This is it for the Falcons. When you dominate the regular season and earn the No. 1 seed, you expect to be in this position, you expect to be playing for a visit to New Orleans, site of the next Super Bowl.
Last week's win was of vial importance to the Atlanta Falcons. Falling just short in so many past years, now they have a late-win from which to build momentum. Facing adversity and fighting back meant more than an easy win would have. It showed that they could handle a talented team in a late, close game. This was a critique of them for much of the season, and whether the players will admit it or not -- winning in that fashion allowed them to build some much-needed self belief.
Over in the AFC...
Following an impressive victory over the Denver Broncos, the Baltimore Ravens are also using self-belief, and admiration for Ray Lewis to fuel emotional play. Quarterback Joe Flacco is playing some of his best football at the perfect time, and now they represent a serious threat to get over the hump and knock off the New England Patriots and their vaunted offense.
Ravens vs. Patriots
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
When: Sunday, 1/20/13, 6:30 p.m. ET
Odds: The New England Patriots are 8-point favorites at home, according to OddsShark.
Picks: Patriots, 35-27
49ers vs. Falcons
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
When: Sunday, 1/20/13, 3:00 p.m.
Odds: The San Francisco 49ers are 3.5-point favorites on the road, according to OddsShark.
Picks: Falcons, 27-20
NFL playoff picks: Who ya got?
The game of the millennium ... of the week!