(Sporting Alert) – Following the busy weeks of Playoffs – WildCard and Divisional Playoffs contests, the fixtures now head into Conference Championships on Sunday.
So what is at stake? Nothing much, just a place in the Super Bowl game next month. The Baltimore Raven and the New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons are the teams involved.
First, at 3:00 PM at the popular Georgia Dome Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers 11-4-1 (Road: 5-3) will take on the Atlanta Falcons 13-3 (Home: 7-1) in the NFC Championships game on FOX.
The Falcons have been very impressive at home, winning seven of their eight game this term, including the narrow 30-28 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional game last week.
Quarterback Matt Ryan threw 24-of-35 for 250 yards and three touchdowns in the last game and his teammates are backing him to continue to impress come Sunday.
Meanwhile, cornerback Tarell Brown, runningback Bruce Miller and linebacker Aldon Smith, are all listed as probable because of shoulder injuries. They were all involved in limited training during Friday sessions.
Meanwhile, Falcons head coach Mike Smith is expecting a playing physically game on Sunday against a San Francisco site, which knocked off the Green Bay Packers 45-31 in playoffs divisional contest last week.
“Well San Francisco has a reputation of being physical, and they live up to that reputation on both sides of the football,” he said during his press conference.
“I think they actually do a good job of that on special teams as well. It’s going to be very important for us to match the intensity and try and be the team that wins the line of scrimmage.
“I think that’s going to be very important. I think the team that wins the line of scrimmage is really going to enhance their chances of winning.”
Smith also praised Ryan’s development from last season.
“He’s more poised and more comfortable,” the coach commented. “He has a better grasp of the offense. I think Dirk [Koetter] has done a lot for him this year.
“We really haven’t changed the game plans that much, he’s just kind of simplified it so Matt’s confidence is through the roof right now.”
In the day’s other game at the Gillette Stadium, the Baltimore Raven 10-6 (Road: 4-4) and the New England Patriots 12-4 (Home: 6-2) meet in the AFC Championship game, also for a place in Super Bowl XLVII.
Baltimore stunned the Denver Broncos 38-35 in double overtime last week to setup the date with Tom Brady and the Patriots, who defeated the crushed the Houston Texans 41-28.
Brady finished with 25-40 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns in the last game and he’s loving this time of the year.
“I like to be playing this time of year. There is nothing more exciting than this,” said Brady, who is the only quarterback left in the playoffs that has won a Super Bowl.
“I certainly have had experience in these types of games, but it only really matters if you go out and play well. There was a time where I was inexperienced and we did pretty well.
“I think it is more of a matter of our execution and how we play opposed to anything that has been accomplished in the past. To me, at this point, with four teams left, we have to have a pretty good football team in all three phases.
“Certainly I feel like we have one of those teams. We played the 49ers [and] we’ve played the Ravens. They certainly have those teams. We haven’t played Atlanta, but I know they are one of those teams because I’ve seen them play on TV a bunch of times.
“We need to have a really strong team in all phases and all four teams that are playing now are all qualified.”
The NFL Super Bowl game will take place on Feb. 3.
The game will see the AFC champion taking on NFC champion at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans live on
CBS at 6:30 p.m. ET.
EVENT: NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
GAME: No. 2 San Francisco 49ers at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons
PLACE: Georgia Dome
DATE: January 20, 2013 at 3 p.m. ET
LIVE TV CHANNEL: FOX
EVENT: AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
GAME: No. 4 Baltimore Ravens at No. 2 New England Patriots
PLACE: Gillette Stadium
DATE: January 20, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. ET
LIVE TV CHANNEL: CBS