Atlanta to Host San Francisco for NFC Championship

The San Francisco 49ers will make the journey east to take on the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, with kickoff scheduled for 3 PM ET from the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta.

The 49ers booked their place in the championship game with an offensive master class last Saturday, putting up 579 yards of total offense on the way to a 45-31 win over Green Bay.

Many expected the Northern California side to face division rivals Seattle in a clash to decide the NFC’s Super Bowl representative, but a 49-yard Matt Bryant field goal with 0:13 left on the clock in Sunday’s divisional matchup saw the Atlanta Falcons usurp the Seahawks and secure a home game against the Niners.

The winner of the game will play the winner of the AFC Championship Game (Sunday, 6:30 PM ET) between New England and Baltimore, in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, taking place at the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans, La.

BettingSports.com will have plenty more coverage for you ahead of this weekend’s action. To get you started, we’ve taken a look at the head-to-head and playoff trends you’ll need to get your head around before making your pick.

Head-to-Head

In his playoff debut, dual-treat quarterback Colin Kaepernick tallied up 444 yards of total offense, leading the 49ers to a 45-31 victory over Green Bay.

San Francisco leads the all-time head-to-head series, 44-30-1. Atlanta however won the last time the two sides met (Oct. 3, 2010), building a four-game winning streak over the Niners that dates back to 2004.

Despite a historical advantage, San Francisco is 18-19-1 all-time when playing the Falcons in Atlanta. The Niners’ last win in the city came on Oct. 14, 2001. The side has lost two straight since.

Atlanta hosted San Francisco in a divisional playoff game on Jan. 9, 1999. That game – the only time the two sides have met in postseason play – finished 20-18 in favor of Atlanta. The Falcons would advance to Super Bowl XXXIII that postseason, ultimately falling to the Denver Broncos in what would be John Elway’s final game.

If you’re wondering how the sides fared against Vegas 14 years ago, Atlanta entered that game as a 3.5-point favorite, meaning it was San Francisco that covered the spread. The total in the game (53.0) went under.

Postseason Trends

Matt Bryant's 49-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter saw the Atlanta Falcons squeak past the Seattle Seahawks into the NFC Championship Game this Sunday.

With Sunday’s 30-28 win over Seattle, Atlanta put the brakes on a four-game playoff skid, which included three straight ‘one-and-done’ appearances. The win was the Falcons’ first since Jan. 15, 2005. The team will be hoping that was enough to shift the monkey from its back.

Atlanta (.389) has the worst playoff winning percentage of any of the teams fighting for a spot in this year’s Super Bowl. San Francisco (.596) has had a lot of success, but falls behind both New England (.650) and Baltimore (.632).

The game will mark the third time Atlanta has appeared in the NFC Championship Game. Following the 1998 season, the Falcons enhanced their win over San Francisco with a defeat of Minnesota and a trip to the Super Bowl. In 2004, the Falcons fell to Philadelphia in the City of Brotherly Love. Sunday’s game will be the first time Atlanta has hosted the conference championship game.

San Francisco meanwhile is a veteran in the conference round. Since 1970 – the year the AFL and NFL merged – the Niners have appeared in 12 conference championship games.

As underdogs, the Falcons will be buoyed by the knowledge that San Francisco has gone 5-7 in those games. Furthermore, the Niners have gone 1-3 in those games when playing on the road. The Niners’ only road win in a conference championship game was over the Chicago Bears following the 1988 season. Atlanta will look to follow in the footsteps of the Cowboys (1971, 1993) and Redskins (1983), both of whom prevented the Niners from advancing to the Super Bowl with a road win.

If it is San Francisco that is victorious on Sunday, you may as well put your cash on the Northern California side to win the Super Bowl. The Niners are 5-0 in Super Bowl play.

Opening Lines

San Francisco (12-4-1, 5-3 road) opened as favorites despite Atlanta (14-3, 8-1 home) having a superior record and home field advantage. It appears that odds makers are yet to forgive the Falcons for what was a soft schedule, and are unconvinced of the team’s postseason pedigree, even in the wake of this past weekend’s win.

The spread opened at just three points, just one-half point lower than it did back in Jan. 1999. San Francisco (10-7-0 ATS) enters the game with a marginally superior record against the spread.

Since Week 10 – the week the side lost its first game of the season – Atlanta (9-7-1 ATS) has failed to cover the spread in six of nine games, including this past weekend’s divisional game.

The total opened at 47.5. The two sides have leant in different directions when it comes to the over/under this season. San Francisco has seen the total go over in 10 games this season, despite having the league’s second best scoring defense. The total has gone over in the five straight Niner games, and eight of the last nine. Atlanta saw the total go under in 10 games, including six of the last eight.

Both teams saw the total go over this past weekend, as the divisional round served up some gaudy offensive numbers.

San Francisco currently has 2/1 odds of winning Super Bowl XLVII, second only to New England (1/1). Atlanta is considered 11/2 to lift the Lombardi trophy on Feb. 3.

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