Let’s take a look at some things you should be keeping an eye on heading into the Championship round of the NFL playoffs:
1. Will San Francisco be able to prove they deserved all the hype this season?
I have been praising the San Francisco 49ers since Week 1 of this season. Going into the season I wasn’t sure how they would react after having an overachieving year but in one game they made me into a believer. The 49ers are great offensively and defensively, hence the reason why I have given them the moniker this year as “the most complete team in Football.”
But with praise comes a great deal of hype. It is the hype that stays with you for an entire season until you are able to capture the ultimate goal in all of Football, the Vince Lombardi trophy. The 49ers can prove they deserved the moniker I gave them all season long by getting a win this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons and returning to the Super Bowl for the 1st time since 1994.
2. Can Matt Ryan yet again take another step in being one of the best quarterbacks in Football?
Matt Ryan took a major step last week in getting his first playoff win against the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional round and in one victory he was able to change the entire perception non-believers like myself have had in him. Thanks to the playoff victory I now look at Matt Ryan as someone who is at the doorstep of the next level of quarterbacks in the NFL. We all know Matt Ryan has the talent to be in the upper echelon of QB’s but he doesn’t have the victories to prove it yet.
A win this Sunday will help get him that much closer from reaching that level of quarterbacks if he is able to beat a very good San Francisco 49ers team and win the NFC Championship for the 2012 season. For the Falcons to make it into Super Bowl 47 their success will rely heavily on Matt Ryan. If Matt Ryan is on-point the rest of this team will follow. He is their leader and sets the tone for this team; Sunday could be a huge day in the NFL career of Matt Ryan.
3. Are we going to be able to finally take Joe Flacco seriously?
You want to talk about a quarterback who doesn’t get any respect at all whatsoever? The definition of that in the NFL is Joe Flacco. When Joe Flacco said he was an “elite quarterback” in the NFL all we could do was laugh and doubt him. That understanding has led to us bashing him when he doesn’t play well, but not praising him when he does play well.
Give credit where credit is due folks, Joe Flacco has played very well throughout the playoffs to get the Ravens into the AFC Championship Game. I don’t think any of us saw the Ravens getting this far into the playoffs and now they have another chance at playing in the Super Bowl. A win this Sunday against the New England Patriots will force all of us to finally take Joe Flacco seriously as a franchise quarterback in Baltimore.
4. Does Tom Brady feel pressure to get back into the Super Bowl?
The New England Patriots and Tom Brady have some “unfinished business” when it comes to playing in the Super Bowl. Playing in five Super Bowls during the “Brady/Belichick era” is a great achievement but they have only won three of them. I say “only have won three” because neither Tom Brady nor Bill Belichick settle for less, they want to be perfect and achieve greatness at any given moment.
New England’s last two Super Bowl appearances haven’t been good ones either as they fell to the New York Giants on both occasions. This team, this “Brady/Belichick era,” certainly has some unfinished business to get back to the Super Bowl for the 6th time and finally get back to winning Super Bowl’s, not just appearing in them. With that said I wonder if there is any extra pressure on Tom Brady in particular to get the job done this Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens and win his 6th AFC Championship in his career.
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