryan.
The 49ers come to Atlanta riding high, as quarterback Colin Kaepernick leads a surging offense that dropped 45 points on the Packers last Saturday night. The 49ers defense is well-known across the NFL as one of the best in the game, and will have its hands full in slowing Atlanta's explosive passing game that is highlighted by Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.
The game could come down to how the Falcons are able to defend Kaepernick as a runner, as he set a new NFL record for rushing yards in a single postseason game by a quarterback with 181 last Saturday night.
Both teams have made it this far for a reason, and each is a worthy candidate to represent the NFC on the NFL's biggest stage.
Before we offer a prediction, let's take a look at how each team fared against Patriots' opponent this season (the 49ers, of course, defeated the Patriots 41-34 in a Week 15 regular season game).
Vs. Denver (27-21)
Vs. Arizona (23-19)
San Francisco: 6-2-1
At New York Jets (34-0)
Vs. Buffalo (45-3)
Vs. Seattle (13-6)
Vs. Arizona (24-3)
Vs. St. Louis (24-24)
At St. Louis (13-16)
Vs. Miami (27-13)
At Seattle (13-42)
Vs. Arizona (27-13)
Prediction: Falcons 29, 49ers 28. In the end, the home field advantage is the difference, as the Falcons prevail to march on to New Orleans.
Let's put it out there to you: Which team would you rather see the Patriots face if they were to reach the Super Bowl? Discuss in the comments section below.