12 invitations were sent out to the NFL annual playoff ball 12 showed up and 8 were dismissed. Now we are down to the final four. Three of the four were here at this point last season, (49ers, Patriots and the Ravens) only the Atlanta Falcons weren’t in the mix at this point last year.
So in the AFC you have the returning AFC Champions in the New England Patriots facing off with the team they have battled last year in the AFC Championship game the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots in many people’s opinion are the AFC’s best team and would it surprise you if they made it to the Super Bowl yet again? Most likely not, however let’s make something very clear about the Patriots, while they appear to be very formiable, they can be beat and in big moments have been beat (2 Super Bowls to the New York Giants) their last Super Bowl win was in 2004 against the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21. So is the window to add to their championship legacy closing or is the window still open for business alittle bit longer as one of the elite teams of the AFC? They are also playing with out all world Tightend Rob Gronkowski
For the Baltimore Ravens another of one of the elite teams of the AFC, this represents a chance to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2000 when they beat the New York Giants (34-7).The Ravens are also riding the emotional wave of going out to win one for Ray Lewis who is retiring at playoffs end. So there is plenty of reasons for the Ravens to crank up the pressure against the Patriots. The Ravens defense may not be the Ravens defense of old since the defense itself is showing it’s age, so the question remains can Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense turn up one last time against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots?
In the NFC, The SanFrancisco 49ers battle the Atlanta Falcons for the right to get to the Super Bowl. Atlanta dodged a big bullet in their playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks up 20 points in the 3rd and the game seemingly no longer in doubt (27-7), turned in to a nail biter 30-28. Atlanta finally got their first playoff win in the Matt Ryan era, but the way they got it wasn’t as convincing and you wonder if they will go into this game feeling that they did get the win and the monkey is off their back or will it fuel them to show that can get off to a big lead and keep it?
The 49ers while many believe are the best team in the NFC, forget this is the same team that when they played the Giants earlier in the season, got knocked around by big Blue pretty good, especially after the 49ers talked all week about how they were better than the Giants and that they beat themselves. So will the 49ers feel it is they right to get to the Super bowl? Will they take the Falcons lightly? San Francisco’s rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick is in unchattered water so, the big question is how will he fare in the biggest moment of his young career? It’s one thing to beat the Green Bay Packers, it is quite another to now be one win away from going to the Super Bowl. Will he play loose or tight? He has shown a tendency to play good and become turnover prone in the same game, so will this be the game where it it all comes together for the young Quarterback?
So there you have in a nut shell the NFL’s final four The New England Patriots, Balitmore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons. These games will not be for the faint of heart.