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Payne's Perspective: How They Got Here

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne

Kevin has worked for Rotowire just under a decade and has covered basketball, baseball and football. A glutton for punishment, he roots for his hometown Bills, Sabres and the New York Yankees. He hosts the RotoWire SiriusXM show every Wednesday and Friday and you can follow him on Twitter @KCPayne26.

A look at the two Conference Championship games:

San Francisco at Atlanta

I really thought coming into this game that the Falcons had a good shot to pull this one out, playing in front of their home crowd. It was almost as if the Falcons came out like they did the previous week, but the adrenaline wore off once they got the score to 17-0. From that point, Atlanta's defense looked very tired, and both of Frank Gore's rushing touchdowns showed that.

Colin Kaepernick once again had an efficient game, and while he only threw 21 passes, he ended up with 11.1 YPA. I did find it odd that after all of his success on the ground he only ran twice for 21 yards. It's going to be interesting to see how the Ravens defense adjusts from playing its last two games against the two most immobile quarterbacks in the league to a top-3 quarterback in terms of rushing ability.

Nice to see Vernon Davis hasn't been completely forgotten. His 106 receiving yards were more than he's had in his last six games combined, and the touchdown was his first since Week 11. Considering what he's done lately, Asante Samuel did a nice job containing Michael Crabtree, who had his lowest yardage total since Week 12. Look for Crabtree to bounce back (not that 67 receiving yards is a complete disaster) in the Super Bowl. As for Samuel, I'm sure the Patriots wished they still had him on the roster to cover Boldin in Gilette Stadium.

A few thoughts on the drive the Falcons had over the final eight minutes. I'm not sure if Harry Douglas would have been gone had he not stumbled to the ground; there was a safety waiting on the play who would have stopped him or held him up enough to be tackled. Next, I'm not sure how that was ruled a catch. When a player goes to the ground and it's clear the ball is moving as it hits the ground that isn't a catch, right?

The incomplete pass to Roddy White is going to haunt the Falcons the whole offseason. I was surprised that no one pointed out that even had White caught the ball, Bowman had pushed him back to the point where I don't think he had the first down, or at a minimum it was going to be very close. Because it was a quick pattern, there was little time to go through any progressions, but Tony Gonzalez was wide open on a quick slant for the first down. Personally, I hope Gonzalez comes back, but I don't think it will actually happen due to personal reasons. The most amazing stat to me about Gonzalez is that he's only missed two games in his entire 16-year career.

From a fantasy perspective I go back and forth as to whether the existence of Roddy White helps or hurts Julio Jones. Does White attract enough coverage to keep opposing defenses honest on Jones or would he be better off as the main guy in a situation like Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green?

Baltimore at New England

How the mighty have fallen. What are the chances, at 36 years old next season, Brady never makes it back to the Super Bowl? The Patriots don't look like the same team they once were, and Bill Belichick's conservative approach was questionable. Twice the Patriots punted in Baltimore territory, once on the 35 and again on the 34. While I know the weather was windy, you have to think Stephen Gostkowski would have nailed at least one of those. The debacle before halftime seemed as if Brady was so concerned with kicking Ed Reed he didn't just throw it away. Of course, all the announcers were more concerned with calling timeout rather than saving the timeout and throwing it out of bounds. On the fourth-and-four play in the fourth quarter where Brady threw an incomplete pass, he wasn't going to get the first down by running. The other takeaway from that play was Brady never gave his team a chance to make a play by essentially throwing it away.

The camera got some good shots of Brady rolling his eyes after some bad drops. I counted three passes that bounced off Wes Welker's hands, and I doubt he's back in New England next season. Look for someone to overpay for his services in the offseason. The secondary has been the Patriots' weakness all season and likely will be addressed through free agency and the draft.

Enough about the Patriots, let's talk about the Baltimore Ravens, the AFC Champions. I wasn't as down on them as most entering the playoffs, but I'm surprised they got this point considering they closed the regular season losing four of five. The return to health for some key pieces on defense has been a huge lift, though all it seems we hear about is Ray Lewis. Someone needs to tell Bernard Pollard that he has a reputation, and every time he hits someone the officials are going to have one hand on their penalty flags. What's impressed me about the Ravens defense the last two weeks is that outside a couple plays it's been very sure in the tackling department and not allowed a lot of yards after the catch.

Joe Flacco has gone up a notch in my book during these playoffs, and if he hasn't for you, you're kidding yourself. He now has eight touchdowns against zero interceptions with a 9.2 YPA. Flacco has three decent receiving options, and Anquan Boldin only needs another touchdown in the Super Bowl to match his total for the regular season at four. Torrey Smith going against the San Francisco secondary that was torched by the Falcons should be an important matchup. Bernard Pierce now has a 6.3 YPC mark during the playoffs and has nicely complemented Ray Rice. Kudos for Dennis Pitta to take a big shot and then moments later catch a touchdown pass.

The Super Bowl

The opening line opened at 4.5, or even five in some places, but quickly went down and is holding at four in a majority of places. I reserve the right to change my mind, but as of now I'm leaning toward taking San Francisco. Both teams have elite offensive lines and great running backs. The quarterbacks are playing outstandingly, so this should be a great game. If I had to pick today, I'd take the 49ers, even laying the points. Next week I'll make some more Super Bowl predictions as well as look at some interesting prop bets I'm sure to come across.