By TED SILLANPAA
It turns out that the Falcons not only have a chance of defeating the 49ers in the NFC Championship game Sunday, but that it’s a certainty.
And, you can take the Falcons … and the points! Bovada.com, the online wagering website, has the 49ers as 5-point favorites on Saturday night. So, bet Atlanta and you’re getting nearly a touchdown.
How can I be so sure that the Falcons will win? Well ….
Mark Bradley’s written sports for 25 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He writes “Here’s Why the Falcons will win” and finishes by saying it’ll be an “easy” win by a score of 31-21. An “easy” win and an even easier cover for those of us who rely on guys like Bradley to tell us what’s going to happen well before the game kicks off? That’s outstanding!
Oh, what? Wait.
Bay Area media types all insist that the 49ers are going to win? That’s odd.
Both teams can’t be dead, solid cinches to win easily. But, now I’m remembering reading things like that the Falcons might have a chance if they can stop Colin Kaepernick from running wild, followed by an explanation of how it’ll simply be impossible for the Falcons to stop Kaepernick.
The Falcons went 14-2 in the regular season and they need to stop the 49ers’ offense cold to have even a chance of winning Sunday? Really? I’m not sure I remember a team getting lucky 14 weeks of the year. Typically, 14-win teams are just really, really good.
Members of the media just lean to telling or writing for their customers exactly what their customers already believe.
In Atlanta, Bradley and his peers are explaining how the 5-point favorite 49ers will fall on Sunday. That’s what people who read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution believe. Give them what they want and you get page views and, heck, somebody might even buy a copy of the newspaper. Advertisers are happy and everybody tells the media guy that he’s thoughtful and intelligent.
The same holds in Northern California. You read anywhere that the Falcons are going to win Sunday? Hear it on talk radio or TV? There’s not a single Nor Cal media member who thinks a team that went 14-2 in the regular season can beat the 49ers (11-4-1 in the regular year)?
The media in Atlanta insists the Falcons will win big. The media out here insists the 49ers really can’t lose.
That can’t be a coincidence.
Get it? You do whatever gets page views, sells papers, attracts listeners and to keep fans from rushing to your website to call you names for daring to mention that their team can lose. It’s not exactly journalism as I learned it, but I get the idea behind trying to please your customers.
It turns out that either team can win on Sunday.
Every important matchup (and at this point, the media has made it clear that they’re all important) can’t fall in favor of one team. Kaepernick could have a big game, but Atlanta’s Matt Ryan could also pass for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. The impenetrable 49ers’ defense could bat down a key third-down pass late in the game, up by 5 points, and see a yellow flag flutter to the ground signaling pass interference … even though TV replays will show that it was a terrible call.
We don’t know what’s going to happen.
I’m not foolish enough to believe that screwy officiating or a jittery O-lineman who can’t keep from jumping offside can’t have a huge impact on the game. I’m betting, literally, that one team will win (by more than 5 points). However, my bet isn’t based on all the hooey in the Journal-Constitution column linked above. And, I’m not going to make a list of unpredictable occurrences that can change the outcome.
I’m happy to list a few, though …
A DB has a receiver covered, but just loses his footing. No reason. Maybe a stadium light briefly blinds him and he stumbles. The receiver catches a pass and waltzes in for a score.
The officiating crew is one of those that calls offensive holding … while you swear at your TV that you can’t see the holds. So, if we see Ryan throw a TD pass then Kaepernick rush for a score, one play will be called back because the crew needs to hit their quota for holding calls.
A place-kicker could shank a chip shot field goal and … whoops! That strikes too close to home for 49ers’ fans. Sorry. Don’t hate me.
And, yeah, I know that many are muttering, “Way to come strong with an opinion, Sillanpaa! Knothead!”
We’ve become a society of sports fan that seems most interested in looking forward to anticipating the game and then looking forward to the post-game celebration. Spend days convincing yourself that your team’s a lock. Then use Sunday as a reason to party. The media is playing its part, assuring you that you will have reason to party into the night.
Just keep in mind, the people in and around Atlanta are just as convinced as folks out here that their team’s going to win.
And, really, we have no idea what’ll happen.